Nestled in the heart of Cave Creek, Arizona, Kiki Rae's is not just a restaurant; it's a labor of love, a testament to friendship, and a tribute to cherished memories. Co-owners Rachel Pugh and Kym Johnson-Westhoff have embarked on a culinary journey that has seen them evolve from coworkers to friends, business partners, and now, the proud proprietors of this vibrant coastal-inspired eatery.
Their story begins in the Pacific Northwest, where both Rachel and Kym hail from small towns in Washington state. Rachel fondly recalls her hometown of Monroe, while Kym has roots in Enumclaw. It was in Arizona, far from their Washington roots, that fate brought them together. "The moment I met Kym, I immediately held on to her as my little piece of home," Rachel shares.
Both Rachel and Kym had extensive restaurant experience and dreams of owning their own place someday. Kym had even run her own successful catering business for seven years. Their journey took a significant turn in 2018 when Kym acquired Ravens View, a charming venue that they transformed into a hidden gem. Despite the challenges of 2020, the restaurant continued to thrive.
However, life had more twists in store for Rachel. In 2020, amidst the pandemic, she faced personal challenges as her mother battled stage 4 uterine cancer. Kym was her unwavering pillar of support through it all. Unfortunately, they lost Rachel's mother in December of that year. It was a trying time, but it strengthened their bond.
Rachel briefly stepped away from the public eye to care for her young child, but her passion for the restaurant industry never waned. When an opportunity arose in July 2022 to open a new restaurant, Kym reached out to her with an enticing proposal. Rachel's initial skepticism about the space melted away as she saw its potential. "I'm ready for some good, positive things in life," she told Kym. They signed the lease in August 2022 and, with relentless determination, had Kiki Rae's doors open by June 1, 2023.
The restaurant's name, Kiki Rae's, holds a heartfelt origin in the loss of Kym's dear friend Annie. Annie's son Bryce, who is Kym's godson, affectionately calls Kym "Auntie Kiki." This endearing nickname became the inspiration behind "Kiki." Meanwhile, "Rae" pays homage to Rachel's grandmother, who lovingly called her Rae Rae and also passed away in 2022 due to Alzheimer's. Together, the name beautifully honors their cherished loved ones.
Kiki Rae's is more than just a restaurant; it's a community hub, a place where locals and tourists alike can savor the essence of coastal flavors, influenced by the Pacific Northwest and the idyllic shores of Maui, Hawaii. "We wanted to bring a bit of that flavor and atmosphere to Cave Creek, a little bohemian beach vibe," Kym explains.
The menu is a testament to their diverse culinary experiences, offering classic dishes from Seattle and Hawaii alongside creative cocktails that Rachel takes pride in crafting. The restaurant's vibrant atmosphere and dedication to customer service aim to make every visit feel like a vacation.
Kym and Rachel envision Kiki Rae's as a standout among the diverse culinary options in Cave Creek. Their focus is not only on delivering an excellent dining experience but also on enriching the local culture. "We want to be the place everyone was wishing for, the place Cave Creek was lacking," they say.
Their journey as restaurant owners is defined by the joy of bringing people together, creating unforgettable memories, and fostering a sense of community. "We find the most fulfillment in seeing and hearing customers' reactions to what we have created," they express.
Kiki Rae's is more than a restaurant; it's a testament to friendship, resilience, and the power of pursuing one's dreams. Rachel and Kym have combined their passion, creativity, and love for the culinary arts to create a haven of relaxation and delight in the heart of Cave Creek.
We wanted to bring a bit of that flavor and atmosphere to Cave Creek, a little bohemian beach vibe.