Jack’s at Desert Highlands spells success

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

A new addition to North Scottsdale, Jack’s at Desert Highlands has everything going for it—beautiful views, an evolving menu and success despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Named after golf legend and course architect Jack Nicklaus, the gastropub was formerly a private dining room in the clubhouse. During a COVID-19-dictated closure, crews renovated the space, tore down walls and turned it into Jack’s, a casual dining concept for Desert Highlands’ members.

“It’s a popular place right now,” says Joan Sykora, director of sales and member relations. “We are busy—as much as you can be with COVID. We have a nice menu and different options for our members to enjoy. Looking out on the patio and over Pinnacle Peak is the natural, organic Sonoran Desert. We have great, organic views outside the windows.”

The signature starter on the menu is the fried green olives ($10). They’re stuffed with goat cheese and prosciutto with garlic aioli.

“They are very sought after by the members,” she says.

Another top dish is the DH fork and knife burger of the month. In November, it was a burger made with slow-braised short rib, 8-ounce patty, caramelized onion, white cheddar and horseradish mayo ($18). The favorite is the fish and chips ($10), which is breaded walleye pike, tartar sauce and two sides.

“We have something for everybody, from chicken wings to sliders to burgers to clean, healthy living eating,” Sykora says. “Our chef makes everything in-house. His veggie burger is handmade by him. All the ingredients are in-house.

“We have a nice pizza oven, where he can get creative with that side of it as well.”

In November, chef Todd Allison offered Buffalo chicken pizza ($18); mushroom and artichoke pizza ($17); prosciutto and arugula pizza ($18) and margherita pizza ($17). Allison was formerly executive chef at T. Cook’s at the Royal Palm Resort and Spa.

The restaurant will be closed on Christmas, but before that, Jack’s allows members to pick up meals to go. Sykora says it’s important to serve those who are concerned about COVID-19.

“We have an indoor and outdoor patio area,” she adds. “We do some fun drive-thru events to help those who are hesitant to come back in the club for COVID reasons. Friday night we have a drive-thru barbecue rib and burger night. Drivers pull up to the grill, and we can get them ribs and/or a burger or a margarita to go.”

The renovation occurred in June, led by award-winning architect Erik B. Peterson of PHX Architecture. A large, custom communal table commands the room and provides a custom bar experience for up to 22 people. Jack’s also features high tops, flat-screen televisions, and images that pay homage to the influence of Nicklaus and other golf legends.

The gastropub’s construction coincided with the Desert Highlands’ kitchen renovation, which cost, in total, $2 million. The kitchen renovation included creating an efficient layout that allows the club’s culinary team to be more creative. An additional 16 feet of space allows Allison to oversee the operation and create direct service lines for the gastropub and the club’s intimate Ventana Room.

“The renovation gave us a blank slate to work with, as opposed to working around people,” Sykora says. “We opened in October, and all of us have learned a lot since March. We’ve been able to react a little bit better. We were fully prepared with social distancing and seating every other table. We managed to make it feel comfortable to come back. It was a warm welcome after being away from the clubhouse for so long.”   

Jack’s Desert Highlands Golf Club

10040 E. Happy Valley Road, Scottsdale

480-585-7444, deserthighlandsscottsdale.com

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