Chris Collins of Grassroots Kitchen and Tap: "Enjoy What You Do or Don't Do It at All"
"I can't paint you a picture. I can't play the guitar. But I can run a really, really great restaurant."
For Grassroots Kitchen and Tap owner and chef Chris Collins, the restaurant industry is more than a business, it's a family affair. As son of Wally Collins -- the man behind Wally's American Pub 'n Grill -- Collins grew up working in his father's restaurants, learning at an early age about the value of creating a friendly, neighborhood restaurant.
So it's really no surprise that when an opportunity to open a restaurant in the same Gainey Ranch neighborhood as one of his father's restaurants popped up, Collins jumped. The first location of Grassroots Kitchen & Tap has been open for just over two years. Things have been going so well that Collins even opened a second location in Central Phoenix earlier this year.
Collins, who keeps a notebook full of potential restaurant concepts and ideas, says he'd had the idea for Grassroots for "a very long time" before he was ever approached about a space. At the time, the concept was to do Northern California-type food and offer the same type of personal, friendly service that his dad's restaurant have become known for.
When it came to actually writing the menu for the North Scottsdale restaurant, the cuisine veered south -- meaning that the Grassroots you know today ended up being more "New American with Southern influence," in the chef's own words.
And you can see that Southern presence in items like the Carolina baby back ribs and Southern shrimp and grits, a dish that incorporates Collins' popular take on creamy Southern grits. Though the side dish didn't catch on right away, Collins says it's now become one of the restaurant's most loved dishes -- but that didn't happen on its own.
"We lagniappe-d grits on every table for three plus weeks," Collins recalls.