‘Cowboy Chic’

Glossy Heifer is an odyssey of comfort food

By Ron Sanzone

Anthem and New River diners frustrated with the lack of local full-service restaurants now have an option.

Owner Billy Sims has brought 30 years of experience to the area’s newest eatery, the Glossy Heifer, at 46202 N. Black Canyon Highway in New River, just south of the I-17 exit at New River Road. It opened in April and is gearing up for several significant enhancements.

Sims, who is also a chef, is a partner in the company that owns Indigo Crow Restaurant and Bar in Cave Creek. He says the decision to start a new venture in New River came in response to the needs and wishes of residents in Anthem and New River.

“It clearly was a project the community had been asking for,” Sims says. “They wanted a full-service restaurant,”

While the demographics and relative paucity of sit-down restaurants nearby played a role in the selection of Glossy Heifer’s location, so did its proximity to I-17.

Sims, who frequently drove past the New River Road exit on visits to Flagstaff during his childhood, estimates 66,000 cars a day now pass by that same exit heading. Those drivers are “going to be able to look in as they’re driving by and say, ‘What’s that place?’”

Motorists may be intrigued enough by seeing the name Glossy Heifer on a billboard to pull over. If they do, Sims can explain the name to them as he has to other customers.

The name comes from a passage in Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” where an adorned heifer is offered as a gift fit for a god. For Sims, the name was a no-brainer,

“This is the best of what we have to offer,” he says of the restaurant. “This is our glossy heifer. That’s the service and the menu.”

“I could have sat on names forever, but I wanted something that was kind of catchy because we have an opportunity to put that up on a billboard because there’s a billboard on our property.”

Should any of those drivers pull over to hear the story of the name, they will find a restaurant which describes its cuisine as Arizona Americana.

Sims believes regional U.S. cuisine is influenced by the immigrants who settled in that area. It has also been shaped by the variation of what is grown and raised in the area.

“We’re in the Sonoran Desert and I’ve always utilized ingredients that are used a lot in this part of the country,” he says.

Sims cites the example of the gravy used for Glossy Heifer’s chicken-fried steak. Instead of a traditional pepper gravy, he created one using roasted poblano peppers, red peppers, garlic, paprika and cumin.

The whole of Glossy Heifer’s menu was constructed according to a philosophy. The starting point is balance, which Sims defines as ensuring there is no single category of menu choices, such as grilled or cold items, which greatly outnumbers another. The goal of such balance is to ensure that no one part of the kitchen gets so overloaded that customers have to wait too long for their food.

In addition to achieving balance, Sims believes that an ideal menu should not exceed 30 items.

“I think anything over that is just overkill and you’re not really focused on quality of product,” he says.  “You’re just trying to please the masses, and I learned a long time ago that you’re not going to make everyone happy. I would rather have quality of product versus quantity of product.”

Another type of balance the Glossy Heifer seeks is demographic. Based on an examination of the previous restaurants in the Glossy Heifer’s building, potential female diners were neglected. Citing a selection of salads, Sims says he planned his menu to make sure women can get what they want.

“We focused on that,” he says. “We paid attention to that, and I’ll continually pay attention to that.”

In addition to salads, the menu features staples such as burgers, prime rib and New York strip steak to appeal to the meat and potato segment of the population. As more customers offer feedback and sales figures start to accumulate, items may be added or removed from menu so long as they adhere to the restaurants core beliefs.

“I’m managed by a mission,” Sims says.  “Our mission is very straightforward: consistency and quality of product and service.”

Sims anticipates a addition to Glossy Heifer will give locals and passersby further reason to stop in and give it a chance. By late summer or early fall, the 4,100-square-foot establishment will add a patio that will accommodate about 75 to 80 guests. The seating capacity indoors is 120.

The patio will feature its own outdoor cooking space, a full bar, and a stage for live music. And at 2,000 feet of elevation, a patio in New River will remain cooler than the rest of the Valley during the summer heat.

“I want to create a little oasis where word is getting passed down into the city that you’ve got to come up here,” Sims says. “I want people to feel the patio is really phenomenal.”

For those who prefer to dine indoors, they will do so in a building that has had several iterations as a restaurant, and prior to that was an ice cream parlor and a gas station.

“It’s an old rustic building,” Sims says. “A portion of the building is 160 years old. It’s got history. It was a stagecoach stop back in the day.”

Turn the clock ahead to the present and Sims says, “We’re designing the restaurant to be cowboy chic.” As part of this effort, the interior features works by artists of the Sonoran Art League.

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