JG Goes On A Spree: 5 New Restaurants Rumored in Two New Towns

Jose Garces is a busy fella. Man is an Iron Chef to start. He’s got his brand spankin’ new farm to worry about (called Luna Farms, located on 37 acres in Bucks County). He has events to attend, appearances to make, a cookbook out in the world and just debuted a new catering arm of his Garces Restaurant Group (called, of course, Garces Catering). And it’s not like he’s short on actual restaurants in his portfolio, either. Right now, he’s got eight houses up and running–seven here, one in Chicago, and some of them are numbered among the best restaurants in Philly. I’m exhausted just reading about all the things Garces does, and while you’d think that all of that, plus eight kitchens to supervise, eight dining rooms to worry about, eight crews to boss should be enough for anyone, apparently that’s just because you’re a lazy, shiftless slacker like me.

Because it’s not enough for JG. Not enough by a loooong stretch. Because from what we know right now, it looks like the man is going on a spree.

It starts with the long-gestating “beers and brats joint” over on 13th Street, in the old Letto Deli space. Garces has had the space for nearly two years now, but it has a name (Frohman’s Wursthaus–which proves that JG, a Chicago native, knows his Ferris Bueller jokes) and something like an opening date (“This fall,” according to Garces).

Not enough? Then how ’bout this… We first heard from some front-line folks inside the Garces operation that he was looking at bringing his skills (and possibly one of his existing concepts) to Scottsdale, AZ. Why Scottsdale? Because that’s where Garces’s mentor, Douglas Rodriguez (of Alma de Cuba, here in Philly), has his Deseo restaurant at the Kierland Resort. It’s a town that Garces knows, and one where his style would fit nicely.

And after poking around the desert for a little bit, we came up with this, straight from the website of the Sydell Group, new owners of The Drinkwater, the former Hotel Theodore in Old Town Scottsdale:

In February of 2011, Sydell completed its acquisition of the former Hotel Theodore. The centrally located property in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona will be renovated, re-concepted, and re-branded as The Drinkwater with architecture and design from Stanberg-Aferiat and a completely revitalized food & beverage offering provided by Jose Garces of Distrito, Tinto and Amada. Joie de Vivre has been engaged to manage the 195 key property which will open in the fourth quarter 2011.

But wait, there’s more! If you think another out-of-town F&B operation from one of our local celebrity chefs is confusing (but also, you know, kinda awesome) then you’ll love the one we heard about JG looking at opening not one, not two, but three new restaurants in Atlantic City, all at the new Revel casino and resort  (which is scheduled to open in May of 2012). There has been speculation about JG looking at Atlantic City real estate going back to 2008. But we first started hearing some solid rumors of this multi-concept plan a few weeks ago, coming from various servers, cooks and bartenders around town–company men, mostly, who variously described the concepts as “balls-out crazy” and “completely insane and groundbreaking” which, much as I like some of Garces’ places, would not be words that I would use to describe any of them. I mean, the lobster mac and cheese at Village Whiskey is excellent, but not exactly groundbreaking. And the Peruvian/Cantonese fusion at Chifa? Historically interesting, yes. And tasty, too. But “balls-out crazy.” Maybe if the kitchen staff worked nude and just started randomly lighting shit on fire…

Still, the rumors about this sudden opening frenzy were coming from solid sources both inside and outside Garces Restaurant Group, and the opinions about the concepts were from those in the best positions to know.  But then, just yesterday, we got word from another anonymous (but well-placed) source who actually came through with details on what Garces is (allegedly) planning. The three restaurants going into Revel? He said they would be a version of Distrito Cantina, a 300-seat clone of Amada and a new Village Whiskey capable of seating 150. Which, again, is very cool. But groundbreaking? Not so much. Unless of course Revel itself turns out to be completely insane and crazy (which, from what we’ve heard, might just be the case) and some of that bleeds over into these already proven GRG concepts.

Obviously, we took what we’d learned and went straight to the source–asking Garces and his flacks what, exactly, was up. Word from the man himself is, “There are no signed deals in Atlantic City”–a line held firmly to by JG’s PR machine which insisted that none of this can be confirmed. No one said it wasn’t happening, just that no one has yet signed anything. And when I called the folks from Revel, they only insisted that they couldn’t give me any names or details about the restaurants going into the new resort, but didn’t say that they’d never heard of this Jose Garces guy. So yes, this is all still rumor and speculation. But it’s good rumor and well-sourced speculation, already described by one Garces insider as “the worst-kept secret in town.”

More news as it comes, folks. Just stay tuned.