By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Debby Wolvos
Rob Wagner serves as executive chef of Square One Concepts and its newly launched Famous 48, an upscale tavern wherein each menu item is influenced by one or more of the 48 continental states.
How did you get your start?
Growing up in Illinois then Colorado, my parents worked multiple jobs, so if I wanted to eat, the cooking was up to me. I was so adept at it that I started cooking for the entire family on the weekends. This led to my first gig – working in my parents’ pizza place, a side business they shared, at just 14 years old.
What led to your current gig?
I moved out here at age 19 and got a job with Sun Devil House, which became Club Rio, in Tempe. I moved on to Houston’s, eventually earning a role as corporate kitchen trainer. At that time, I also attended and graduated from culinary school, then took my talents to White Chocolate Grill, The Vig, and a host of others before joining Arcadia Tavern in 2009, where I met Square One Concepts’ founder, Barrett Rinzler. We opened our first Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers in 2011, and the rest is history.
How did the idea of Famous 48 come about?
The actual idea came after a night of talking about all of our favorite comfort foods from across the country – the lower 48 states – and how we would put our spin on them.
What can guests expect visually from Famous 48?
Our 3,000-square-foot space is styled with leather horseshoe booths and wooden high tops with tufted honey leather bar stools for maximum comfort. Our open-air patio features couches and fire pits, creating an intimate dining and lounging experience.
What are some early menu favorites?
Do not miss our bacon jalapeno deviled eggs, drunken “wino” bread, or Southwest eggrolls for appetizers. For main dishes, try my half-roasted chicken, barbecue baby back ribs, roasted pork loin sandwich, fish ‘n’ chips, or meatloaf sandwich.
Are there any foods you personally won’t eat?
I am not a sushi guy.
Famous 48, 4218 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480.941.0101; www.famous48.com.