By Jacki Lenners | Photograph by John Burcham
A shift is a deviation from the expected, a journey into something new and different. After years of building cul-inary expertise in other people’s restaurants, Joe and Dara Rodger knew their first joint venture would be the ultimate shift.
Occupying a bright, narrow storefront in downtown Flagstaff, the Rodgers’ Shift restaurant is about changing perspectives on fine dining and proving a mountain town is ready for elevated cuisine. Don’t expect white tablecloths or a traditional dinner plate of an entrée and side dishes. Instead, let Shift’s expertly trained staff take the wheel, serving as guides to the ever-changing menu of artfully prepared small plates.
Joe handles the savory side, while Dara’s love for the art of pastries is front and center on the dessert menu. Those lucky enough to snag a seat at the chef’s counter are treated to a beautifully orchestrated culinary show.
Joe is part artist, part surgeon as he constructs a plate of melt-in-your-mouth braised beef belly with cornbread pudding, using tweezers to meticulously garnish with brightly colored radishes. He also has a mad-scientist side, pushing the boundaries of the traditional and expected use of ingredients. This talent shines through in the sourdough spaghetti, composed of dehydrated and milled sourdough bread starter that would otherwise be discarded. Topped with breadcrumbs and black pepper, it’s equal parts decadent and delicate.
Dara works alongside Joe, her corner of the small kitchen dedicated to producing irresistible sweet concoctions. Watch-ing her compose a plate of fluffy cream puffs stuffed with preserved blueberries and garnished with roasted bits of white chocolate is impressive. What’s even more impressive is that she’s likely simultaneously working on a lemon curd for tomorrow’s dessert and rolling out homemade dough for the next morning’s quiche.
While their coexistence in the kitchen is a case study for marriage counselors, Joe and Dara have their own pet projects to foster their respective talents. Dara’s baby is Morning Shift, a takeaway breakfast and coffee stop. She flexes her pastry muscles with mouthwatering baked goods, including a flaky chocolate croissant that rivals those of any French café.
Joe keeps the party going until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with Night Shift. A chance to show off the robust cocktail program, Night Shift is far superior to hitting the drive-thru for late-night cravings. French fries are on the menu, but Shift’s pickled version — brined with apple cider vinegar, sugar and water, and served with a grown-up version of traditional onion dip — begs the question of why regular fries exist.
The Rodgers’ goal with Shift was to create a place where they’d want to eat. Mission accomplished, even without the white tablecloths.
Shift is located at 107 N. San Francisco Street, Suite 2, in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-440-5135 or visit www.shiftflg.com.