Gone are the days of cheap drinks and a packed dance floor at the Wildcat House. Since it closed in 2012, the former college bar staple has sat vacant, but brothers and third generation Tucsonans John and David Aldecoa are seeking to preserve its legacy while building something new in the space at Stone Avenue between Grant Road and Speedway Boulevard.
While keeping some of the building's key features like the large bar, cedar planks and some of the large decorative medallions on the wall, the building itself is in the middle of a massive overhaul. Switching from swamp cooling to air conditioning, installing a new roof and repaving the parking lot are some of the more basic changes, but the future of the space will be completely different from any of those fuzzy memories you might still have from its old days. John Aldecoa, who the bar and restaurant is named after, admits he has a few of those from his own days at UA.
He also says his idea for Brother John's is really at least three concepts in one. First, there's the barbecue, which will be overseen by chef Nate Eckhaus. Aldecoa assures that Eckhaus will bring a love of every barbecueing region in the states. That's because Eckhaus spent nine months touring and training in the ways of different barbecue styles all over the country, including at Texas' The Salt Lick, before helping open Blue Smoke in New York City with prominent restauranteur Danny Meyer.
The serious barbecue operation will focus on the cook of the meat to provide flavor because taking "great care" and spending the necessary time are they keys to good barbecue for Aldecoa. He says they will have barbecue sauce, but he's hoping guests won't even use it. The two large smokers will be able to produce up to 6,000 pounds of smoked meats per day, which is good because the restaurant itself will be able to seat about 300 at any given time. The restaurant will also have a private dining area called the Wildcat Room where many of the former bar's memorabilia will be displayed.
Since Aldecoa has fond memories of the Wildcat House, he says his restaurant will resurrect the Wildcat burger. When he took over the space, the former owner's recipe book was still in the kitchen, so he says he can bring back some of those nostalgic dishes with accuracy now. The restaurant will use almost exclusively locally raised meats and will also serve up sides with Sonoran flavors like a jalapeno cheddar corn bread.
However, Aldecoa says he doesn't want to pack people in quite like how Wildcat House did, though he expects live local music will draw in after dinner drinking crowds. A good portion of the seating will be in the new 2,400 square foot Bavarian-style biergarten patio that will be built in the process. Once ready, guests can order from about 50 beers on tap with a variety of local, national and international craft beers available. A small selection of wine will also be available on tap.
Last but not least, there's the whiskey program. Although the restaurant's name suggests a list skewing to bourbon, David Aldecoa says to expect one of the state's largest whiskey selections with old favorite, locally made whiskeys and specialty limited availability bottles. If you're one of those whiskey fan boys or girls that needs your Pappy Van Winkle, Aldecoa says you'll be able to get that too, along with a small selection of craft cocktails.
With all of that on the horizon, the brothers say you can expect to see Brother John's fully open and barbecuing by the end of September. While both brothers see the area as in need of some improvement, they are excited to be the first to bring new life to Stone Avenue.
"Look how much downtown has changed, but there's no more to do downtown. It's going to have to start coming back up," John Aldecoa says. "We're looking to lead the way and set the trend. If we do it right, and I think we will, it shouldn't be an issue."
To stay up to date on Brother John's progress, you can follow the restaurant on Facebook