With hundreds of restaurants throughout the East Valley, how can a new restaurant stick out? One common theme of late is to focus on foods with an All-American flavor.
Food highlighting the tastes of Chicago, New Mexico, and New Orleans has found its place at various East Valley spots in past years, and recently, so has a new addition featuring the flavors of Detroit.
Jimmy’s of Chicago, located at 3107 S. Gilbert Road, on the northeast corner of Gilbert and Pecos roads, celebrated its fourth anniversary in January. The restaurant’s owners, Kerry and Zalena Kersting, had been jumping from career to career, Kerry Kersting said.
“My wife was an attorney and I was an engineer,” he said. “We just wanted to try something different.”
Although it may seem unusual for Gilbert to have a restaurant solely focused on Chicago- style food, it is common for the couple and their families. Zalena Kersting’s sister and brother-in-law have had a restaurant in Chicago called Jimmy’s Place for more than 20 years. The Kerstings’ Gilbert restaurant features recipes that are used at Jimmy’s Place. The ever-popular homemade ricotta cavatelli with vodka sauce – homemade pasta with ricotta, smothered in a spicy vodka sauce – and the chicken vesuvio – chicken covered in a white wine and garlic sauce – continue to be crowd pleasers.
With the clientele growing each year, and the Kerstings looking for new ways to grow the business, Kersting said the business will focus on developing its catering arm in 2012.
Kersting said that while Jimmy’s offers catering throughout the East Valley – and the rest of the Phoenix metro region, for that matter – the restaurant is hoping to looking more towards local high schools to cater end-of-the-year banquets for sports and for graduations.
The newest restaurant to join in the all-American flavor train in the East Valley is Sunshine’s Motor City Café, located at 7425 S. Harl Ave., Suite 2, in Tempe. Owners Al and Michelle Taylor, are hardly new on the block; they also own Special Moments Catering and Pier 54, also in Tempe.
But their newest establishment takes the Taylor family back to its roots in Detroit, featuring Motor City favorites like Better Made potato chips, Vernor’s ginger ale and other Michigan “pop” brands, and desserts like a Sander’s-covered hot fudge sundae or a Boston Cooler – a vanilla ice cream and Vernor’s float. Other area staples like Lafayette-recipe chili coney dogs and “Motor City Medallions” – the Taylors’ version of a pasty, which is a baked, folded pastry featuring meat, sauce and other fillings – also line the menu.
Just like Jimmy’s of Chicago, the business has a family-based ownership. The Taylors have two children who both work for them; Dawn, as general manager, and Brad, as the director of sales.
Al Taylor and his wife lived in areas just outside of Detroit and met in the city. They’re proud of their knowledge of the lifestyle and cuisine, and when an opportunity came last summer to expand their catering company, the decision was made to open the café, he said.
The Taylors have 28 years of experience in the restaurant and catering business, although their other businesses do not focus on one style of food. Catering customers include Arizona State University and Banner Health Care among others, and the food varies from barbeque to prime rib. And as Al Taylor explains it, Pier 54 is a lakeside “Jimmy Buffet”-style restaurant with a full bar.
Taylor said they’ve came “full circle” when it comes to their new restaurant and current lineup.
“There’s a lot of bad things about Detroit, but the food isn’t one of them,” Taylor said.