Sam Fox opens latest Culinary Dropout restaurant in the valley, talks future plans

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The hot restaurant scene in Gilbert’s Heritage District has a big addition with the new Culinary Dropout at the Yard location that opened this week.

At 25,000 square feet, the latest Culinary Dropout location is huge – one of the largest developments by Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts to date. The project has been in the works for more than two years and Sam Fox, the restaurant’s founder, Fox has high hopes for this particular location.

“[Gilbert] is experiencing vibrant growth, and with Zinburger down the road and so many other great businesses as neighbors, it feels like the perfect fit for Culinary Dropout,” Fox said.

In late 2016, FRC and its development partner, Phoenix-based Common Bond Development obtained the rights to develop the land from the town of Gilbert and purchased the property for just over $1.1 million, according to county records.

The companies worked with Circle West Architects, Cypress Engineering and Shercon Construction to complete the $10 million project.

This is Fox’s second restaurant concept to open in downtown Gilbert, already home to a plethora of restaurants and bars. But Fox is confident he will do well there because the demand for eateries like his continues to grow in the Southeast Valley. 

“We own the real estate [in Gilbert],” Fox said. “We don’t do that at most of our locations. That speaks to how important these locations are for us.”

The Culinary Dropout will be one of the first restaurants potential customers will see when entering the Heritage District from the north. The town of Gilbert also built a new parking structure near Fox’s restaurant.

“We’ve partnered with Fox Restaurant Concepts in all four of their Culinary Dropout Yard locations,” said Brian Frakes, principal of Common Bond Development. “In each project, they continue to evolve and each provides a unique experience and characteristics.”

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The new restaurant boasts a rock ’n’ roll theme, which includes artwork and murals painted by local artists Andy Brown and Kurt Schlaefer. Culinary Dropout has indoor and outdoor seating, live music and backyard-style games such as cornhole, pingpong and foosball.

The restaurant has two private dining rooms, which Fox said has become a big part of his business at other Culinary Dropout locations. Last year FRC closed down its seafood restaurant Little Cleo’s on Seventh Street in Phoenix so it could expand the private dining business of the Culinary Dropout location next door.

“We’ve invested a lot of money into the kitchen and staff to support private events,” Fox said.

The Gilbert restaurant is the seventh Culinary Dropout location and since it started in the mid-2000s, Fox said the concept has evolved some, but the main ideas are still there.

“We didn’t take ourselves too seriously back then,” Fox said. “We just took great quality food and played it down to make it more fun.”

Fox has found a lot of success with the Culinary Dropout brand and continues to expand, with locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Las Vegas and Austin. He has plans for five more to open in the near future, including one coming to North Scottsdale, which will be formally announced in the coming months.

There is still room around Phoenix for Sam Fox’s concepts. Besides the upcoming North Scottsdale Culinary Dropout, Fox said he is working on a few other deals. A Blanco Tacos & Tequila is coming to downtown Phoenix and another planned further north, he said.

What’s more, Fox said there are a few new Flower Child locations in the works and he has plans for something in Gilbert’s San Tan area. 

While Fox is excited about the continued growth his brands have had in Arizona, he is trying to transition from being a Southwest restaurant group, to a national restaurant group based out of the Southwest. Indeed, FRC has 11 concepts in play with more than 100 restaurants all over the U.S.

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