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

Categories: Buchanan, News

rsz_aaron_chamberlin_2.jpg
courtesy of St. Francis
Aaron Chamberlin
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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Location Info

St. Francis

111 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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26 comments
Brian Hatch
Brian Hatch

St. Francis is my FAVORITE restaurant in all of Phoenix.  I live downtown, and couldn't be happier with this decision.  I've got extremely high expectations that this new cafe may become my family's "neighborhood joint."

Love it.  Great owner.  Great chef.  Fair pricing.  Couldn't be happier.

RAZ
RAZ

I happen to know from sources that he plans to make it an LGO (La Grande Orange) Jr. AND that he ousted Cindy Gentry. The creep has no intention of working with the community and will probably only appeal to ASU students and tourists. I'll never set foot in there and I hope it fails miserably.

Leon Cabe
Leon Cabe

Hopefully he will have more comfortable seating than St. Francis.  And burritos.  Kids love burritos!

Matt Beidler
Matt Beidler

"Chamberlin, who preaches the farm-to-table gospel with sincerity at St. Francis"

HA. There's is nothing farm to table about the meat at St. Francis.

Pete Petrisko
Pete Petrisko


If prices instead topped out at $8 & $12 respectively, with more modestly-priced daily breakfast/lunch specials aimed at students and downtown residents also being offered, and something beyond the great food itself was featured to draw me in at night, I'd frequent your restaurant.

As a downtown resident, I'd enjoy a healthy up-to-$12 dinner while listening to live music (Baby Grand for piano jazz, anybody?), but for $15 of quite delicious in quiet ambience - and that's all ya get - the restaurant would quickly be mental-noted as "for special occasions only" and something to highly recommend to tourists.
 

Small businesses that meet the needs of today's downtown community, instead of the one expected in some 5-7 years as population density increases, will be the ones to last past the 2.5 year mark.

Fingers crossed yours is one of them.

Slade Grove
Slade Grove

That didn't take long. I wonder how long that's been in the works to take over that space from the market. Things like that take months of planning. Not a week. Hmmmm... Where the paper trail on this transaction and who's at the end of it.

Josh Duncan
Josh Duncan

The projected price points are listed. The establishment is intended to be casual, affordable, and support local farms. This is exactly what our community needs. As an environmental sustainability student, it is refreshing to see someone act proactively towards our interests. Finally, an opportunity for local small businesses to thrive off one another in downtown Phoenix!

Frank Brophy
Frank Brophy

 will this restaurant have good falafels?

Steve
Steve

I'll be curious to see the price point for meals. To appeal to the ASU Downtown demographic, and frankly a lot of people who live and work downtown, something more like Two Hippies Burger Joint might have been a better fit. Locally owned, yet in the range of a student budget and taste. One way to look at it is whether this would fly on Mill Avenue, and what restaurants that are mid-priced versus student priced have succeeded adjacent to ASU Downtown. What is the model that will make this work better?

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

Until an actual co-operative business is started there OR having the board of directors elected by group of members, this business will not be here for the long haul.  Co-operative businesses (Food, Credit Unions, Producer, etc. etc.) have a history of longevity - private businesses do not.  Despite the fact that the CFC is registered as a non-profit, it's still basically a cover for a business to oversee the operation of the market and cafe.  I would request that the board of the CFC discuss a motion to turn these assets over to community ownership via a initial stock offering for a co-operative business enterprise.  If you don't know what a co-operative business is, please feel free to visit the below site:

nasco.coop

Co-ops - Community Owned and Operated Businesses

retort
retort

 Dear Amy Ouzoonian,

I don't hope that you fail miserably in life, but I do hope that you get the wherewithal to realize that not everyone is out to get you.  This isn't Walmart trying to muscle into a small community, it's a local chef from Phoenix that works with every local farmer in town.  I'm sorry that you are so jaded but before you jump to all of these "black helicopters in the sky" paranoid assumptions, what if you're wrong?  What if this place, which will continue to host the farmers market, really helps nourish and nurture the community?  Just a thought.

Rita
Rita

Hi Matt,
As an industry professional, I'd be happy to provide you with some insight on the various sourcing opportunities in the valley and how some items, meat and poultry in particular, can be challenging.  If you have concerns about where he sources his products from, ask him.  Most chefs take a great deal of pride in where they obtain their products.  I can assure you that Chef Chamberlin uses the finest quality ingredients and ethically sources the food used.  If a Chef puts their name on his/her menu, then they will stand by it.  
Take care,
Rita 

nikkibuchanan
nikkibuchanan

I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Are you saying he doesn't buy local, farm-raised meat? I don't know about that, but he sure buys lots of local veggies 

RAZ
RAZ

uh, downtown phoenix community has always thrived off of local farms. Aaron Chamberlin did not invent farm to table style dining and the public market cultivated the opportunity for farms and local purveyors to serve the community and other restaurants. Chamberlin is going to quash that philosophy and it will be the end of him.

Leon Cabe
Leon Cabe

 Hope the seven of you eat 3 squares a day there so they can stay open.

guest
guest

pretty sure the previous foodfag establishment had projections and intentions as well. it's just that the "community" wasn't buying it.

RAZ
RAZ

Dear Retort,

Is that your real name? And what right do you have to violate someone's right to privacy whilst hiding behind your own pseudonym? What I said was absolute truth and not based on opinion. What you stated above is a personal attack on my character that holds no water. If you are going to speak to me using MY NAME, then kindly reveal who you are. I am glad that he is keeping the farmer's market open but I will NOT spend one dime in his den of malicious deceit. 

Frank Brophy
Frank Brophy

oh 'the community'?

you must mean Jenny Schmaltzstein's attempts to avoid getting a job.  Also her friend Parker who is an artist, who worked there.  He has great tattoos and beard, so don't call him a fag, ok?

RAZ
RAZ

Yes it is hilarious. I wish you all the best and hope that Aaron's establishment is the restaurant everyone is expecting it to be and that it lends to our thriving downtown scene. and with that adieu.

Brown
Brown

Hilarious. "den of malicious deceit" Little overboard if you ask me.

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