Nestled in Peoria's P83 Entertainment District among chain restaurants and sports bars is The Social on 83rd, a year-old place by restaurateur and owner of Haymaker AZ Joey Lucidi. The parent company for all his restaurants is Westside Concepts.
Originally from Detroit, Lucidi was raised in California. He is no stranger to restaurants. His family owned 13 of them for more 27 years. He moved to Arizona in 2006, and fell in love with the industry for the opportunities it offers.
“I have 250 employees. That is 250 families that we get to help provide for,” he says. “I love it.”
Lucidi is full of energy and joie de vivre. His vision is to create something akin to Fox Restaurant Concepts, but in the west Valley, and is committed to it despite the work it will take. “I’m trying to change a culture here from just chain restaurants. It’s hard work, but the people who have tried us love us. I believe in this 100 percent,” Lucidi says.
The Social on 83rd is definitely different from the rest of the players in the same complex.
The restaurant has more of a modern exterior in white and steel gray. Inside is contemporary decor with warmth. Seating is a combination of booths and tables and chairs. The bar, located toward the back of the house, faces the restaurant on one side and a patio on the other.
Social can accommodate groups of eight to 10 in a semiprivate room. Larger groups can take advantage of the patio. With four heaters on the patio, people can enjoy the area even in the winter. Lucidi is also open to booking the whole restaurant and has done so a few times already. And special menu requests are welcome.
The Social on 83rd opened in late December 2018. Eating here is about small plates, variety, and sharing. Lucidi wants people to gather, interact, eat, and drink. The two TVs at the bar are only meant to serve as background. Social is definitely not a sports bar. His invitation to set screens aside even extends to kids — for whom he provides an Etch-A-Sketch.
Wall art is scarce, making the bar and food main focal points. “We want you to come in and try our wines or creative cocktails,” Lucidi says. The wines come from small vineyards all around the world. They're "nothing you can find at a grocery store,” he adds.
With names like Sinatra, Chaplin, or Monroe, the house drinks definitely inspire curiosity. Plus, they all have a creative twist on the traditional versions. A recently added drink called The Dude, for instance, is made by infusing Knob Creek with espresso grinds and mixing it like a White Russian.
Both Lucidi and his general manager, Jeremy Belt, participate in creating the menu. “To me, creating a menu is like jazz,” Lucidi says. “I bring the idea to Jeremy and the chefs. We then brainstorm until we come up with something that everybody likes. What’s great is how your initial idea is never the end product.”
Belt was a general manager at the Goodyear location of Haymaker AZ before starting here. Originally from Illinois, he has a wealth of experience from working at his family’s restaurant for years. He’s also managed a number of restaurants, like Rock Bottom. As such, he can seamlessly cover the front and back of house, if necessary.
Belt describes his path: “I was in the food industry since I was 14 when I worked at my family’s steakhouse. In high school, I was a straight-A student and played basketball, then I went to college. For a brief stint, I stopped helping my parents, but realized I was doing financially well in the food industry. So, I decided school can wait and returned to food. In 2013, I moved to Arizona.”
Lucidi seems glad to have him.
“Jeremy is the perfect fit for this place,” says Lucidi. “He has great energy and is a presence with his height and long beard.”
He’s not kidding. Belt stands at 6 foot, 5 inches and styles a garibaldi beard. If you are a Phoenix Suns fan, you might find a resemblance between him and Aaron Baynes. But don’t let his towering appearance intimidate you. Belt is the kind of person who personally answers every review and tries to resolve any issues.
“Every email I respond to, I want to earn back the guest’s loyalty,” Belt says. He says being part of a team-oriented culture, where people want to work together to take care of the guests, is what matters. He sees the whole picture, which makes him able to manage both the staff and the guests. “We are here to serve,” he says.
He teaches his staff to see customer input as feedback. “I want to do whatever I can to take care of [the customer] and make you happy. That means being open to the fact that I am not always right. I take it to heart if something really goes wrong, and I want to know how can we do better,” he says. “We also need to remember that both service team members and guests have lives and may have bad days.”
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Lucidi agrees and adds, “Being a servant leader is the only kind in the world that is successful. We combine this philosophy with doing what’s best for growth.”
West Valley residents looking for a chef-driven restaurant, something local that’s a little different, could find such a spot here, just across the street from Arrowhead Towne Center, placed amid the national eateries. It's why Social slogan is, "The place to be in the West Valley."
Lucidi and Belt want you to “come to Social, and let us feed you.”
The Social on 83rd.
8350 West Paradise Lane, Peoria
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday