3222 E. Indian School Road
George Frasher (pronounced Frazier) has an intense passion for his restaurants. It shows in his grin as he speaks about his food, his employees and the years he spent working on his dream.
“I study food. It’s my hobby. My life,” said George, with an unmistakable twinkle in his eyes.
His most recent accomplishment, Frasher’s Smokehouse, brings authentic barbecue to the Arcadia area.
George grew up in St. Louis, where he started working in restaurants as a dishwasher and cook in high school. He even worked in the kitchen on the city’s riverboats that educated tourists and locals on history, while feeding guests dinner and entertaining them with riverboat-style jazz.
He earned a hospitality degree from the University of Missouri, and upon graduation his first job was as assistant manager at the former K.C. Masterpiece Barbecue and Grill in Kansas City.
His boss while at K.C. Masterpiece was Rich Dillon, who now owns and operates Dillon’s BBQ locations throughout the Valley. In 1995, George left Kansas City and headed to Phoenix to manage a different chain of barbecue restaurants – El Paso Barbeque – with his hometown friend.
The two left El Paso four years later, opening up their own restaurants, Dillon’s BBQ and Frasher’s Steakhouse, two weeks apart.
Frasher’s Steakhouse was a Scottsdale landmark for almost 16 years. Located in the old Ambrosino’s Gourmet Italian Dining building, which had bright white pillars and a Greek look to the outside; the inside was a retro Italian joint with live music and large steaks. Known for its St. Louis inspired menu and vibe, Phoenix transplants gathered on college game days to cheer on their hometown teams.
“People from St. Louis made up 25 percent of my business at the steakhouse,” said George.
In early 2015, a lease dispute changed the future for Frasher’s Steakhouse.
“When my landlord, Louis Ambrosino, passed away three years ago,” Frasher said, “his children and I were unable to agree upon a lease.”
The plans for Frasher’s Smokehouse were already underway when it became obvious that the steakhouse would have to close. What was intended to become George’s second restaurant suddenly became his only restaurant.
In early April, Valley residents were whispering with wonder as the former Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler space at 3222 E. Indian School Road began construction. A sign went up and workers kept a frantic pace. In an area that loves their restaurants, many wondered what was coming to the neighborhood.
The arrival came on May 15 when an authentic barbecue joint opened its doors. With his chef, kitchen staff and a handful of front-of-the-house employees making the trip with George a few miles across town, the camaraderie was strong.
With a large smoker full of pecan wood set up on the front porch and a team of cooks working from sunrise until sunset to ensure the meats and corn each get their share of cooking time, there is never a dull moment at Frasher’s.
The pulled pork cooks overnight for 18 hours, the ribs for 5 hours and the brisket for 14. There are two main loading times for the smoker, at 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. To ensure freshness and quality, George requires the kitchen to cook just what they need for the day.
“We were busier at first than we had expected,” said George. “We kept running out of things too early.”
With lunch and dinner, seven days a week, George is happy to run a family friendly neighborhood spot.
“The steakhouse was definitely for the grown-ups,” said George. “It’s great being able to feed the whole family.”
With five different barbecue sauce options, each made from scratch, Frasher’s attempts to match the flavors of barbecue sauces across the country.
“Each region has their own way to do barbecue,” said George. “We have Kansas City, Memphis, South Carolina, North Carolina and Texas…all with their own flavor profiles.”
A large mural on the back wall in the restaurant, painted by a Los Angeles tattoo artist, shows the map of the United States with a star marking each well-known barbecue city.
George even added a star for Phoenix. Hopeful, that maybe one day this city will find its way onto this well-respected culinary map.
With Frasher’s Smokehouse and other recently opened Valley restaurants bringing the barbecue smoker to the forefront, it might not be long.
“We are just cooking what we know,” said George. “And the community has been so great and supportive.”