When Robby Nethercut heard Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill was struggling, he knew he had to help with its resurrection and expansion.
“(The original store) was across the street from the Austin Independent School District central office,” says Nethercut, the brand’s chief operating officer.
“For a lot of teachers and educators, that was their home base — including my mom. They’d run across the street for lunch. Teachers love to visit happy hour. It has a lot of fond memories for me, too. When the opportunity came up, it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. I am excited about taking Z’Tejas and expanding it back and making it a household name.”
The expansion plans include a new store in Scottsdale in the Mercado del Lago plaza at 8300 N. Hayden Road, Suite D-101. When the original Z’Tejas at Scottsdale Fashion Square closed, diners asked when the brand would return to the area.
“We have a lot of folks who still send us comments through social media saying they wanted us to reopen in Scottsdale,” Nethercut says.
“As we started to look and expand, we thought we should go where we have a fanbase, so to speak.”
The new restaurant will open in the former location of Rick’s Café Americana in February.
“It’s a beautiful space with these huge 35-foot ceilings,” Nethercut says.
“It really creates a unique environment. There are two huge community garage doors that open onto the patio. With the weather there, the doors will be open about 80% of the year.
“And with Rancho Santa Margarita Lake, it’s a really unique spot. I don’t think you could build or re-create that spot.”
A large bar will be the focal point of the dining room with two hand-painted murals flanking the bar depicting scenes of Arizona and Austin, where the restaurant was founded. Dropped Edison bulbs and raw edge wood tables will add distinctive touches to the restaurant.
The two sliding garage doors will allow for easy flow between the dining room and the 2,200-square-foot patio with lake views and access to the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt park. A private dining room with a chef’s table will be available for special dinners and events.
Nethercut calls Z’Tejas a “chef-driven concept” with new creations. In this case, the executive chef is Costa Rica-raised Diego Bolanos. He moved to Arizona in 2010 to open Pinnacle Peak Grill in North Scottsdale.
He also worked with Lisa Dahl at Mariposa Latin Grill, Thirsty Lion and now Z’Tejas and Taco Guild, which were formerly under the same umbrella.
“They stole him away when he was just working on Taco Guild entrees,” Nethercut says. “We are doing fresh, fun creations. We are a scratch kitchen. We make everything from scratch every day, except the hamburger buns, French fries and ketchup.”
The menu will feature classic dishes for which Z’Tejas is known, including the shrimp tostada bites, Santa Fe enchiladas and diablo pasta. Rotating seasonal menus will vary and highlight specialty dishes with drink pairings. The drinks menu will be rooted in Sixth Street house margarita, Chambord margarita, tequila flights and hand-crafted nonalcoholic drinks.
Brunch will continue at Z’tejas as well from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that menu has been reduced.
“We’d rather focus on doing things well, as opposed to doing 30 entrees or something like that,” he says.
“We stuck with our staples like huevos rancheros. We do a green pork chile tamales eggs benedict at brunch. We partnered with the Tucson Tamale Company. The tamale we have is custom made for Z’Tejas.”
Daily happy hour specials will also continue from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The ‘Spirit of Z’
In 2017, the grill filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time. Nethercut was hired to work with Z’Tejas two years ago to help resurrect the brand.
“The gentleman who’s the owner (Randy Cohen) didn’t want to see it go away with the last reorganization,” Nethercut says. “I was brought in to help make sure we’re going on the right track.”
Cohen and Nethercut co-own the company with Bolanos. The philosophy is to run Z’Tejas with an ownership mentality.
“We need to have owners who are running it,” Nethercut says. “Randy is in Austin, where he fell in love with the brand. He had experienced it in Austin for so long, he didn’t want to see it go away or change hands again.
“He didn’t want to see it go away or change hands again. He wanted to step up and make a difference. He’s committed to making Z’Tejas successful. We’re in a niche market. We’re not high end, like Ocean 44 where it’s $100 a person. We really feel like we can offer a great dining experience at a great value. We just want folks who come to dine at Z’Tejas feel like they’re the guest of honor.”
Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill
Mercado del Lago
8300 N. Hayden Road, Suite D-101, Scottsdale