GRUBSTAK, the new “upscale fast-casual” joint in downtown Gilbert, may baffle you, but it shouldn’t. It may be the most 2016 thing to hit our food scene in 2016.
Consider the contradictions that exist in our current food trends: decadent foods taken to new, unholy heights versus whole, unprocessed foods made even more virtuous. A meal with no wait time versus thought-intensive, chef-driven dishes. Waffle fries versus quinoa. It was only a matter of time before we had a restaurant concept that mashes up these opposing trends, and GRUBSTAK, which opened a few weeks ago, does it without apology.
The main menu feature is called a “stak” – basically a bowl. Chef-designed Signature Staks start with a base of 50/50 regular and sweet potato waffle fries, greens, or quinoa, and are finished with a variety of braised meats, slow-roasted root vegetables, house-made sauces, and other toppings. Choose your own adventure; go decadent with something like Sweet Lou’s BBQ Stak (fries, pork belly, barbecue beef, and slaw) or wholesome with something like the Power Garden Stak (quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips, chicken, and pesto). Or, get creative with the variety of Grub Your Way options.
Beyond the Stak, you can order a Grubchetta, a grilled cheese/bruschetta mashup – or its final form, the Mac Attack, a mac and cheese sandwich with a shishito pesto dipping sauce. The sourdough bread used for these sandwiches comes from a local source used by many fine dining restaurants in the Valley, and is also used in Grubstak’s signature dessert, the Give Me S’more (bread pudding topped with marshmallow fudge sauce and a brûléed marshmallow).
The GRUB in GRUBSTAK comes from Colton Grubb, a familiar surname to many Arizonans – he’s the grandson of the late auto bigwig Lou Grubb. “It’s actually come full circle,” says Colton, that he should have a restaurant that highlights French fries, as his grandfather was originally a potato farmer in New York before moving to Arizona.
Seth Widdes, the culinary talent behind GRUBSTAK, has his own impressive pedigree; he’s worked both front and back of house for Beau MacMillan at Elements and Mark Tarbell at Tarbell’s.
That explains why even though an order at GRUBSTAK comes together in a matter of minutes, a peek behind the scenes shows that a great deal of thought and time goes into the restaurant’s mise en place. For example, the Golden Chicken in the Gold Rush Stak is cooked in the fat rendered from the pork belly that goes into other staks. “We’re about a 90 percent from-scratch kitchen,” says Widdes.
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“I think we fit a niche [in downtown Gilbert] that was needed,” says Grubb. The food is “upscale,” as they say, but, “it’s not an hour-and-a-half wait-type situation,” like many other restaurants in the area boast on busy weekends. Even though the food is fast, GRUBSTAK is accommodating to those that want to hang out: There are big-screen TVs for watching the game, USB outlets for prolonged scrolling, and an option to buy a 24-ounce beer on tap (from a rotating selection of local craft beers) so you don’t have to make another trip to the front.
GRUBSTAK may be a good fit for Gilbert’s Heritage Marketplace, but Grubb says he’s already dreaming of franchises. “I believe there’s room for six to eight GRUBSTAKs throughout the Valley," he says.