29 October, 2020, 00:13

New Tucson-Based Concept ‘Cup It Up American Grill’ To Open In Early January

Tucson will gain a healthier dining option in early January 2016 when fast-casual newcomers Cup It Up American Grill opens at 1101 North Wilmot Road, in the Trader Joe’s shopping center at the corner of Speedway Boulevard and Wilmot.

The Repp + McLain designed restaurant will feature a build-your-own style line. Guests can choose from an assortment of proteins; a ‘base’ of greens or grains; and toppings, which include vegetables, sauces, and dressings. The Wilmot location will be the first working prototype of what the owners intend to build into a multi-location chain and franchise.

Conceived and developed by (mostly) native Tucsonan, Christopher Smith, the restaurant is a full-blown version of a style of eating that Smith, an avid golfer, developed on the golf course.

Main counter and line at Cup It Up American Grill (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Main counter and line at Cup It Up American Grill (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

“I’d stop to grab a bite at the turn at Stone Canyon,” Smith explains. “I can’t eat all that bread – I just get too full – and I’d tell them to chop up some grilled chicken, romaine, tomatoes, cheese, and sauce, and throw it all in a cup.”

The concept allows a customer to grab a cup of food, which is available in three sizes, and eat while on the go. For customers that prefer to eat out of a container other than a cup, traditional clamshell to-go containers will also be available.

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“I thought, how can we make this a little more convenient?” says Smith. “We’re getting away from the Burger Kings and McDonalds and closer to a faster and healthier option that’s also affordable.”

Cup It Up will offer three types of “grilled or chilled” organic greens, including Kale, Spinach, and Romaine. Alternatively guests can opt for a grain instead of greens, such as white or brown rice, quinoa, or barley. Protein options include two to three types of chicken from Harris Ranch, pulled pork, Harris Ranch short ribs, grilled shrimp, and grilled portabella mushroom. An assortment of vegetables, sauces and dressing, as well as superfoods, such as avocado, pumpkin seeds, and chick peas are available, too. The concoction can then be layered into the cup, or mixed first.

While Smith, who has owned and operated Tucson & Scottsdale Golf Vacations and Mountain Vista Real Estate & Vacation Rentals for years with partner Jay Warren, does not have a food service background, third partner and General Manager Julian Alarcone has an extensive background in food and beverage. Alarcone worked with Sam Fox directly at City Grill, as well as with Fox Restaurants, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and most recently as Outlet Manager for Westin La Paloma.

Cup It Up owner Chris Smith motions to one of the 50 inch smart television menu screens. (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Cup It Up owner Chris Smith motions to one of the 50 inch smart television menu screens. (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

When asked why Smith decided to enter the restaurant business, it came down to great timing.

“I finally got serious,” explains Smith. “I thought, I need to do something different. I told Julian my idea in August of 2014 and it took us about 4 months to put the plan together.”

Cup It Up offers a brightly lit, modern interior with dark steel walls and seating, a long quartz countertop, wood floors, and wooden butcher block cutting boards. Four fifty-inch smart television monitors display the menu from any spot in the restaurant.

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“Everything is fresh. Even the pasta for the Mac’n’Cheese is fresh. It’s cooked daily, kept in cold water and shocked with hot water when ordered,” said Smith.

Look for the Cup It Up opening in early January. Business hours are from 11am until 8pm with a possible extension to 9pm. The restaurant is carnivore, vegetarian, and vegan friendly.

Website is currently under development. When launched, visit cupitup.com for more information.

Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.