By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Colton Grubb knew when he stepped foot into his new Heritage District restaurant, Grubstak, that he made the right business decision.
“Walking in and seeing the lights turned on, and the first few entrees that went out, that was amazing,” says Grubb, the grandson of Valley auto magnate Lou Grubb. “The guests really enjoy the meals. That’s probably the most rewarding part.”
Grubstak bills itself as an upscale, fast-casual restaurant serving made-to-order meals built on stackable waffle fries, roasted root vegetables and crunchy greens. The eatery opened December 5 in downtown Gilbert.
“We have eight signature stacks,” he says. “With them, we either feature a roasted root vegetable medley or waffle fries.”
The Grubstak ($9.95) serves up 50/50 waffle fries, Schreiner’s breakfast sausage, pork belly, cheddar cheese, grub gravy and fried egg. The Gold Rush ($9.95) is a mélange of gold – 50/50 waffle fries, golden chicken, golden sauce, blue cheese, carrots and celery.
Grubatouille ($8.45) features roasted root veggies, Parmesan-crusted zucchini, yellow squash and tomato sauce. The Mac Attack ($9.95) is a restaurant favorite – Grubchetta macaroni and cheese, tomato chetta and more mac served with shishito pesto.
For those who have a sweet tooth, there’s the Give Me S’More ($6.75), which is made with cinnamon graham-cracker bread pudding, marshmallow fudge sauce and brûléed marshmallow.
The menu is an expansion of Grubb’s dream.
“The initial idea or ‘a-ha’ moment was when I thought to do something unique with French fries,” he says. “I like to be indulgent or decadent. I grew up eating very healthy, though. We always had veggies and salad at dinner. I needed to have the best of both worlds.”
Grubb then challenged himself to come up with a concept and menu that he could eat daily. He recruited the help of Gilbert resident and operations manager Seth Widdes.
The key to Grubstak is that everything is made fresh.
“Every time someone orders, we make that fresh to order,” Grubb says. “If you order fries, we drop those. We’re not cutting food out of bags. We braise all the proteins. We do all the prep work for our roasted veggies.”
Most important to Grubb is the kids-eat-free promotion that requires the purchase of an adult entrée. It applies to children younger than 12.
“That’s something we take pride in,” says Grubb, who married wife, Katie, in November.
Recently, Grubstak added brunch on Saturdays and Sundays that features French toast sticks ($7.75) with cinnamon and sugar, whipped cream and seasonal toppings; and farmers market veggie frittata ($7.99) with egg whites and seasonal vegetables from the Gilbert Farmers Market or Agritopia.
For Grubb, it was important to use local produce and artisans. He used Phoenix-based LGE Design Build to create the interior vibe. Vintage Industrial of Phoenix created three large community tables with power, purse hooks and USBs. The back wall is adorned with four photos of his grandfather farming on Long Island.
“I wanted to incorporate local as much as possible,” Grubb says. “All of our beers and wines are local. We have nitro cold-brewed coffee from the Roastery of Cave Creek. It’s on tap. We use Shamrock Foods, which is an Arizona company. Most of the components have a local touch.”
Choosing downtown Gilbert was an easy decision for Grubb.
“Gilbert was a town that I kept hearing about for the last few years, in terms of what was growing and doing well,” he says. “I grew up in Central Phoenix and spent time in Gilbert – when it was farms and not known as a happening place for food.
“When I got into this project, I looked at every corner of the Valley and kept coming back to Gilbert. I was able to spend some quality time out here. It has a unique vibe.”
The whole project satisfied his urge to start a business. Grubb, a graduate of Brophy and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, was previously employed in the auto business, and by the Phoenix Suns.
“I was getting out of the car business and I knew from my work experience that I wanted to hopefully have my own business and be my own boss,” he says. “I was really passionate about having food – good food.
“My brother-in-law gave me a little idea. I kept expanding on that and the idea evolved. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and went for it.”
Giving up the family legacy of working for car dealerships was fine to Grubb.
“I just didn’t have that passion working that many hours per week,” he says. “You really have to love what you’re doing. I finally made the decision not to force it anymore.”
With his family’s approval, he went forward with his plans for Grubstak.
“I learned a lot from my dad and my grandpa,” he says. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some great mentors in different businesses. It all came together for Grubstak and the next phase of my life.”