Chef Bernie Kantak Returns With Citizen Public House

Chef Bernie Kantak stayed in the spotlight by cooking up some clever eats at this year's Devoured culinary festival.
Chef Bernie Kantak stayed in the spotlight by cooking up some clever eats at this year's Devoured culinary festival.

​What's next for chef Bernie Kantak, who left his longtime executive chef gig at Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz last year?

Well, Next is next. He and partner Andrew Fritz (formerly of Cowboy Ciao and Sea Saw) recently signed a lease and have begun gutting the shuttered nightclub (which was once the original Scottsdale Trader Vic's) just a couple blocks from his old stomping grounds (7111 E. Fifth Ave.). They plan to transform it into an upscale tavern called Citizen Public House

Set to open in mid-December, with lunch and dinner service, the restaurant will feature Kantak's sophisticated, globally-inspired comfort food -- "It's just what I like to eat," he says -- as well desserts by another Ciao alum, Tracy Dempsey.

Fritz says the bar menu will have "a real emphasis on quality": contemporary and craft cocktails with many seasonal offerings and hand-picked spirits, regional microbrews including local favorites like Four Peaks, Nimbus, and SunUp, and value-driven, mostly domestic wines that will change quarterly.

Kantak says his eclectic inspirations for the scrumptious-looking menu include memories of his German grandfather (who was a butcher), his Hungarian grandmother, and an assortment of Brazilians, Argentineans, and Mexicans he's worked with over the years. 

Unusual bar snacks start things off: Tenderbelly bacon fat heirloom popcorn, four cheese fondue with smoked Hunter's sausage, pear, and toasted country bread, and "Citizen's sausage of the day." 

Among starters like a mirliton chopped salad (Tenderbelly bacon, grilled chayote, snow pea greens, grape tomato, heirloom popcorn, grilled halloumi cheese, cucumber-onion salad and parsley-garlic dressing) and crispy squid with lemon-anise tartar sauce and pickled fennel, Kantak says he's particularly excited about the pork belly pastrami with rye spaetzle and sauerkraut. 

There will be sandwiches like a lamb burger with tzatziki and a grilled cheese of the day, and a half a dozen entrees. I'm intrigued by the Fair Trade coffee-charred short ribs with dried cherry BBQ sauce, parsnip puree, and seasonal vegetables; pan-seared scallops with lardons, roasted corn grits, wilted snow pea greens, and Red Rock Cola gastrique; and brick-grilled Smart Chicken with charred scallion gremolata, brussels sprouts, and roasted farro wheat berry salad.

What about the atmosphere? 

"I want a comfortable place, but I still want white tablecloths," Kantak says. The idea is to make the space look as if a designer had never stepped foot in it. He envisions lots of wood and a brushed nickel bar top.

Renovations will be extensive, but Kantak's hoping they'll also be swift.

"I gotta get back in the kitchen," he says.

We're pretty excited too, dude.

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