Monday, 14 October 2019

Root Public House

Root Public House

In terms of culinary pedigree, it doesn’t get much better than Brix, which gave birth to Criollo. Now there’s Root, a moderately priced public house with contemporary American fare.

DAVID SMITH, THE CHEF, and coowner of Root Public House used to change his restaurant’s menu a few times a week. “That’s fun for a chef,” he says, but I think my staff was have going a little crazy. Now, three years after Root took root in Flagstaff’s historic Southside neighborhood, Smith limits his menu rotations to about once a month. And his marriage of elevated cuisine and the unpretentious atmosphere is attracting diners from near and far.

Smith is a Virginia native who left a career as a mortgage broker to attend culinary school in the Phoenix area. He then worked as a chef in Portland before returning to Arizona in search of sunshine. He became executive chef and part-owner at a new restaurant called Brix, which today is one of Northern Arizona’s most highly regarded restaurants, and later opened Criollo Latin Kitchen nearby. The latter helped inspire Smith’s latest venture.

“I was so proud of what we did at Brix, and I still am, but the locals always viewed it as a destination-type place,” he says. “Criollo was more approachable, and the idea with Root was to have a similarly priced restaurant, but more contemporary American fare, and a place where everyone is welcome.” The concept is working, and Root now draws regulars from the Flagstaff area and summer visitors from down south.

The modern, well-lit space is in a building that once held the Mad Italian, a bar that was a destination for Northern Arizona University students for decades. Smith says people still come in to say they had their first beer or met their spouse there. And then they stay for dinner. A recent month’s menu included a blood orange and beet salad, with a Dijon-herb vinaigrette; a cider-glazed duck breast, served with cheddar grits and braised collard greens; and a savory mesquite-smoked pork chop.

Smith describes the entrées’ presentation as “pretty, but approachable.” So is the drink menu, which features a dozen colorful cocktails, Arizona brews and an ample wine selection. In spring and summer, patrons can enjoy Root’s rooftop patio, which offers its own bar, live music and 360-degree views of the Flagstaff area. In short, there are multiple reasons that Root is a place where people want to be. And that’s the whole point.

“The idea of a public house is that we want you to be able to come in for an anniversary dinner, but also just come in on a Tuesday night for a steak and a beer,” Smith says. “We don’t want to scare anybody off.”

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