09/242013

Firefly Hot Spot: Gadzooks Redefines the Enchilada

By: Hailey Eslick

By using ingredients like modelo braised bison, scratch-made crema and honeysuckle vinaigrette Gadzooks is redefining the enchilada. With a love stemming from childhood for enchiladas and Mexican food, Aaron Pool opened Gadzooks this April.

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Who are the owners?

Aaron Pool is a Phoenix native who began cooking with his mother at a very young age. He especially loved baking and even had an Easy-Bake Oven as a child. His palate for spicy food developed at a local Phoenix restaurant that has since closed called La Fonda’s. Here, he would order cheese crisps, enchiladas and experiment with different salsas. His mother was famous for her green chile chicken enchilada casserole, and on a family trip to Tahoe during his freshman year of college it began to click. Although Aaron’s family was made up of dentists, and while there was a time he thought he wanted to join the same line of work, it was reaffirmed on this trip what he wanted to do. It was here that the idea for a fast casual restaurant involving enchiladas was born.

How did it start?

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2009 Aaron began working out the plans for Gadzooks. He worked with Navin Pathangay of Pathangay Associates to complete the build out of the space on the corner of 7th Street and Osborn where the business now resides. They began by stripping the building to the bare bones of the 1950’s gas station it once was. With the aid of the Adaptive Reuse Program at the City of Phoenix, Aaron and Navin were able to design the space creatively with the city on their side.

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The name Gadzooks is German and means an exclamation of surprise. While what they are cooking up and serving is in no way German you can certainly expect surprising ingredients. Aaron told me stories of him experimenting with braising new meats and working with commercial kitchen appliances for the first time ever while he was building his menu. He even found himself in the restaurant at 3am at times trying to get recipes right. Aaron has worked very hard to implement family recipes that maybe wouldn’t fit it to the traditional Mexican restaurant by making minor tweaks.

At Gadzooks they make everything from scratch in house and source local ingredients whenever possible. An item that stood out to me in particular on their menu is their homemade tortillas. They offer two options – hand pressed, in house corn and scratch-made half and half corn and flour tortillas. The half and half are perfect for enchiladas because they give you a buttery softer taste and texture without becoming soggy like most flour tortillas do. You will find multiple recipes from his mother on the menu including their soup, cornbread and homemade cookies.

Aaron met a lot of opposition from restaurant veterans with starting his own business at such a young age, but his success speaks for itself. He is doing far better than he could have ever imagined and is loving every minute of it.

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Why we love it!

We love that Aaron has developed his business in a very sustainable way. We love that he has reinvented a classic he has always loved, and that despite facing opposition he pursued his dream of owning and operating a restaurant. His dedication to creating a menu that is out of the box is admirable. By making everything in house and from scratch, including their tortillas, his menu options are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. We appreciate Gadzook’s sourcing local ingredients whenever possible and for working with the city of Phoenix and their Adaptive Reuse Program when completing their build out. We highly recommend this new local gem!

Hours and Location

Gadzook’s is located at 3313 N. 7th St. at Osborn St. in Phoenix and is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

After working twelve plus hour days, Aaron’s favorite local places to grab some food and a drink after work are St. Francis located on Camelback near 2nd st, Chelsea’s Kitchen on 40th Street near Camelback, and Rokerij on 16th Street near Maryland.

What’s coming up for Gadzooks?

They are participating in the Arizona Taco Festival on October 19th & 20th, and over the next couple weeks they will be expanding their hours to be open on Sundays for brunch. Aaron’s plans are to have a slightly modified menu more specific to the brunch crowd, but their fast casual businesses model will stay put, creating a very unique brunch experience.

Photos taken by author. 

 

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