Ask anyone what restaurants to check out in Phoenix, and chances are there will be at least one concept from Sam Fox in the mix. Ask Sam Fox where to eat, and he’ll tell you about Craig DeMarco of Upward Projects.
Operators heading to Arizona for the Restaurant Leadership Conference in April have the opportunity to check out this emerging leader, and according to Fox, it’ll be worth the visit. “He’s created a series of engaging concepts that Phoenix diners really get behind,” says Fox. “Him and his team (including co-own Lauren Bailey) have a solid understanding for the type of food people enjoy and the setting they like to experience it in.”
Here are DeMarco’s concepts to scour for ideas while you’re in town.
Upward’s first concept, launched in 2001, recently hit six locations, with another planned for this spring. Inspired by the wine bars of small-town Italy, DeMarco set out to create that same environment in Phoenix, something that didn’t previously exist. To add some flare and a local touch, each is built in a “historically relevant building,” according to its website.
Playing to the clean food trend, this dessert shop serves a rotational menu of all-natural ice creams made without any chemical additives, preservatives or stabilizers. Guests have the option to build their own ice cream cookie sandwiches with their choice of ice cream and cookie varieties.
The group’s neighborhood gastropub touts a backyard-style patio and a motto that says, “Everyone is welcome.” It caters to the locals by keeping tables open for walk-ins (it only takes reservations for parties of 8 or more) and hosting daily happy hours.