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Concepts to Scout in Phoenix, Expansion Edition

As operators travel the country for meetings and events, there’s always one question they ask: What restaurants should I check out while on the road? Whether they’re looking for a best-in-class example of a trend or some ideas to steal, they want to see who is doing what now. So, as thousands of operators flock to Phoenix for this year’s Restaurant Leadership Conference, we looked at restaurateurs who are expanding their already-successful portfolios. Here are four places to consider visiting:

Steak 44

The Mastros—the family behind the Mastro’s and Ocean Club concepts and owner of well-known Scottsdale steakhouse Dominick’s—launched this new steakhouse as a more casual alternative to Dominick’s. For that business dinner that needs to be a step up from casual dining, it’s still got white linen tablecloths, dark-wood fixtures and a menu of prime-grade, wet-aged steaks. But there’s no need to dress to the nines, and it’s got some contemporary flare as an update to the old-school steakhouse. Not only are some of the dishes more lowbrow, to add to the modern feel, Steak 44 has several different dining areas with varying vibes versus one cavernous space. A sunken bar, for example, is more raucous and lively than the glass-lined booths near the kitchen. Yet while it may be billed as casual, service still matches high-end spots. AZCentral’s review dubbed the staff as “thoroughly professional bussers and servers.”

Flower Child

Even though he blew through his budget, industry icon Sam Fox calls Flower Child “one of the best things we’ve ever done.” As more restaurateurs and chefs try to make waves in the crowded fast-casual market, his Fox Restaurant Group is attempting to reinvent the wheel with his own take on fast, healthy food. He’s trying to create a new dining category: better fast casual, he told Restaurant Business back in June. He’s described it as the full package; “higher quality food, finishes and hospitality.” And that comes from a mostly millennial staff hired because they are inherently friendly, a focus on takeaway as well as dine-in, an investment in a high-end beverage program and attention to local.

Taco Guild

If you like the idea of sipping tequila in church, this is your place. The folks behind Z’Tejas built this upscale taco joint in a converted church, complete with lofty vaulted ceilings and faux frescos. To set itself apart from other high-end taco spots, it organized the menu into two categories: old world and new world, to offer a different take but still keep some classics with elevated street food. Not hungry? The bar, essentially a shrine to tequila, cements Taco Guild’s place as a tequila expert with options ranging from the familiar labels to high-end offerings.

HopDoddy Burger Bar

This better-burger chain based in Austin has an outpost in Scottsdale. And while, like many of its competitors, it offers a menu of all-natural, from-scratch menu of burgers and fries, its point of differentiation is the bar. Hopdoddy has more than a dozen small-batch craft beers on tap, as well as a list of on-trend cocktails with funky names. With the number of fast casuals trying to bring booze into the mix, this might be a prime example of the future of fast casual. 

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