When Travis Reese and Nicole Flowers opened 47 Scott in 2010, the small, intimate restaurant quickly became a favorite among Tucson diners.
Dishing out New American food from scratch in a hip setting more common to urban areas such as San Francisco or New York, it wasn't long before they racked up recognition, acquired the space next door, and opened Scott & Co., a smaller, even more intimate speakeasy.
With Scott & Co., Reese and Flowers ushered in the gold rush of craft cocktailing in Tucson garnering national acclaim from publications such as the New York Times and CNN in the process. Many S&C bartenders went on to work in and manage some of Tucson's current crop of popular establishments such as Reilly Craft Pizza + Drink, Tough Luck Club, Agustin Kitchen, R Bar, OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen, and others.
In August 2013, the partners opened a third concept, Saint House Island Bistro & Bar, a large full service restaurant and rum bar in the heart of downtown Tucson which never quite hit its stride. The restaurant closed in early November 2014.
“It was really ambitious, if you think about it." Reese told the Arizona Daily Star in 2014. "It was a rum bar and Caribbean-inspired food in the middle of the desert, and it seats 120 people.”
After Saint House's closure, Reese and Flowers focused back on their roots, beginning with breathing new life into 47 Scott's kitchen.
Aaron Helfand worked as 47's executive chef until early 2011. But once gone, no notable frontman took his place and the kitchen was left chef-less. Then in June 2015, Chef Daniel Thomas, whose background included the Phoenician in Scottsdale and Tucson's The Abbey and Poppy Kitchen, joined the team as executive chef, bringing with him a bag of new tricks. As in, ingredients.
Take celery root, for instance. Typically, mashed potatoes would have been used in the past, Reese said, but Thomas went with a celery root puree for the pan-seared skin-on salmon entree, which also includes candy striped beets and basil oil. Another menu change was the pork chop, which now features mustard seed caviar, chive spaetzle, and "brussel-kraut."
And, a limited availability happy hour menu includes pork belly kimchi tacos.
But the biggest change came recently when Reese and Flowers decided to completely tear out 47 Scott's bar along with the dividing wall between the restaurant and Scott & Co., effectively connecting them and allowing each establishment to piggy back off the other.
Spirits and beer on tap are now available from Scott & Co. for 47 Scott guests while 47's food can now be ordered while sitting at the newly furnished Scott & Co. The former bar space at 47 Scott is now used to accommodate larger parties.
Though both establishments have remained successful through the years, the new connecting door was a calculated change.
Aside from bringing a fresh change in feel, each business had different peak hours. Weekday nights weren't always busy enough at Scott & Co. to warrant a dedicated bartender, while it was often hard to even find a seat on weekend nights. The new door allows for a smoother flow and balance of customers between the two businesses.
New drink specials are listed on Scott & Co.'s new chalkboard, but they no longer have a bar manager whipping up quarterly creations. They hold regular team meetings where everyone contributes ideas.
"It's more of a team effort now," Reese said.
The beverage menu has also expanded to include 47 classic cocktails.
"There are a lot of really good classic cocktails that people haven't tasted," said Reese. While you've likely had a margarita before, you can discover rarer classics such as the Vieux Carré or boulevardier.
Beer lovers are getting some love too. Though Scott & Co. started with two beers on tap, they've expanded to six taps to accommodate a wider crowd.
With the changes, 47 Scott's most beloved features still remain. The patio is unchanged. Crusty bread is still $1.00 and $3.00 for house-made mozzarella. And, they're still one of the best downtown places to share a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. The steak and frites is still one of the most solid and simple dishes in town (though the cut of beef changes occasionally).
And regular 47 Scott fans are pleased.
“As 'equal-opportunity' foodies, we love to be able to eat at a bar, booth, or patio when the weather's right," said Desert Angels Chairman Curtis Gunn, who along with accomplice Tana Kelch frequent 47 Scott regularly. "We loved 47 before, but now we're able to enjoy some of our favorite food at one of our favorite bars while sipping some of our favorite drinks."
"In 2015, it was hard tying loose ends," Reese said. "We're really excited about the future. It's funny to hear we're the veterans of downtown."
Just recently, Tubac's Elvira's Restaurant opened a second location in the former Saint House space. However, Reese holds no ill will or grudges.
"They couldn't have done any better," Reese said. "That's a win for downtown. I'm glad it's not a chain restaurant."
For more information, keep up with 47 Scott on Facebook.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...