Good on you, Garfield. You're about to get a serious boost of cool. Sure, the Central Phoenix historic neighborhood has always had plenty to offer by way of adorable bungalows and pyramid cottages, but in the upcoming months, the four corners of the Garfield district will gain not one, but two popular restaurants.
The first will be a second location of Welcome Diner, brought to the southwest corner of 10th and Pierce streets by chef Michael Babcock and Sloane McFarland. The new diner, which will be about 2,600 square feet of new construction, will have more indoor seating than the nine stools at the current location and will offer an outdoor patio. With an expanded kitchen to use, Babcock says diners can also expect an expanded menu.
"We're going to be able to cook differently," Babcock says, adding that the restaurant will be similar to the Welcome Diner opening in Tucson. "But we try to give every location a unique identity."
For the design, McFarland and Babcock have tapped Dinermite, the same company that's built 5 & Diners all over the country, and local Garfield resident and architect Christoph Kaiser. Babcock says they aim to "reimagine the space" to keep things true to Welcome Diner's roots, without going too "cutesy."
As for the current Welcome Diner location at 924 East Roosevelt Street, Babcock says he and McFarland are "still in negotiations with [the] landlord," though they'd "like to stay there as long as [they] can."
And that's not all. Just across the street from the Welcome Diner 2.0, chef Doug Robson of Otro Cafe will reopen his beloved Gallo Blanco restaurant. As fans will remember, that restaurant shuttered in early 2015 after Robson and his wife, Denise, decided to "part ways" with the owner of The Clarendon Hotel, inside of which the restaurant was located.
"We've been taking our time looking for a replacement for Gallo," Robson says.
The new Gallo Blanco will take over the historic American Way Market located on the northwest corner of the same intersection. Robson is working with Holly Street Studios on the restoration of the building and will be constructing a kitchen on the side of the building, rather than trying to build one inside the existing structure.
Though Babcock and Robson say the two restaurants landing across the street from each other wasn't planned, but rather a "serendipitous" happening, the two chefs have some history together. Before opening Old Dixie's Southern Kitchen, the food truck that would eventually become Welcome Diner, Babcock worked with Robson at Gallo Blanco. In fact, Robson remembers Babcock telling him about his dream to open a food truck. He encouraged the chef to strike out on his own.
"Two weeks later, he quit," Robson says.
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The two have stayed in touch in the passing years, and both say they plan to take advantage of the synergy between the restaurants and the location within one of Phoenix's oldest neighborhoods.
"They always say, safety in numbers," Robson says. "There are a lot of creative juices flowing."