Rick's Rokery?

Excuse my drool. Richardson Browne, owner of Richardson's and Dick's Hideaway in Phoenix, is opening a new restaurant. And it sounds so good that, after printing out the e-mail information I begged out of him, I'm tempted to eat it. He's been highly secretive about his plans for the longest time, traveling extensively in Europe for ideas over the last two years and taunting me with vague snippets of what he might be up to.

But now we know: The place is called the Rokery, Dutch for "smokehouse," and it's taking over the location of the popular Timothy's restaurant and jazz club on 16th Street and Maryland. Browne purchased the property a few years back and has been fussing with the concept since then. (At one point, it was to be called Burning Embers -- a clever name, given that in 1996 Timothy's caught fire and had to be rebuilt.)

While Richardson's and Dick's showcase topnotch New Mexican cuisine, the Rokery will focus on good old American steaks and fish. Browne compares the quality to Morton's and Ruth's Chris (the meat comes from the same supplier as Mastro's) but at much more reasonable prices. Plus, he promises not to gouge us with à la carte trickery -- no naked rib eye with $5 more for a potato.

Meats will be cooked over pecan wood, and fish over apple wood, with bone-in prime rib roasted on an 8,300-pound rotisserie. And no goopy sauces -- a little lemon spritzed on the fish, but nothing "to reinvent the wheel," Browne says.

There will be cocktails, of course, with a 16-foot bar upstairs and a 24-foot bar downstairs. The Rokery will be a classy, casual neighborhood hangout -- no windows, with perennially burning fireplaces everywhere, tablecloths and heavy European flatware. It sounds very cool grotto, with stone on the outside, a wood shingled roof, and stairs at the front door that descend into the "Euro cave" basement bar.

The place will be like Browne's old favorite hangout, he says, the former Chubb's across the street, where he was a regular "back when my net worth was held in a coffee can, and mostly change at that."

It'll be a while yet before we can commandeer a cozy, high-backed booth at the Rokery; Browne will say only that "any day, the [construction] shovels will be out."

Good thing the building doesn't have any windows, I guess. That'd be me with my nose pressed up against the glass, counting the days until dinner.


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