Chow Bella

Aaron Chamberlin Will Open Farm-Focused Cafe in Urban Grocery Space

When news broke last week that Urban Grocery and Wine Bar was closing, it didn't take long for the rumor to start circulating that an undisclosed chef had expressed interest in the space.

Turns out, the rumor was true. Aaron Chamberlin, chef-owner of St. Francis, confirms for Chow Bella that he has negotiated a deal with landlord Kurt Schneider and plans to transform the charming vintage building into a cafe by early October.

Chamberlin, who preaches the farm-to-table gospel with sincerity at St. Francis, says having a restaurant adjacent to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market just "fits with what we do."

Because the ink on the deal is barely dry, Chamberlin hasn't pinned down a name yet, but he already has some pretty clear-cut ideas about what he'd like to create there.

He envisions a casual, affordable neighborhood hangout and plans to add a big, welcoming bar to encourage customers to linger. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served -- with breakfast and lunch prices topping out at $10, dinner prices at $15.

Chamberlin already buys produce for St. Francis from a handful of local farmers, and he plans to make use of even more local produce and products -- many of them found at the market -- when he opens the cafe. He calls the food he'll be serving "fresh market cuisine."

He has considered using the name Urban Grocery and Wine Bar but hasn't finalized that possibility with Schneider or Dan Klocke, board president of CFC.

"I don't want to mess with that synergy," Chamberlin explains, referring to the many people who loved Urban Grocery and also shopped the farmers market.

Of Community Food Connections (the nonprofit that continues to oversee the market, as it once did the grocery) and his future relationship with them, the chef notes, "They had a big vision, and they did a phenomenal job of bringing the community together. I've always loved downtown and I've always loved the market. I shop there every week. We were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and I'm happy to be part of all this."

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Nikki Buchanan