Kitchen Doors: Common Ground Culinary, T. Cook’s and Brunch About Town
In the neighborhood
Common Ground Culinary restaurants offer friendly service and comforting food
Common Ground Culinary, one of the Valley’s most prolific restaurant groups, opened Neighborly Public House in uptown Phoenix in November 2021.
Founded in 2011, Common Ground Culinary has nine concepts throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale, including Grassroots, Twisted Grove, Wally’s, The Collins, The Macintosh, Sweet Provisions ice cream parlor and bakery, and Arcadia Catering Company.
Christopher Collins, the owner of Common Ground Culinary, has the restaurant business in his blood. His great-grandfather was a maître ‘d at the iconic Gallaghers Steakhouse in New York City. Collins’ father opened several Marie Callender’s restaurants, as well as Cooperstown in downtown Phoenix and his namesake restaurant, Wally’s American Gastropub.
“Of all my siblings, I was the one in the kitchen cooking with my dad,” Collins said. “I was in high school when he opened Wally’s, and I learned how to work in the kitchen and all about the business.”
Collins graduated from Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix and studied hotel and restaurant management at Boston University. He was recruited by Hillstone, which owns and operates several restaurants nationwide, including Houston’s. At Hillstone, Collins learned every aspect of the restaurant business he could while working at 10 restaurants in six markets. Before opening Common Ground Culinary, he worked with some of the Valley’s most acclaimed chefs, including Beau MacMillan at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain and Lee Hillson at Royal Palms Resort and Spa.
“We try to be the best neighborhood restaurant in every location — friendly and welcoming, with comforting food and value for the money,” Collins said.
Common Ground Culinary employs about 250 people. “I have the best team in the Valley,” Collins said. “We work hard to attract team members and spend time to develop them.”
Next up for Collins is opening St. Urban, located above Neighborly Public House. Collins describes it as a quaint neighborhood restaurant in an intimate space with mountain views. The menu includes charcuterie, oysters, deviled eggs, flatbreads and panini sandwiches.
Now the father of two young sons, Collins remains as passionate about restaurants as he was when he started working in them as a teenager. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I love all aspects of this business, including the people, the food and the operations, as well as the challenges. This is what drives me and makes me a better husband and father.”
To learn more, go to commongroundculinary.com.
T. Cook’s celebrates 25 years
Resort restaurant is a longtime local favorite
One of the Valley’s quintessential resort restaurants is T. Cook’s at Phoenix’s Royal Palms Resort and Spa. The property has a rich history as the winter home of New York financier Delos Willard Cooke, the nephew of J.P. Morgan. When he died, the property was sold and transitioned to an inn with 15 casitas, opening to guests in 1948. The resort is known for its beautiful grounds and European ambiance, high-profile guests from President George W. Bush to Barbra Streisand, and its award-winning restaurant.
In 2022, T. Cook’s celebrates its 25th anniversary. “The atmosphere at T. Cook’s is relaxed yet romantic and takes guests on a journey both through flavors and eliciting feelings of traveling across the pond,” said executive chef Lee Hillson.
Popular menu items include seafood pasta, short rib and the Iberico pork chop. “These are three of my personal favorites,” Hillson said. “Mireya Ryan, our incredible executive sous chef, and the team are constantly coming up with creative new dishes, so we’re able to keep the menu rotating, but these three dishes are staples that continue to please.”
While some things have changed over time, others remain the same, including customers who have been dining at T. Cook’s for years. “The atmosphere is much more relaxed while still remaining a family favorite,” Hillson said. “We regularly see guests that have been dining with us since they were children, so it’s very special to have them with us in their adult years, now with their own families. It’s like the circle of life in a unique way. We are so grateful for our local community. We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the loyal patrons who have stayed with us over the past 25 years.”
Hillson looks forward to continued longevity. “I see wonderful things for the future of T. Cook’s,” he said. “We’ll continue to evolve as we have over the past two-plus decades and will continue to flourish by providing an outstanding guest experience.”
Visit royalpalmshotel.com/tcooks to learn more.
Brunch About Town
Sweet and savory options across the Valley
“Phoenix is a brunch town for many reasons, especially the weather,” said Robert Bogart, chef and owner of Oak on Camelback, formerly St. Francis. “Brunch is more than a meal. It’s a social event and a way to relax and unwind.”
Check out these local favorites.
Oak on Camelback
Oak on Camelback offers a robust brunch menu with sweet, savory and spicy options. Fan favorites include lox pizza, mascarpone-stuffed French toast, and chicken and waffles. “Oak on Camelback features a variety of globally inspired dishes, including some of the St. Francis menu favorites. We put a lot of love into crafting each dish with elevated but familiar flavors that are comforting and delicious,” Bogart said.
Buck & Rider
For seafood lovers, Buck & Rider in Arcadia offers sushi, crab cake benedict, tempura lobster with a serrano cheddar waffle, shrimp and grits, and citrus-cured salmon toast. Other brunch favorites include beignets, vegetable hash and cold brew cocktails.
IN OLD TOWN SCOTTSDALE
Maple & Ash
For those looking for a high-energy brunch experience and upscale cuisine, head to Maple & Ash. “Not only is the food spread decadent, but the atmosphere elevates the experience with candelabras, a DJ, bottomless mimosas and a celebratory atmosphere,” said marketing manager Rudé van Eck. “Our Alaskan king crab eggs benedict is a guest favorite, and you can’t pass up our famous espresso martini. Our fire-roasted seafood tower, a collection of seafood roasted in the hearth and finished with garlic butter and chili oil, is what we are known for, so we made sure to bring that to the brunch menu.”
For a relaxing brunch with attentive service in a tranquil setting, Virtu offers sweet breakfast items, including a Nutella crepe and lemon ricotta semolina pancakes, as well as savory dishes such as Chef Gio Osso’s famous octopus with chile butter, mascarpone polenta with pork ragu, and a tomahawk ribeye.
IN NORTH SCOTTSDALE
Volanti offers craft cocktails, delicious food and great views of the Scottsdale Airport. Popular brunch items include bottomless mimosas, lobster avocado toast and chilaquiles. “Volanti offers a fun and relaxing atmosphere with an elevated menu featuring classic American dishes as well as world favorites. No matter where you’re coming from or what you are celebrating, we have everything for the perfect brunch,” said manager Alec Maza.
OEB Breakfast Co.
Open daily for breakfast and lunch, Canada-based OEB Breakfast Co. offers a creative spin on breakfast classics. Favorites include the lobster and shrimp crepe, gnocchi breakfast carbonara and the restaurant’s selection of poutines, including the Gold Digga with poached eggs, duck fat fried herb potatoes, cheese curds, roast pork and black truffles.