Triple Crown: Campus Restaurant Takes Three Firsts

1899 Bar & Grill | 307 W. Dupont Ave.

Written by Gail Collins

Going home is often touted as a better ideal than idea, but when 1899 Bar & Grill harkened back to its roots, alumni and students, as well as the casual traveler or local, garnered more than they imagined. So named for the school’s founding year, 1899 acknowledges both its past and its march forward. Situated on Northern Arizona University’s North Campus, the building started out as a dining hall. Old grads, who stop in for a drink now, hardly recognize it, although the copper fireplace commanding the room is a clue and proper touchstone.

The modern sleekness of wood flooring and paneling blend with historic elements, plus texture and color, while the soaring ceiling and glass offer an airy space with an indoor-outdoor experience. Enjoy the roomy patio, seating 70 guests, and commune with the sweeping expanse of green and backdrop of mature pines. The red stone buildings and trademark conical towers are both fresh and timeless in turns. A pergola, allowing sun or shade, plus heaters for cool nights, create al fresco at its best.

1899 is the kind of place where friends can meet for a drink and stay for an upscale meal. Happy Hours are an everyday occurrence with typical libations and nosh, such as BBQ beef tips and mash, pork belly tacos or a mini Caesar salad. Every Sunday, 1899 showcases live entertainment.

Executive Chef Dennis Reuter pulls in regional foods as possible, but the menu aims for a global arc. Standout entrees include the Southwest brined pork loin, house-smoked with papaya barbecue sauce and served with warm potato salad and veg. The coffee and chili-rubbed hanger steak boasts sweet potato friends and creamed spinach.

Guests’ latest love is the flatbread appetizer with goat cheese ricotta, bruléed red onions, arugula, thyme, pine nuts, olive oil and blood orange-balsamic reduction. The green goddess salad is a standard with a twist in grilled broccolini, roasted red pepper and Manchego. The fall salad hails seasonal flavors, tossing sun-dried cranberries, Asian pears, goat cheese and candied walnuts with apple cider vinaigrette over greens. Don’t dine and dash, as the dessert choices evolve by desire and design. For example, the sweet potato pie is topped with roasted chocolate marshmallows and served with ginger ice cream. A trio of sorbets, whose flavors rotate, offers a light, fresh finish.

1899 Bar & Grill opened its doors in 2011 and serves as part of the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The living-learning environment can represent an internship and resume builder with more full-time paid employment at the front of the house.

GeeGee Basone, operations director for 1899, points out, “Though the restaurant is fine dining, it was never intended to be an occasion-only meal, but an affordable alternative. It’s not stuffy, but approachable.”  That said, 1899 hosts many weddings, receptions and other significant celebrations. Basone attributes the building success to Chef Reuter’s unrelenting drive and passion for delivering hand-crafted items to keep the menu exciting, such as the vegan burger with 30-plus ingredients. “Customers love it.”

Basone feels it’s the small things that raised the one-time dining hall to fine dining. From the architectural space to the custom lighting by Fire on the Mountain, the balance between homey comforts and perfect plate presentation builds a relaxed atmosphere with upscale expectations. The little gem on historic North campus is conducive to students craving the best mac ‘n cheese on the planet—sorry, Mom—as well as a private anniversary party toasting in the wine room. NAMLM


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