Celene and Keith Hillsbery have worked for others in the food and beverage industry most of their careers and now they’ve brought the culmination of their knowledge, skills and best-loved personal recipes to a new concept in Ahwatukee.
Brunch Snob, a from-scratch breakfast-and-lunch eatery with a full bar, opened this week in the Ahwatukee Mercado at the southwest corner of Elliot Road and South 48th Street. It took the place of the former Irish Hare Pub, which closed about a year ago. Hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; look for a happy hour coming soon.
The name, as the menu explains, stands for “seriously nuts over brunch,” and the idea was spawned after the couple began offering breakfast items and Saturday brunch specials at Sacks Sandwiches Hardy in Tempe, which they’ve owned for two years.
“It got so popular that people would wait for me to post the specials on Instagram and Facebook so they could come and eat them,” Celene said. “They’re tried and true. We know they’re good and we know people love them.”
They’ve brought all of the favorites to Brunch Snob, including the brunch burrito, Hillsbery scramble and “killer” Benedicts with homemade Hollandaise sauce, including a soft-shelled crab Benedict and surf-and0-turf Benedict with house-smoked salmon and filet mignon.
Keith also smokes brisket, pork and deviled eggs, and makes “the best birria tacos and barbacoa you’ve ever had,” Celene promised.
Keith added that he makes the Pacific smoked salmon with his dad’s recipe.
“We have a smoked salmon breakfast quesadilla that is incredible,” he noted. “Most of the recipes on here are recipes I’ve been working on for years to do this.”
Prices range from about $10-16, with most entrees around $12-13.
Keith describes the menu as “regional comfort food with a twist,” adding that he draws inspiration from his upbringing in the Pacific Northwest, Texas and Oklahoma as well as stints in Kansas City, Florida, the Midwest and Arizona.
Celene grew up in east Phoenix and lived in Scottsdale for many years and they now live in Gilbert.
Both of them bring vast experience to Brunch Snob. Keith was most recently vice president of operations for Arizona for Hooters and previously served as CEO of Jose Pepper’s Mexican Restaurants, a TexMex chain in Kansas and Missouri. He also was a managing partner for Bennigan’s and opened numerous Boston Markets.
Celene was vice president of operations for the Southwest for Einstein Bagels for seven years overseeing 101 restaurants and also ran all of the Potbelly Sandwich Shops in downtown Chicago when they lived there.
The bar includes various specialty cocktails, micheladas with house-made mix, and a Bloody Mary with vodka that Keith infuses with a special blend of celery, garlic and other goodies. There’s also champagne and cold brew on tap.
Ambiance is modern, open and casual, with five big-screen TVs and cheeky descriptors such as “fireball” and “king” on the backs of the barstools.
It seats 90, including the patio, which features a colorful spray-painted mural of the Hillsberys’ daughter, Nicole.
The artist, Leila Parnian, “has been friends with my son-in-law [Brandon; Nicole’s husband] for 12 years,” Celene said. “My daughter, when we came here the very first day, said, ‘Mom, you need a mural,’ and she introduced me to her.”
The Hillsberys decided on a breakfast/lunch restaurant because “I didn’t want to be working until 2 a.m.,” Celene explained.
She did say, however, they’d be interested in renting the place out in the evenings on occasion for parties and events, and will happy to work with guests on a dinner menu.
“Keith cooks all kinds of food—not just breakfast food,” she said.
If You Go...
Who: Brunch Snob, a from-scratch breakfast and lunch eatery with a full bar.
Where: Ahwatukee Mercado, 4747 E. Elliot Road (at South 48th Street), Suites 23-24, Phoenix, 85044.
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily.
Info: 480-590-7034; on Instagram @brunchsnobrestaurant