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January, 2012, Page 58
Photos courtesy Mike Newton
Jay Newton’s Prime Rib (above) was a precursor to the banquet-like dining aesthetic at Beef Eaters
Five years after folding, Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters lives on in the memories of Phoenicians. But how long will the barren building survive?
The Beef Eaters restaurant sits frozen in time along the information superhighway. Closed for years, the CenPho eatery’s old listing at azeats.com remains active, complete with a virtual tour where visitors see the semblance of a British dining hall: sprawling banquet rooms filled with high-backed leather chairs and booths, mahogany oak-paneled walls adorned with paintings from England in gilded gold frames, and a “King’s Den” with shiny crystal chandeliers and stately white upholstered walls offset by burgundy floral carpet. Pitched wood beam ceilings lend an airy feel to the rooms.
During its heyday, Beef Eaters hosted a slew of notable locals, including former ASU football coach Frank Kush, Arizona governors Rose Mofford and Raul Castro, state senator John McCain, sports executive Jerry Colangelo, and Phoenix mayor Milton Graham. Longtime owner Jay Newton was known for his philanthropy and his extreme dedication to Beef Eaters; ultimately, he also became known for his quixotic search to find someone to take the restaurant off his hands.
Beef Eaters’ nearly 18,000 square foot building at Third Avenue and Camelback Road has been for sale and unoccupied for the past five years. The tables are caked with dust. The restaurant’s wooden marquee greets passersby with a gap-planked smile. Weeds thrive around the property, and illegible graffiti mars the outside walls. A large window facing the courtyard has been shattered and boarded up, leaving glass shards scattered across the distressed, hunter-green carpet. “You know, when they closed the Beef Eaters, it was a great loss,” Rose Mofford says. “People still stop me to this day and say, ‘Isn’t it too bad it’s not in operation?’”
banquet-like dining aesthetic at Beef Eaters
A former Utah sheep rancher, Jay Newton built and opened Beef Eaters in 1961, naming his eatery after the popular nickname for Yeoman guards at the Tower of London. “When he originally opened, it was just really elegant. The silverware was all sterling silver,” says Mike Newton, one of Jay Newton’s three sons. “I remember when I was working there as a busboy in ’61, and I’ll always remember this lady in a booth. After she was done eating, she started looking around and stuffing the silverware in her purse. So pretty soon, he couldn’t afford to keep the sterling silver because of theft, but it was gorgeous.”
The place had a reputation for serving delicious, hearty food for a flat price (typically anywhere from $13.95 to $27.95 for a full meal). Patrons would gather around one of the four fireplaces and watch as staff cooked desserts at the tables, including cherries jubilee and banana flambe.
“Very seldom did we have a slow day,” says longtime Beef Eaters staffer Elaine Blomeyer. Holiday parties were often packed to capacity (550 people between four rooms). “We were into the hundreds of people,” Blomeyer says. “We were busy from the time we opened almost till the time we closed.”
Rose Mofford was a friend of Jay Newton’s from the 1940s until his death in 2006. “I used to come from the capitol and go down to Beef Eaters, and everybody would meet there,” Mofford says. “The bar had a fireplace, and the dining room had a fireplace, and it was like home. People would get there and relive the old days, talk sports. Everybody liked to go there because of the prime rib, and the excellent service of the help. And it was a cozy place.”
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