Firefly Hot Spot : The Gladly Serves up Negroni’s on Tap, Over 100 Whiskeys, and New American Cuisine with Global Accents

By: Hailey Eslick

The three owners of The Gladly, Richie Moe, Andrew Fritz and Bernie Kantak, all grew up in different parts of the US. They met while working and developing each of their unique skill sets in Scottsdale’s Cowboy Ciao. In 2011, the three joined forces and opened Citizen Public House. After two years of immense success, this dynamic team opened The Gladly near the Biltmore in Phoenix. They are consistently pushing the envelope with their unique menu and cocktails giving Phoenix locals something to talk about.


Who are the owners?

Kantak, Fritz and Moe met while working at Cowboy Ciao/Kazimierz in Scottsdale. Kantak was the executive chef, Fritz started as a host and busser, and Moe specialized in tending bar and their extensive wine menu. Kantak’s background in cooking started at a very early age with his grandparents. His grandmother was a chef, and his grandfather was a butcher. He later attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and since has had plenty of hands on experience. Moe jokes that his love for quality beer, wine and spirits comes from being raised in a stroller next to the bar. With a degree in business from ASU Fritz tells me his restaurant experience has primarily developed on the job. He learned the ins and outs of business in school, but after working with Kantak 8 years he developed a deep love for the restaurant business. Their three strong and unique backgrounds come together to build a well-rounded team that generally sticks to what they know while supporting each other through the process.

How did it start?

After opening Citizen Public House on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale in 2011. Kantak, Fritz and Moe had ideas for both cocktail and food recipes that didn’t necessarily fit the menu there. Over the past two years they have continued to file these ideas away for their next project. In order to keep momentum and cultivate their in-house talent they chose to open another restaurant, The Gladly on Camelback Road near The Biltmore this summer.. Their vision was to create an environment and menu that was less of a box than what they had created at Citizen Public House. Andrew gives me examples of how versatile the New American menu with global accents has become, they have a spicy tuna appetizer, a burger, and chimichurri chicken all on one menu just to name a few. They are always experimenting with new dishes and cocktails and pairing one to another. Kantak, Fritz and Moe wanted to create a space that emphasized the greatness in your dish and drink. They feel that that should always be the center of your experience.

Some of the signature and rare menu items you will find are lamb riblettes consisting of Cascabel chile rub, cumin fig glaze, cilantro and pickled onion, coffee charred short ribs with caramelized gorgonzola barley and blueberry cumin compote, their famous original chopped salad, and for dessert their smoked tea chocolate pot de crème with angostura marshmallow and golden graham treat. These items are decadent, truly original and unlike any other in the Phoenix area. Kantak and Moe have worked closely to build menu items as well as spirits that go hand-in-hand. I am accustomed to bartenders and mixoligists working with food as their inspiration, but have very rarely seen in the other way around.  Kantak created the smoked tea chocolate pot de crème dessert with pure inspiration from the bar using cocktail bitters in his recipe. The Gladly is truly an inimitable experience.

They are the first restaurant and bar I have personally seen in Phoenix to have Negroni’s on draft, a cocktail comprised of aviation gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Their Gladly Manhattan is made up of Russell’s Reserve Bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, tobacco and leather bitters, Guinness maple syrup, and toasted orange peel and Marasca cherry. Richie has built a menu of classic cocktails with a twist as well as his own creations to deliver a true cocktail experience unmatched in this area for their customers. In addition to their cocktails, they have a well-rounded beer list, exquisite wine list and an impressive list of over 100 whiskeys on hand at all times.

They use various vendors some of which are local purveyors, others that have left the state, but are still considered family. One of these vendors is Tender Belly located in Denver, Colorado. The owners of Tender Belly, two brothers, worked with Bernie, Andrew and Richie at Cowboy Ciao and they have always supported each other’s endeavors. Tender Belly provides The Gladly with the majority of their meats, all of which are fed a vegetarian diet and raised with plenty of space to roam. While they source their ingredients from other vendors they primarily make most items in house and from scratch. They are dedicated to quality products and building a strong network of business owners is something to admire.


How Did the Space Come Together?

The space The Gladly resides in was originally Ruth’s Chris Steak House. While keeping the bare bones of the space, the owners wanted to create something that was entirely different than what had been there before. They did their best to repurpose everything they could while still bringing an original and fresh look to the building. They sourced lighting and decorative pieces from local artists who use restored metal pieces. They kept the kitchen in its general form as well as the private dinning rooms. When it came down to overall design Kantak, Fritz and Moe worked together. For the three, deciding on the basic items needed for functionality came easy, but when it came to wall decoration they we’re slightly stumped. They commissioned a graffiti artist originally from Phoenix, Sean Griffin who goes by Griffin One, who had completed a mural at Citizen Public House. He ended up painting two of the walls in the restaurant. The entry wall is composed of various bar tools, and the far back wall they call the “Library” consisting of a painted wall full of shelving and books. There are even soft lamps painted on the walls that are so realistic, in the evening they mesh right in. The paintings were all created in a street art style, all with spray paint, and are phenomenal. The graffiti art is the perfect offset to the gorgeous and streamlined look of the restaurant.


Why we love it!

When you experience The Gladly you will find no matter what you choose off their menu it is unique and created for with their customers in mind. They make their growth possible by thinking outside of the box and creating truly exceptional dishes and cocktails. What we love about The Glady is their dedication to creativity. It can be easy to get stuck doing what you do, but for Kantak, Fritz and Moe this isn’t their way. They are constantly experimenting and giving the local community something to be excited to try and have again and again.

We love The Gladly because they are dedicated to expansion and growth without abandoning intimacy for both themselves and their customers in the business. As I sit with Fritz he describes the growth they are experiencing in the same way a rock musician would do with an album. Every few years he see’s them opening a new and different restaurant, unlike what they’ve done before, but very true to the overall feel and aesthetic they have developed with both Citizen Public House and The Gladly. They are not only invested in the cultivation of their products and recipes, but in their staff. They are so grateful for the young talent they have in both their restaurants and want to see it flourish.

They are big fans of the Phoenix community. When asked what do you love about this neighborhood the list is almost endless. Andrew explains that Phoenix is dynamic, accessible, and that entertainment, shopping, and the restaurant movement is growing constantly. He is so happy that their team is a part of it all. And ultimately when he goes to sleep at night he is excited to wake up in the morning because he genuinely loves everything about what he does. We are so lucky to have business owners like this in the Phoenix area.


Hours and Location

The Gladly is located at 2201 East Camelback Road and is open daily from 11am to 11pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A few of Andrew’s favorite restaurants in the neighborhood are Lux Central, Pizzeria Bianco’s location on 20th Street and Camelback and Binks Midtown.

What’s coming up for The Gladly?

There are a few things coming up for The Gladly this winter. If you’re looking for a location to book your holiday parties they have a private room that fits 56 comfortably, but can accommodate up to 75 that even has it’s own private bar! They also have plans to start serving weekend brunch, and will continue to experiment with pairing nights so be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information on those events.

Photo credit: UseSalt.com

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