Veterans of the San Francisco restaurant scene shift focus to Scottsdale

By Brandon Brown – Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal Mar 28, 2023

A group of renowned restaurateurs from San Francisco have opened a new restaurant in Scottsdale and said the Valley city will be their area of focus going forward.

Earlier this year, business partners Björn Kock and Mitchell Rosenthal, along with Steven Rosenthal, opened Arboleda in Scottsdale Quarter. The restaurant is currently only open for dinner, but soon will add a weekend brunch and then a lunch later this spring.

Kock and the Rosenthal brothers first started working together at Wolfgang Puck’s famed restaurant Postrio in San Francisco and then went to open several of their own restaurants, including their most famous, Town Hall.

At one point the trio had four restaurants in downtown San Francisco and two cafes, but the difficulties in the restaurant industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic hit their establishments hard.

“They were all very seasoned restaurants, and then the pandemic just decimated it all,” Kock said. “We were unfortunately in the worst area of town during the pandemic. We went from having 30,000 people commute to a one-mile radius of our restaurants, to 300 security guards guarding empty buildings overnight.”

Only Town Hall survived, and Kock and the Rosenthals started looking for new cities where they could find success in the restaurant industry. While they explored places like Nashville, Austin and Boise, Kock said Scottsdale was always near the top of the list.

“We’re not bringing over neither our California attitude nor politics to Arizona,” Kock said. “We came to Arizona because we actually really love it here.”

While Scottsdale doesn’t have the historic buildings and architecture styles that Kock and the Rosenthals loved in San Francisco, Kock said it’s the dining clientele that really made them want to open Arboleda here.

“We shifted that and really made Scottsdale our new business center,” Kock said. “Scottsdale really has that culture, it has that dining clientele and that appreciation [for the type of dining experience Arboleda offers].”

The owners refer to Arboleda as an “inspired Mediterranean concept,” focusing a lot on Spanish and Latin flavors. Kock said he wanted to bring something to Scottsdale that was not another steakhouse but would be met at the same level by diners.

Arboleda opened in the former Kona Grill location in the Scottsdale Quarter shopping center. Kona Grill closed the location while going through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, and the large restaurant space has sat empty since then. Kock said he loved the shopping center it is in with its high traffic throughout the day but didn’t actually love the space and put a lot of effort into remodeling it.

“We liked the layout of it and we liked the shape of it, but not really what Kona did with it,” Kock said.

They flew out prominent designer Mark Zeff from New York to help redesign the space. On his website, Zeff wrote that for the design of Arboleda he took “a rather boring shell” and transformed the space that “is on a prominent corner it will add so much to the neighborhood.”

Zeff’s designs include handmade leather chairs from Spain, custom tabletops with the brass borders from Indonesia, and custom banquets made in Mexico.

While Arboleda has been in a soft opening since February, Kock said the response has been very positive and as he and his partners start to advertise and announce their entry to the Scottsdale market, Kock expects business to pick up even more at Arboleda.