The County Seat brings fast-casual dining to downtown Prescott

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, July 7, 2021

Story and Photos by Gail G. Collins

When most people see a gap in the landscape, they shrug. Serious few would decide to fill it with a wholesome gathering place overlooking bustling Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza.

Skyler Reeves, owner of The County Seat, is that inspired kind of fellow.

“Prescott is usually thought of as this small Old Western town, but in recent years there’s been an influx of young families and professionals who have moved to the area looking for a new, hip hangout spot with a comfortable, yet contemporary, vibe to dine and socialize,” Reeves said.

The County Seat, an expansive 6,500-square foot coffeehouse with healthy karma, held a soft opening last November. It is situated on the upper floor of the historic Burmister Building. A wall of windows floods the room with light and provides a view of Yavapai County Courthouse, a striking Classical Revival granite structure built in 1916. Pragmatically, it also provides the eatery’s namesake.

With an aim of sustaining locals with good food and good health, Reeves crafted a menu of hearty sandwiches, robust salads and grab-and-go items combined with a full coffee bar, fresh-pressed juices and low-ABV cocktail menu. Reliable, consistent, familiar and delicious dishes are foremost. Support comes from scratch kitchen manager Chris Osante, emphasizing quality ingredients, local resources — like FreeForm Coffee Roasters in Sedona — and attention to dietary needs. A hybrid of kiosk to full-service ordering options fills the bill.

Here are the top hits: the Madras curry chicken sandwich loads toasted focaccia with baked, diced meat in curry mayo, apples, golden raisins, red onion and lettuce served with kale or sweet potato salad. Tony’s Rueben stacks shaved corned beef, sauerkraut, caramelized onion, bacon and Swiss with a slather of secret sauce on toasted marbled rye for a messy, marvelous mouthful.

The turkey Cobb salad mixes Romaine and fresh greens with avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber plus pickled onion and fortifies it with turkey roulades, bacon and generous blue cheese crumbles. An herbal green goddess dresses it all for a lunch punch to hunger.

Breakfast is available all day, tempting with sweet potato and zucchini hash, avocado toast or gluten-free overnight oats with almond milk or pastries. Weekend brunch entices with signature specials, such as the roasted Med veggie frittata with lemon sour cream or chilaquiles — a bed of corn chips piled with eggs, sour cream and feta, topped with roasted Poblano pepper and tomatillo salsa.

The wraparound bar is equipped with an upscale espresso machine churning out organic roasts alongside a good set of beer taps. But Reeves joked it’s not a call to action for alcohol. The appeal is to all ages, families and teen groups. Plenty of communal tables, Mid-century décor, oversized pendant lighting and lush trellises by interior designer Andrea Wojack add cultured touches. Artisan mercantile wares are staged at the entry. The adorable quail logo is a product of Studio Number One’s Shepard Fairey, who designed the Obama Hope poster. Altogether, a welcoming space.

Low-proof cocktails and beers keep it mellow, and Happy Hour specials with half-off wine and $5 flatbreads keep it simple. Bartender Larry Schmidt’s creations amuse or soothe, like the breakfast old fashioned, boasting a boost of maple syrup and bacon. The Bloody Mary — brunch in a glass — blends a choice of vodka, gin or tequila, craft tomato mix, Coors original, bacon, sparkly salt with a garnish of pepperoncini, pepper-jack chunk, bacon and homemade cornbread muffin.

The County Seat expanded Vivili Hospitality Group’s portfolio of dining concepts. This front-row seat for the courthouse is part of an emerging culinary scene in Prescott, joined Hawk & Hound for events and catering; La Planchada, a taqueria and tequila bar in Whiskey Alley; Barely Hound, a gastropub; Taco Don’s, beloved for its time-honored Mexican dishes and Rosa’s Pizzeria, serving authentic Sicilian recipes and New York-style pies.

Don’s and Rosa’s are cherished spots in community hearts, and Reeves was warned about, “buying a piece of Prescott’s soul.” He explained, “The objective is breathing new life into traditions and staples for exciting outcomes. By updating systems and creating efficiencies, the strength of place is sustained without changing it.”

As the largest restaurant group in Prescott, Vivili — named for Reeves’ children, Vivienne and Liam — employs 125 people at full tilt. The County Seat is slated as the flagship location to grow the model across Arizona and nationally.

“The County Seat is the place, where locals and travelers can gather and collaborate, whether it’s grabbing a coffee or juice before hitting the nearby trails, catching up on emails while enjoying a glass of wine and the best chicken sandwich … or ending the day with a hearty salad and a craft cocktail overlooking the courthouse and town square,” Reeves said. NAMLM

If you go…

The County Seat is located in the Burmister Building at 120 W. Gurley St. in downtown Prescott. Enter through the Spice Traveler and head upstairs. The restaurant is open daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.