These days, Valley diners have more options than ever when it comes to finding quality seafood — even though we're in the middle of the desert. But according to Bassel Osmani, one of the founders of local health food chain Pita Jungle, there's still at least one niche left to be filled: a seafood restaurant that delivers on both quality and value, a place nicer than fast-casual but less expensive than upscale spots where dinner might cost as much as your car payment.
"We're democratizing seafood," Osmani says.
At least that's what he plans to do with Grand Blue, a new seafood restaurant slated to open in early November at 7318 East Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale. The restaurant comes from Osmani, Nelly Kohsok, and Fouad Khodr, the same trio that opened the first Pita Jungle restaurant in Tempe more than 20 years ago. Since then, they've grown the single restaurant into a collection of nearly two dozen locations all over the state, plus one restaurant in California.
Osmani says he's been playing with the idea of opening a mid-range seafood restaurant for the last few years, but finally decided to jump on the opportunity when Grand Blue's location became available. The restaurant takes over the former home of Blue Burrito Grille — though the space has since seen the opening and closing of two other businesses, the short-lived Taco Haus and an almost equally short-lived second location of Squid Ink Sushi. The space is just across the parking lot from the Pita Jungle restaurant on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.
In the same way Pita Jungle introduced Valley diners to quality health food served in a comfortable and approachable environment back in 1994, Osmani hopes Grand Blue will show local diners that good seafood doesn't have to come with a high cost. And the effort to offer mass appeal doesn't just stop at the price point. Grand Blue's menu covers a variety of seafood styles, including everything from simple Japanese sushi to Peruvian ceviche and Italian cioppino. Osmani says the restaurant is also trying out a prix-fixe option that includes either a whole lobster, lobster roll, or burger plus a side of fries and a salad for $20.
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All of the seafood will be sustainably sourced, and Osmani says many of the selections will reflect what's available each season. And in addition to serving a menu that spans dishes as diverse as a fish Reuben sandwich and Thai coconut curry mussels, Grand Blue will also offer a full raw bar and a fish market where diners can pick up raw fish to prepare at home, plus a selection of premade salads and other side dishes.
Osmani also hopes to draw customers to the restaurant's sleek indoor/outdoor bar with happy hour specials that include $1 oysters and discounted wine. Later down the line, Osmani says the restaurant will offer breakfast and weekend brunch, which will be an opportunity to use Grand Blue's smoker and oversize steamer for crab and seafood boils.
Grand Blue will open to the public for lunch and dinner on Tuesday, November 1. For more information, check the Grand Blue Facebook.