THE GRANDEST ORANGE

(Originally published on February 16, 2011 | Desert Living Today)


Is anyone else out there getting a little nervous about the $900M CityScape project in that’s supposed to (finally) transform Downtown Phoenix into a 24/7 hub? A project that we previously compared to the failed City North development, and that was just dubbed Sh*ttyScape by the Phx New Times’ well-respected food editor, Michele Laudig.

Of course, this latest round of handwringing was inspired by the not-at-all-shocking news that La Grand Orange’s Bob Lynne has pulled out of CityScape. But who is Lynne and why is this considered a near fatal blow to CityScape’s hope of becoming a can’t-miss dining destination?

Read this behind-this-scenes profile by our sister publication, Scoop Factory, that pulls back the curtain on of one of the Valley’s most successful (and secretive) restaurant gurus.

Inspired by DLT‘s sneak peek inside the super-secretive (and über-successful) corporation behind Houston’s restaurant, Scoop Factory‘s got the 411 on the most successful Valley food guru you’ve never heard of, and why he likes it that way:

Quick: which legendary local restaurateur was also a high-powered executive for Hillstone, i.e the owners of Houston’s, Bandera and a variety of other boutique chains? Why it’s none other than Bob Lynn, the founder of LGO Hospitality and its collection of crazy-good eateries (La Grande Orange Grocery, Chelsea’s Kitchen, etcetera). And although Lynn hates publicity almost as much as he hates ketchup (more on that later), we wanted to give you a little background on this mysterious maestro.

A Chicago native, Lynn started in the restaurant biz as a 13-year-old self-taught chef at one of the city’s many German-style restaurants, says his official bio. Eventually he hooked up with Hillstone/Houston’s, where he spent 25 years helping to build it into one of the most successful (and imitated) brands in the nation. However, Lynn found himself much more interested in a run-down little shopping center/former post office right here in the Valley.

In 2002, Lynn opened Postino Winecafe inside the 1950s-era Arcadia Post Office, along with a couple of restaurant newbies, Kris & Craig DeMarco (who now run Postino and Postino Central independently from Lynn). And over the next few years, Lynn and co turned this once-sleepy neighborhood into a see-and-be-seen hotspot, home to LGO Grocery, LGO Pizza, Chelsea’s Kitchen, Grateful Spoon Gelato and Radio Milano Arcadia Room. More recently, Lynn has opened several LGO spinoffs in Southern California, and also plans on opening a gastro-pub named the LGO Public House inside CityScape in Downtown Phoenix.

OK, so what’s the deal with ketchup? Have you ever noticed how you have to request it at Houston’s and Chelsea’s, and then they bring it out in a little metal ramekin, like they don’t trust you with a full bottle? Well, our source tells us it’s because, at least at Houston’s, they take regular Heinz and cut it with a little honey. Mystery solved.

Bob Lynn image via LGO Hospitality