Estate House to Be Replaced By The Herb Box

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It's the end of an era at SouthBridge, where one of the Scottsdale retail and dining development's flagship eateries, Estate House, is set to become a second location of a popular North Scottsdale casual dining spot, with an in-house gourmet market and catering business.

Following the October 17 closure of the restaurant, renovations will begin immediately to transform the 7,200-square-foot space into The Herb Box. It's set to open in early 2011.

SouthBridge developer Fred Unger says, "Estate House had a very loyal following, and Gio (Osso) is a wonderful chef. But the new economy has changed, just like our country has changed."

Unger says that the market segment for "white linen, fine dining" establishments is much smaller in the wake of the recession, and that the public's perception of The Estate House is that it was expensive -- even though the contemporary American restaurant rolled out a more affordable menu than the luxurious one it had at the time of its launch in 2007.

He approached The Herb Box's co-founder, Susan Smederovac-Wilcox, after hearing great things about her DC ranch eatery and catering business, and says that the restaurant's more casual environment, which focuses on lunch, dinner, and all-day noshing, fits his vision for SouthBridge. The renovated space will feature an indoor/outdoor bar. Smederovac-Wilcox signed a lease agreement yesterday.

"We are so excited," she says. "This is something we've been wanting to do for 10 years."

The restaurant will be modeled after the DC Ranch location, where chef Becky J. Windels creates farm-fresh salads, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and desserts, as well as creative, sharable plates like smoked trout beignets with roasted red pepper aioli, and brown sugar and jerk pork sliders with gouda, watercress, and jicama slaw.

The gourmet market, however, will be an extended version of what The Herb Box has up north. At SouthBridge, the market will be on the street level (entrances to the space are being moved), and Smederovac-Wilcox says the majority of the inventory will be fresh foods made on the premises rather than packaged and dry goods.

Founded in 1995 as a catering business on Shea Boulevard, The Herb Box opened its DC Ranch restaurant in 2007. That same year, Unger -- known for redeveloping the Royal Palms resort and restoring the historic Hermosa Inn -- opened SouthBridge as an urban retail, dining, gallery, and office complex dedicated to independently owned businesses.

This is just the latest step in the evolution of SouthBridge, which has recently introduced two other new eateries, Marcellino Ristorante Italiano and Tapas Papa Frita. The swanky upstairs lounge at Estate House will be reconceptualized and not be part of The Herb Box.

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