A little while back, I got the opportunity to visit the one-of-a-kind Gilbert community, Agritopia.
A perfect town to live and play, Gilbert recently ranked as the number-one “Best City for Business in Arizona” by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the number-two “Safest City in the United States” according to FBI Crime Statistics.
It was quite a shock for me to witness such a community right here in Arizona. Being born and raised about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles, the concept of “community” or a “good neighbor” was typically ignored with a fast-paced lifestyle and a visible brick wall between my property and yours.
It was such a shock to see a community with backyards in the front of the house, shared communal spaces, and a farm that residents can rent space to grow and produce their own herbs, vegetables, fruits, and whatever else they desired.
I mean, it isn’t every day you see families working together to grow and produce their own vegetation. The last time I saw a child learning how to grow their own tomatoes was… oh wait, never!
To see the concept of “farm to table” realized and conceptualized through several generations of residents was something I’ve never witnessed before.
But, besides being a real estate development community and a local farm that provides vegetation throughout the Valley. In Gilbert, Agritopia® is a well-known dining destination for young families throughout the East Valley, creating an ideal environment for new concepts and established businesses to open doors.
One of these concepts is Barnone, a community for skilled craftsmen to make and sell their handcrafted goods. There, visitors will find twelve of Arizona’s best makers, ranging from woodworkers to experimental winemakers, restaurateurs, and more.
For the sake of time, because I could dive deep into the Johnston family lineage and everything they have contributed to this country and Arizona. For example, did you know that most of the salt and pepper shaker caps used in significant restaurant chains were created here in Arizona?
William Johnston, Chief Executive Officer at Johnston & Co., told me how his father was annoyed with salt and pepper getting stuck in the tiny holes of the shaker’s caps, so he decided to make his own!
Sorry, I got sidetracked, but the Johnston family is the definition of Arizona natives, and their contributions to this state deserve a novel and not just a blog post.
So, for now, I’ll stick to the restaurants and cuisine available at Barnone.
The Uprooted Kitchen
Barnone reminds me of a coworking space like WeWork, Regus, or Industrious. It really is a space that several local restaurateurs have their own space and sell their own products, but it’s all under one roof.
For the first stop, there is The Uprooted Kitchen by Chad and Erin Romonoff. Literally made out of a 1968 Avion travel trailer, the Romonoff’s turned the aluminum trailer into an organic and vegan refuge. With fresh produce coming straight from The Farm at Agritopia and local farmer’s markets, the salad they made me was delicious!
Their menu changes every day based upon product availability, so I can’t say to try it when you get there! But, everything is made daily in-house. Even their salad dressings are drawn straight from local Gilbert produce.
Erin and Chad are dedicated to showing people all that food can be – more than a means of sustenance. The Uprooted Kitchen is full of plant-centric cuisine that doesn’t compromise on flavor.
P.S.: You also need to try their baked goods. You may think that plant-centric desserts are “bland” or not as good as their processed counterparts, but visit The Uprooted Kitchen and have your mind blown!
Fire & Brimstone
The next stop on the Barnone tour de cuisine is Fire & Brimstone. You want to talk about keeping it in the family? Fire & Brimstone was established by William Johnston’s brother, James Johnston.
As a self-taught chef, James Johnston loves to fuse flavors and cooking techniques from all over the globe. The wood-fired cooking method makes some of the BEST pizza. The crust is so perfectly crispy, thin but still has that substance.
You must try the BBQ Chicken, The Romanoff, and the Fire and Brimstone if you want some pizza!
But the best aspect of Fire & Brimstone, in my opinion, is the celebration of traditional Middle Eastern and Eastern European cuisine. For all my hummus fans, the homemade pita and hummus, Mezze Plate, and Shakshouka (lamb, spicy tomato sauce, jalapenos, fried egg, cilantro) are so good!
Where else in the Valley can you get homemade pita bread?!? Again, the use of wood-fired cooking techniques allows James to get the freshest results.
12 West Brewing and Garage-East
However, neither Fire & Brimstone nor Uprooted Kitchen sell alcohol, but don’t worry! Literally, a few feet away is 12 West Brewing and Garage-East.
12 West Brewing was founded by Bryan McCormick and Noel Garcia in 2016. Beer can be a catalyst for community. I mean, who doesn’t love to grab a drink with friends after a long stressful day?
12 West Brewing has 12 craft beers on tap at all times and is constantly rotating its inventory. Celebrate local breweries and enjoy a craft beer experience at 12 West Brewing!
For those not fans of beer, take a few steps over to Garage-East to enjoy a fantastic wine selection. Fruit grown in Willcox and Elgin is turned into traditional grape wine, but they’re not bound to conventional methods. Garage- East experiments with the base fruit to create wines from various fruits at different stages in the fermentation process.
As a team, Todd and Kelly Bostock and Brian and Megan Ruffentine come from different professional backgrounds. Their passion for making interesting fermented fruit drinks unites them.
So, if you’re interested in trying something new and want to experience exceptional cuisine and beverages. You must take a trip to Barnone at Agritopia. The overall feeling of community and a sense of pride that comes from these culinary masterminds surpasses and rivals any 5-star dining experience.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, it’s now more important than ever to support local Arizona farms, restaurants, breweries, and distilleries! I want to thank William Johnston and everyone at Barnone that made my experience so pleasant.
For more information on Barnone and its restauranteurs, visit https://barnoneaz.com/.