Popular Flagstaff Restaurateurs Expand to Tucson (Not Phoenix) and Who Can Blame Them?
When Flagstaff restaurateur Paul Moir of Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar and Criollo Latin Kitchen and his good friend and fellow eat-local enthusiast Derrick Widmark of Diablo Burger left me a voice mail saying they had some good news to share, I was delirious. I figured they were expanding their operations to Phoenix, both of them, just as they'd spoken of doing for over a year. It even crossed my mind they were doing something together.
Nikki Buchanan Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff
So imagine my disappointment when they told me they're both opening their own new restaurants (yay!) in the historic Rialto Building in downtown Tucson (boo!). But after hearing their reasoning, I can't say I blame them.
Widmark is quick to say, "We don't want to turn this into some Tucson versus Phoenix rivalry thing, but we're excited to see the grassroots, entrepreneurial-driven revitalization that's going on in downtown Tucson. What with all the urban housing and the light rail coming, it's all happening in the next 12 to 18 months."
Courtesy of Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar Brix in Flagstaff
He and Moir are also excited about what they call the "authenticity" there -- where old buildings are refurbished, not destroyed to put up something new. The Rialto (which dates somewhere between 1912 and 1920) has been purchased by Tucson developer Scott Stitler, whom Widmark describes as a guy with a vision, not just a landlord looking for a monthly paycheck.
"He bought three blocks at the center of Tucson, and he went looking for people to turn those three blocks into the center of the community," says Widmark, who adds that downtown Tucson feels "analogous to what we have in Flagstaff, where our restaurants are an integral part of the city." The Rialto, he says, is "true to place," which creates a comfort level for both Moir and Widmark -- who value history and the notion of fostering community.