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New Chic + Modern Eatery in Scottsdale

COOK + CRAFT SHINES AND THRIVES DESPITE THE CHALLENGING TIMING OF ITS DEBUT 

Article by Susan Ginsberg

Photography by Susan Ginsberg and Brandon Juniper

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the restaurant industry was hit hard. Sheltering in place and the national shut down was challenging for long-standing restaurants that were bustling prior to the cosmic 2-by-4 that hit us unexpectedly, let alone newly opened dining establishments. You can imagine my surprise when hearing about a restaurant that literally opened its doors in February of 2020, only to have to turn around close these same doors - albeit temporarily- 1 month later! More shocking in a good way, is the success of this particular restaurant, Cook & Craft.

Recently, friends of ours mentioned this gem of a restaurant, located near the northeast corner of Shea and Scottsdale roads, and we were intrigued. With an upcoming 'date night' with my husband, we decided to make a reservation on their patio. We were very impressed with how they handled seating on their patio with consideration to social distancing, something we feel is important at this time. The inside of the restaurant is super chic, yet also warm and inviting. Think modern, chic farmhouse. With its roll-up windows near the bar area and cute tables and décor, the patio is equally inviting. This isn't your average chain restaurant, but something special.

Perusing the menu, we noticed a unique array of cocktails with interesting ingredients and preparations. The presentation of these drinks is equally fabulous. My husband's Cook's Old Fashioned with its mesquite smoked glass and cold brew addition was unusual (in a good way!) and fabulous. In the mood for gin, I chose the Spanish Tonic, with a delightful botanical taste and juniper berries for added interest. We were off to a great start!

Soon after we were seated, the owner, Brandon Juniper, stopped by our table to chat with us. We were able to feel his passion for this restaurant immediately. When he told us his story of opening this fine local restaurant at the least optimal time, our jaws dropped. Opening a restaurant in February of 2020 cannot be an easy way to start a new endeavor such as a restaurant. His vision his passion, and his efforts, along with his refreshing and humble vibe propelled him to stay the course and provide a great local restaurant to his community. Juniper credits the restaurant's success to his team and his desire to infuse an organically warm and inviting atmosphere to spill over from his team to the customers. We felt this genuine and refreshing warmth immediately.

An interesting fact about Cook & Craft - the restaurant used to be a bank and then a coffee shop, so it still had the drive-thru lanes. Initially, Brandon was not sure what on earth to do with drive-thru lanes in this type of a restaurant. In a serendipitous twist, these drive-thru lanes became integral when shelter-in-place took effect in March of 2020, and carryout was the new (and only!) dining option for many people. He was able to capitalize on this and make carryout even more convenient for its customers. To set themselves apart from other take-out places and to show their appreciation of their customers, they put hand-written thank you notes wrapped in twine in their customers' orders. It's the little things, sometimes, that set a place apart. I asked Brandon what made him not want to give up in the face of this unforeseen adversity. Juniper states:

"We had a choice. We could shut shop or grind it out. We chose to grind it out. We were lucky to be able to find a way to service our customers with easy, online ordering for grab and go. This kept us afloat and we soon gained a regular clientele from out take-out alone, which is still a big part of our revenue."

One of the things I love about Cook & Craft is how they source local foods and drinks from all over Arizona. For example, the Wild Tonic Kombucha is from Cottonwood, the Press Coffee also from Arizona, and many of their craft beers, as well, sourced from local breweries. On the drink menu, a tiny cactus lets you know you are getting a local product. They also source a lot of their produce from local vendors. Hence the large 'Locals Eatery' sign is the perfect and fitting splash of decor for this stylish eatery.

Moving on to appetizers, we chose the Caprese cocktail. Served in a cocktail glass with fresh beets, cherry tomatoes, house-made mozzarella and a grilled crostini, we really enjoyed this dish. There are so many other appetizers we want to try next time, like the cauliflower wings and their deviled eggs. A lover of appetizers, I could happily feast on the appetizer side of the menu alone! But this was date night, and the entrées looked too delicious to pass up.

For entrées, I chose the crafted salad with lump crab and my husband chose the craft burger. They also have a plant-based burger as an option for vegetarians. Both dishes we chose were fabulous in their own respective categories, and I was grateful that I marred a man who likes sharing food! The gnocchi stuffed squash was brought to another table and I made a mental note to order that next time. Friends of ours are still raving about their meatballs, a must-try for us next time, too.

Our overall experience dining at Cook & Craft was outstanding. The combination of stylish decor, extensive menu selections, upscale cocktails, delicious food, and a genuinely warm/ friendly staff gives this a ranking of 5 forks up for us! In fact, just writing this article makes me crave a repeat visit to Cook & Craft; I encourage you to give this fine establishment a try.

Cook & Craft is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, and also has a Happy Hour from 3:30-6:30 daily and a reverse Happy Hour from 10 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays for those wanting to grab a late night nosh. For those with special eating needs, they have a vast array of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items on their menu. The restaurant ordinarily seats 96 people, but are currently observing social distancing recommendations and spacing the tables out at this time.

I would love to know what my readers are the most interested in seeing each week. Please drop me a line telling me what interests you most. Do you have something really interesting you would like me to share? I would love to hear about it!

Email: Susan@stopandbreathe.org, find me on: InstagramFacebook, or visit my website: StopandBreathe.org

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