As one of Tucson’s hottest dining spots with an excellent menu, great drinks, cool ambience, and garnering press from papers such as the New York Times and the LA Times, 47 Scott is a Tucson Foodie fan favorite. Opened in 2010 by business partners Travis Reese and Nicole Flowers, we got in touch with Travis for inside info on 47 Scott, their acclaimed bar next door, Scott & Co., and their next venture, Saint House.
How much involvement do you have with the items on the menu and what’s the thought process behind it? Is it a collaboration with the chef, all you, or all chef? Along those lines, a fan asked if you’d ever consider doing a weekly or monthly feature or special. Any thoughts on that?
The menu is a 100% collaboration between my business partner Nicole Flowers, our kitchen manager (chef), and myself. Nicole and I had a not so clear vision of what we wanted 47 Scott to be and our first chef created something much more ambitious. We wanted to open a brasserie. A French version of an Irish Pub. The chef wanted to open a great New American Restaurant with international influences. His background was in fine dining and his plating and quality were exquisite, we just had trouble running a fine dining restaurant inside a casual restaurant business model. So we parted ways not long after we opened. But, it worked out because it made us strive for something better. We never thought our restaurant was going to matter in Tucson’s culinary world. With both Nicole and I coming from Time Market and The B Line respectively, we felt at the time there was a need in Tucson for more gathering places – not dining destinations. Looking back, we’re glad it worked out the way it did. Our current chef has been with us for two years and we couldn’t be happier.
We have always wanted to run specials but because of the collaboration aspect that goes into each dish we frankly don’t have the time while planning our new restaurant. There are actually a few dishes that we’ve had on previous menus that we’d like to be able to bring back from time to time. We still try to seasonally change a few things here and there to fit the Tucson climate. We try to create “lighter” dishes for the summer and we’ve never had a problem creating “heavier” food for the winter!
Clearly, Scott & Co plays a huge role in what you’re doing. How does this affect 47 Scott? How separate are they? A fan asked about Dragoon Brewery’s availability on your menu. Is that something you played a role in or do you collaborate with the bar? It seems like mixed drinks recipes are mostly coming from the excellent bartenders you have, but what’s the process behind that?
The bar program was our happiest accident. I’m from Austin, TX and wanted a great Margarita on our menu at 47 Scott. Nicole recognized the trends taking place in bigger cities with cocktail menus popping up in the gastropubs and bistros. She came back from a trip to Portland and couldn’t believe how far behind we were in Tucson with regards to cocktails in restaurants. About a week before we opened we hired Ciaran Wiese to consult on 4 cocktails. He walked in with a bag full of tools in the middle of our construction mess and over the next hour or so blew our mind over and over and over. We begged him to come work for us and eventually the promise of Scott & Co. led him to come on board. We opened the bar about 5 months after 47 Scott and it was immediately well received. Being metioned in The New York Times and Food & Wine helped grow Scott & Co. immensely.
As far as the day-to-day running of Scott & Co., or the menu, Nicole and I mostly stay out of our bartenders’ way. We have more input into the drinks at 47 Scott because we want to make sure they’re palatable with food. But overall we let the Scott & Co. brand fit the bartender working. It’s their music, their lighting, and in the case of our “Bartender’s Choice” option as a cocktail, their drinks as well. It’s great because each night has a little different feel. Last week one of our bartenders had Delta Blues playing on the stereo and the next night it was The Smiths and Joy Division.
We’ve struggled with our beer program for the longest time, mostly from lack of space. Dragoon Brewery was a perfect fit (2 years in the making!) because they are local and awesome. Their two core brands, Dragoon IPA and Stronghold Session Ale fit the needs of the majority of our guests and work well with food.
Saint House…. tell us a little about what the plan is there. What can we look forward to? It’s definitely a great location.
Nicole and I coveted that space for so long and when Shark’s moved out we were lucky enough to grab it. I say lucky because more than a few people were interested in that space and that block. We believe Downtown Tucson has the best collection of restaurants in Tucson but we are lacking a few more “International” options. We have amazing American food as well as Mexican but not much else. Saint House came about because we thought a Cuban restaurant might be something fun to open and we love the diversity of Rum. If you taste a Demerara-style Rum from Guyana it is completely different from the Rhum Agricoles produced by the old French Colonies like Martinique. Some Rums are meant to be sipped like a whiskey or Scotch and others are perfect for mixing amazing cocktails. After a few research trips around the country we realized we should expand the idea to include the food from the different Rum-producing regions as well. Mainly the Caribbean. It’s a much bigger space than we’re used to but we think Goebel Interiors came up with an amazing design. It’s chic like South Beach is today but with an art deco component that harkens back to an older Miami. Not like a lounge or a club, though. It’s a restaurant. And there’s a private dining component as well for smaller private parties. It opens August 15th. Hopefully Tucson likes what we’ve come up with.
Are there plans to expand 47 Scott’s current space into a larger one?
We’re pretty happy with 47 Scott. We might try to find a way to squeeze in a table here and there but we’re not too interested in moving or expanding. That little restaurant is what it is and we’re grateful people have found us and keep coming back.
Your bartenders are some of the best in the biz. It’s known that you lost Ciaran last year to Portland. Has that affected you much? Any comments on the current bar staff you have?
Thanks! Ciaran was always a little restless and he basically did all he could do here. His last achievement was Food & Wine’s Top 10 New Bars and I think that was the high note. He went out on top. We always knew he was going to leave at some point. Our three original bartenders were Ciaran, Connor Mansager and Karl Goranowski. Connor left for Portland as well. Now it’s just Karl. But he’s amazing. The guy is an Encyclopedia. He comes up with our drinks and works with our other bartenders to put together a menu. It’s probably a little more collaborative now. The bartenders exchange ideas and create collectively a little more. And he’s teaching our current staff so that if he ever leaves there’s that legacy back to our original team. Like I said earlier, our bar program was a happy accident. We are proud of what they’ve accomplished and we’re looking forward to what’s next.