Joe and Dara Rodger, a husband and wife duo, are hoping to mix things up in Flagstaff’s dining scene with their new restaurant Sh/ft Flg.
The new restaurant isn’t open just yet. The Rodgers and their construction crews are working hard to get the doors open by early April.
But the couple is hoping to twist things around by bringing the kitchen into the dining room with an open kitchen and a chef’s bar. Customers will be able to belly up to the chef’s bar and watch as their food is prepared inches away from them.
The bar and open kitchen is the brainchild of Joe, who first experienced a chef’s bar while working for a restaurant in Boulder, Colo. Customers don’t often get to see what happens in the kitchen, other than what they see on realty TV shows, he said. By opening the kitchen to the dining area, it gives customers a sense of how their food is prepared and where it comes from.
“We’re bringing the back of the house forward. It also keeps us working harder for our customers.”
The idea is to move away from the idea of waiting for your food to magically appear from the back room, he said.
Interested in a more quiet setting? Sh/ft will also have sit-down seating with high-top tables and chairs, and a couple of booths.
The décor of the restaurant will be different from the more industrial, steel and rusted, corrugated metal look, that other Flagstaff restaurants have, Dara said.
“We wanted a fresh, clean look,” she said.
The couple kept the historic brickwork, tin ceilings and wood floors of the original building, but opted for bright blue paint for the trim and white walls. The chef’s bar will have taxi yellow barn lights dangling from the ceiling. The bar is a jigsaw puzzle of soft natural wood slats of varying widths with light yellow slats scattered throughout.
The Rodgers plan to serve only dinner, drinks and a Sunday brunch at Sh/ft. Mondays are reserved as a kind of community/family-friendly dining night.
The food will be what Dara and Joe call “American small plates,” portions that are just the right size for a nosh and a drink, or dessert and a drink with friends after work but before you go home for a full dinner.
Or you can make a meal out of them by ordering several dishes and share them with friends. The couple will offer larger portions of some dishes for those looking for something a little more substantial.
The small dishes present a shift in the dining experience, Dara said. This way you get the chance to try several dishes, instead of just one dish.
Sh/ft will offer both savory and sweet dishes; Joe is in charge of the savory side of the kitchen and Dara the sweet. The couple plans to change the menu on a regular basis depending on what’s fresh locally. The cocktail menu will also rotate on a seasonal basis. The Rodgers are hoping to get the majority of their ingredients from local sources.
Both Dara and Joe come from a fine dining background. Dara grew up in Colorado and Joe grew up in Sedona.
“I started working at a bakery in Sedona at the age of 12. I grew up in the restaurant business,” he said.
Dara started her culinary career working as a hotel clerk.
“I’ve always liked working in the hospitality field but I wanted something more tangible. Food is a way to express myself, something I can give my customers,” she said.
The couple came to Flagstaff a couple of years ago. Joe was a chef at the Tinderbox for quite a while before he and Dara helped the Heinonens open the Tourist Home last year.
The couple decided to break out on their own late last year after finding the perfect location on North San Francisco Street next to Winter Sun Trading Co.
While the Rodgers are looking to create a shift in the Flagstaff dining experience, they aren’t looking to upset the apple cart.
“We’re really trying to pay homage to the other chefs in town, such as the Heinonens,” Joe said. “We’re just happy to have a seat at the table.”