PHOENIX — Opening a restaurant is no easy task. It takes research to find the right location, hours to develop the concept, design, and menu, time to hire and train staff, and marketing to let everyone know about the opening.
For two of the newest restaurants in downtown Phoenix, some impeccable and strategic timing, and perhaps a bit of good fortune, aligned their openings as the Phoenix Suns won the Western Conference finals -- and are now vying for the championship title in the NBA Finals.
The Ainsworth, a trendy, New York-based sports bar and restaurant, opened at the end of May at the Collier Center in the former Hard Rock Cafe, near Second and Jefferson Streets, and across from PHX Suns Arena.
Two blocks away at CityScape, Phoenix Bourbon Room, an American restaurant and the latest venture from the team behind State 48 Brewery, opened in mid-June in the former Tilted Kilt space on the second floor, with a patio that overlooks the arena and downtown.
Both have not only served as unofficial watch parties for the Suns' games, but also as backdrops for local and national TV broadcasts, including ABC15, ESPN, and others.
"Couldn't have asked for better timing, honestly," said Scott McIntire, who co-owns The Ainsworth with his wife, Melissa, in a recent interview. They also own The Lola at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale.
"[We] always wanted to make sure we were open for the Suns' playoff run and it was, you know, one of the best business decisions we made,” he said.
Mario Rana, the owner of Phoenix Bourbon Room, called it the “perfect time” to open his restaurant.
“It's [the] perfect time because we have -- we're in the middle of the summer or the beginning of summer, so we have time to get everybody trained, but then we get some nice boosts on game nights,” he said.
With games being held at Phoenix Suns Arena, fans going to the game can stop in before or after for something to eat or a drink, and fans without tickets to the game -- resale tickets are several hundred dollars over ticket value and sometimes over $1,000 --- have a place to watch that is also close to the action.
The Ainsworth has two multi-screen TV walls with additional TVs throughout, a bar, and an outdoor patio.
The menu features burgers, chicken sandwiches, sandwiches, salads, steak, and fish. Two of their specialties are the "Mac Burger" and their 24K gold leaf-dusted wings ($60 for 10 wings).
During game days, McIntire said he wants people to feel like they’re at the game. He has brought in a drumline to hype the crowd, plays music during commercials, talks on the microphone, and offers different drink specials.
“It’s the same energy inside games as it is inside the stadium -- and I honestly mean that,” he said.
Phoenix Bourbon Room has some 30 TVs, more than 50 kinds of bourbon and whiskey, and a menu that highlights steak, chicken, pork, smoked meats, as well as salads, sandwiches, and appetizers.
“We’re a new place. It's been good,” he said.
Both restaurants will be open on Wednesday for Game 4 of the NBA Finals, which is being held at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Suns lead the Bucks, 2-1.
IF YOU GO:
3 S. 2nd St. Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phoenix Bourbon Room
2 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix AZ 85004