When Chip Mahoney graduated from the University of Nevada in 1994 with a double degree in business and restaurant management, he knew where he wanted his career path to lead.
Last Thursday at 8:40 a.m. the final puzzle piece in that vision fell into place as Wicked Brews, Bites & Spirits at 4921 E. Ray Road, Ahwatukee, got notice their liquor license had been approved.
Though the restaurant had been open a few days and the ‘Bites’ were in place, the liquor license was imperative to fulfill the ‘Brews’ in their name.
“Bites” are already established with Chef Creighton Gee-inspired menu. “Spirits” is evidenced in the 20-plus specialty craft cocktails and, in the future, their own still and distillery.
The “Wicked,” as in “wicked smart,” was always in the vision. And Mahoney and his team are hoping Wicked Brews, Bites & Spirits will be wickedly successful.
Learning the liquor license was approved in time for the first official weekend at the former site of Uncle Bear’s Grill & Tap was an emotional moment for Mahoney, who has been at work since signing the lease for his first solo venture Oct. 15.
“My liquor agent sent me the approval this morning, said we’re all good,” he said.
“I was speechless and called my wife right away. I’ve been working my butt off and we’re finally here,” he added, his voice cracking in emotion as the news hit him afresh.
Mahoney said he hopes to have the onsite brewery up and running by late November or early December.
The opening of Wicked Brews, Bites & Spirits is the culmination of decades of experience garnered since his first job in college with the Big Dog’s Hospitality Group in Las Vegas.
He was their first intern and rose to be the youngest general manager in the company.
His career curve was focused and step by step, position by position he learned while rising through the ranks of various restaurants including a six-year stint with the 12,000-square-foot TGI Fridays Front Row at Chase Field, where he served as general manager.
Yardhouse, Scottsdale was followed by Bar Louie in Glendale and Tempe before he became minority partner and general manager at Cabin Whiskey and Grill, where he created a new craft food menu. He also required all bartenders to learn how to make the 20 new craft cocktails he’d created using old-school mixology techniques.
Those craft cocktails, mixology and even some of his former bartenders and bar manager are present at Wicked Brews, Bites & Spirits.
Also on staff are many others who have worked for and with Mahoney at various restaurants, several from four to nine years.
“I have a lot of people that trust in me and I consider everyone that has stuck with me as family. When I put this together, I specifically put in that we will have a portion of profit sharing that will be in a pool so that every employee - down to the lowest level, will be in that pool and share in profits of the company,” Mahoney said.
“They’ve all been brought up in the restaurant business and will be here helping us be successful. I’ve also hired some amazing people that will hopefully be with us for many years to come.”
Chef Creighton Gee and Bar Manager Mikey Awalt are also long-time employees who followed Mahoney to Ahwatukee.
Wicked Brews, Bites and Spirits is very much a family affair.
Wife Deanna “Dee” Slattery, who was a bartender/supervisor at Cottonwood Country Club for 20 years, will be on hand to supervise.
Daughters Kayla and Ashlyn Slattery will host and serve, and son Shane Slattery will also be a server.
Gee’s cousin, Tanya Begay, has signed on as sous chef, and Awalt’s mother, Nancy Mishaud, will help host and fill in where needed.
Deanna Slattery is a 23-year Ahwatukee resident. One year after meeting her, Mahoney moved here in 2004.
When Mahoney talks about his menu, he emphasizes his commitment to the freshest and locally-sourced ingredients.
“We will have the freshest craft food that we can make,” he said. “We strive to make our own product using as much Arizona-sourced product as possible. The menu has been constructed by our entire team led by Chef Creighton.”
A wood-fired oven is the centerpiece of Wicked Brews kitchen.
Mahoney has his own menu favorites already and they include the classic Reuben with custom thousand island recipe and locally-baked thick cut marble rye bread, the Asian Apple Kale salad and the original Tatanka Bacon Burger.
“Creighton is Native American from the Navajo Nation and for him to create this awesome bison burger where he’s mixed bacon in and put bacon on top just makes for a perfect burger,” enthused Mahoney.
But the microbrews that will be brewed onsite at the restaurant are expected to be a big draw.
“We expect it will take about six months to get our beer line in place and then we’ll start working on getting the license for our still,” Mahoney said.
Master brewer Zach Schroeder has more than 25 years in the crafted beer business, the last 12 as a master brewer at one of Phoenix’ larger microbreweries.
“Zach and I have been working on this project for over two years and needed the right location before we launched. We feel that our Ahwatukee location is prime for success,” smiled Mahoney.
With 8,000 square feet, the Wicked Brews, Bites & Spirits restaurant at Ray and 50th set aside 2,000 square feet for the brewery, 2,500 for restaurant seating, and 1,500 for the kitchen that features a wood-fired oven for their hand-crafted pizzas.
Outside seating with winter heaters and summer misters is inviting and dog friendly.
Wicked Brews, Bites and Spirits is
open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight.
Menus and special offers are available on wicked-bbs.com and on Facebook. Take-out is available.