Good Things Take Root Downtown at Good Oak Bar
June 18, 2013
by Bree Collins
Derrick Widmark’s Tucson-based project was always meant to be a two-parter. Diablo Burger has successfully opened Downtown, and with Good Oak Bar set to open September 1st, construction has already begun.
Being true to place is Widmark’s operating principal. After working for years during his “so-called professional life” in New York’s film and ad business, Widmark decided he wanted to live a greener life in a greener place. In 2006 he moved to Flagstaff and started working as communications coordinator for the Diablo Trust, a collaborative conservation organization that connects ranchers and land managers, environmentalists, scientists, and recreationists alike to 426,000 acres of land outside Flagstaff. Widmark had promised himself he would try something entrepreneurial, and the perfect opportunity presented itself when Diablo Trust wanted to bring their beef into the local community. Gary Paul Nabhan introduced him to Michael Stevens of Lava Lake Land and Livestock, an organization similar to Diablo Trust. Stevens imparted that when Lava Lake sold its lamb locally, knowledge and appreciation for its conservation efforts grew in proportion to those sales. “That was my ‘aha’ moment,” says Widmark. Two years later Diablo Burger opened in Flagstaff.
Good Oak expands the concept of sustenance tied to place. Diablo Burger already sources ingredients close to home, and Good Oak will extend the local footprint by allowing broader relationships with local farmers and ranchers. The kitchen that connects Good Oak to Diablo Burger is already a professional one. Good Oak will have the same quality and commitment to place with their menu, with more spontaneity and creativity. “Good Oak will incorporate seasonal goods from locals in ways Diablo Burger can’t,” says Widmark. “We’ll be inventing dishes as ranchers and farmers deliver their products to our back door.” There are plans for a specialty burger specifically for the bar, as well as a variety of local meat and vegetarian dishes.
The space itself is meant to be a sanctuary. Situated between The Rialto and Diablo Burger, Good Oak does not have the connecting windows that Diablo Burger and Proper share, making it dark, intimate, and private. Widmark took inspiration from The Old Town Bar, his favorite bar in New York City, to bring an East-Coast tavern feel to Downtown Tucson. Smooth oak salvaged from old Northern Arizona University buildings lines the bar and greets you in the vestibule. Five oak booths with high walls provide patrons with their own little space – the one against the back wall, separated from the others by the kitchen entryway and offering additional privacy, has already been dubbed the “Tony Soprano Booth”. Behind the bar is the exposed original firewall, made of ceramic square tiles, and an area next to the bar has been set aside in hopes that The Rialto will someday want to connect the two businesses.
Six different tap handles will serve customers only Arizona beers and wines. It will be a chance to focus on local breweries that don’t fit into Diablo Burger, which currently only offers canned beer options. And since Good Oak will have a Series 7 license, beer will be available to-go.
The name Good Oak comes from what Widmark considers the most credible theory for the origin of ‘Arizona’ – “I asked Gary Paul Nabhan what he thought,” says Widmark. “And he agrees – that’s good enough for me!” Basically, ‘aritz onac’ – the Basque word for ‘place of the good oak’ – was later corrupted into ‘Arizona’. “This state was named after something that was already here.” And the idea for Good Oak Bar developed organically, after choosing the Rialto building to open shop. Widmark let the vibe of the building and Downtown guide the process. “If I had chosen a different location, it probably would not have been the same bar.”