When Café Monarch relocated to the other side of First Avenue three years ago, the Lewkowicz family intended to use the original, smaller space.
First, they considered turning it into a breakfast-and-lunch concept called the Monarch Marketplace.
They also had the idea of hosting lunch and private parties while the larger, 4,500 square-foot restaurant served strictly dinner.
Now, the family is finally moving forward with a new unnamed concept that Monarch Hospitality Group Vice President of Operations Phillip Lewkowicz calls “an ultra-fine dining experience unlike anywhere in Arizona.”
“We’ve tried other concepts, but we just wanted to perfect Café Monarch,” Phillip explained. “Now that we’ve had a few years under our belt at the new restaurant, which everyone’s loved, my father just always wanted to do something exclusive like that [ultra-fine dining concept].”
With a goal of opening in November, Phillip said the intimate restaurant will have limited seating and hours.
“We’re going to limit it to 15 to 20 people every night. Thursday through Saturday,” Phillip said. “We’re going to close in the summer months because most of the restaurant is located outdoors al fresco.”
The new concept will do away with menus and instead offer a 12-course, ticketed dining experience. “It’ll just be chef’s choice,” Phillip said.
With Phillip’s dad Gustavo as executive chef, the new concept also taps the talents of new sous chef Benjamin Wald, who spent nearly two years working at the Inn at Little Washington, a three Michelin-starred restaurant inside a AAA Five Diamond hotel.
The 12-course meal will be about $325 per person and the wine parings will range from between $100-$250 per person.
“So, if you’re going to splurge, you’re looking at about $500, $550 a person,” estimated.
Café Monarch across the street, on the other hand, offers a four-course prix-fixe fine dining menu ranging from $95 for the Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast to $150 for the Surf and Turf Trio.
Gustavo and Wald plan to spend a few months designing the menu, which will be “well thought-out” and “very artistic,” Phillip promised.
“Every course has its own plates and the plates are going to be art,” Phillip said. “If I were to compare it to something, I would say maybe a Binkley’s.”
“We want it to be Café Monarch done very well,” Phillip continued.
The new fine dining concept was inspired by Gustavo’s recent trip to Spain, where he visited a few Michelin-starred restaurants.
“He took a couple people last year on a big culinary adventure,” Phillip said. “It opened his mind on doing this very high-end, elegant, world-type cuisine.”
“This is an extension of Café Monarch, if you will, but it will be a different entity,” he continued.
For the second year in a row, Café Monarch made Tripadvisor’s top 10 list for best fine dining restaurants in America.
“We give all the credit to our staff. It really is a team effort,” Phillip says of the recognition. “Everyone here loves what they do, and they love taking care of guests. To win these kinds of awards is just a testament to our hard work, and it’s a great achievement. It’s a really honorable achievement for the whole family.”
The winners were determined based on reviews and ratings collected on Tripadvisor prior to the pandemic.
Café Monarch resumed dine-in service with new and emphasized healthy and safety protocols.
They include using one-time-use dinner menus, mandatory masks for employees and taking their temperatures, setting tables at least six feet apart and using sterilized single-use tabletop linens.
“A lot of people are reluctant to still go out. So, we are taking all the necessary precautions and all the CDC guidelines that we could do – but it’s definitely different, especially in fine dining,” Phillip said.
“People come here and they like to just be at ease and forget about what’s going on in the world. We love that they choose Café Monarch, and we definitely go over and beyond to exceed their expectation as far as from the experience and from a sanitation perspective as well,” he added.
Café Monarch is currently hiring 20 total front- and back-of-the-house positions. Visit Café Monarch’s Facebook page for more information.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to ... focus on positivity and growing and creating more jobs in the community and giving our guests another place to dine and forget about all the stuff going on in the world for a couple hours,” Phillip said.