New restaurants are finding older locations to achieve success in Gilbert.
Among the town’s recent restaurant openings are Arizona BBQ Company, American Poutine Co., Steak and Stone of Gilbert and Flying Basset Brewing Co.
All are outside the robust Heritage District and are repurposing spaces.
The Flying Basset Brewing Co. recently opened in the former Famous Sam’s restaurant at Ray and Cooper roads.
“We were trying to locate close to either downtown Chandler or Gilbert, which was close to our house,” said Rob Gagnon, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Sara Cotton. “We had a location in downtown Chandler, but that fell through, and downtown Gilbert was too expensive.”
The mom-and-pop brewpub, their first, offers house and core beers.
“We want to make sure our core beers are the best, with the best ingredients and the taste of quality,” said Gagnon, who started home-brewing in 2011 and the following year won three medals at the Great Arizona Homebrew competition.
At first, a small menu will be offered, then expanded.
“We are going with a bar flair for our food but with a more gourmet influence,” said Gagnon, a captain for a small Boeing 737 carrier based in Tucson. Cotton is an ICU manager in a local hospital.
He added that guests can sit indoors or enjoy the dog-friendly patio along the canal. The couple are passionate about their basset hounds.
“We just want to make a place that we want to come to,” he said, “a place where beer aficionados, families and most everyone can come in have a beer, enjoy some great food, play a few games of corn-hole and have a good time with friends.”
On the northwest corner of Ray and Val Vista roads, Arizona BBQ Company was opened last fall by Mark and Colette Nichols, who also own a catering company.
They took over space that had been empty for about two years after an Italian restaurant folded, Colette said.
“We are quick service. You order, pick up your food at the window and pick your own sauces,” said Mark, a 27-year food industry veteran who was Le Cordon Bleu-trained at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute.
The menu includes BBQ, brisket, pork, ribs, chicken and brisket and pork tacos. All meats are dry-rubbed and smoked. Platters are served with two tortillas, and available sides include chile lime corn on the cob, green chile mac and cheese and chicharrones.
“Mark has always wanted to own and run his own restaurant, but we just never imagined it would be BBQ. It became a very popular item in our catering business, so when the Lord provided the opportunity, we jumped,” said Colette, who manages the company’s business side and works at Chandler-Gilbert Community College as a division administrative assistant.
The couple met while working in a restaurant in 2003-2004 and married in 2010. They have three children.
The couple collects nonperishable items at the restaurant for local food banks. “We love people through our food, so it breaks our hearts that there are so many families that are food insecure and we would like to help with that in our community,” she said.
Another relatively new eatery in Gilbert is the American Poutine Co. at Val Vista Drive and Warner Road.
The first restaurant for husband-and-wife owners Brendan and Mareka McGuinness, it occupies space that formerly housed an investment firm.
The couple began operating their first food truck in January 2015, then added a second in June 2016 before opening the storefront, where they employ seven.
Poutine is a popular Canadian dish consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with gravy.
“Over the years, poutine has evolved to many different types and flavors,” said Brendan, a native of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, who worked for many years in the oil and gas industry before transitioning to food.
Mareka, an Alaska native and six-year Gilbert resident, has worked in the semiconductor industry for 10-plus years.
“We offer a variety of poutines along with many other loaded French fry dishes. Our fries, like our apple pie fries, are hand-cut from fresh russet potatoes and fried twice for crunch,” Brendan explained. “Our cheddar cheese curds are supplied locally to ensure that ‘squeaky’ fresh cheese we all love.”
“We offer a unique product that is not well known in the U.S. or available at many restaurants,” Mareka said. “Our mission is to bring authentic poutine to Arizona,” she added, noting that the couple is developing a franchise program they hope to begin later this year.
A mile or so away, Steak and Stone of Gilbert opened last October in the building that had been home to two previous restaurants.
Employing 50, the restaurant serves steak, chicken and fish on hot stones and has BBQ as well.
Company principals are founder and CEO David Reay, a Queen Creek resident who co-founded the highly successful Classy Closets, and Gilbert resident David Storrs, a Utah transplant who owned a consulting firm for 15-plus years.
“David came up with the idea after working with his Boy Scouts, teaching them how to cook meats and dinners on rocks,” Storrs said. “That seemed like a great idea for a steakhouse, so the idea was born. After wonderful success of our first restaurant in eastern Utah, the decision was made to bring the concept to Mesa and then to Gilbert.”
“We serve the customer meat on a 500-plus-degree stone, and the client cooks their own meat on the stone at the table,” he said.