By Michele Laudig
What happens when you take an accomplished chef and architecture buff and set him loose in the mid-century mecca of Central Phoenix? You get a cool new restaurant called St. Francis Place.
Hold your horses -- the place probably won't open until March, at the earliest. Still, St. Frances Place is already looking like something to look forward to.
Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin and his girlfriend, Lori Fenn, are partnering to launch the neighborhood restaurant serving seasonal American cuisine at 111 E. Camelback, in the old building right next door to Red Modern Furniture. The name, by the way, was inspired by the St. Francis District, where it is located. Chamberlin will handle the cooking, and Senn will oversee pastries, beverages, and the front of the house.
Turns out, the early-'50s building was built by renowned architect Harold Ekman, which should get the MoPhos excited. (MoPhos are the groovy architecture fanatics who frequent the Modern Phoenix website.) This was no accident; Chamberlin considers himself a "huge architecture fan," and even lives in an Al Beadle condo. He's been looking for just the right spot for the last two and a half years.
In another interesting twist, Chamberlin just hired Wendell Burnett Architects, a world-class local firm, to completely revamp the building. When completed, the space will have a simple, urban feel, with seating for around 120 people, and an outdoor patio as well.
Before moving to the Valley almost six years ago, Chamberlin worked all across the country, in such prestigious restaurants as Boulevard in San Francisco, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's New York eateries Jean-Georges, and Vong, and Citronelle in D.C. Chamberlin says Citronelle's chef Michel Richard was his first big mentor.
Chamberlin was also an early employee of La Grande Orange, and has also been involved with LGO Pizzeria, Chelsea's Kitchen, and Radio Milano.
The menu will feature rustic meats and fish cooked in a wood-burning chamber oven, as well as homemade bread. Look for dishes such as French-style pot roast with red wine sauce, and rack of veal, with most entrees ranging from $14 to $18.
St. Francis Place will be open for lunch and dinner, with an all-day Sunday brunch. Chamberlin promises warm cinnamon rolls from the wood-burning oven.
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