Discover new nooks and crannies – and some insane cheesy bread – in Phoenix’s favorite day-tripping destination.

Jerome

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Travel Issue: December 2016
Group Free
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“I think people can still come to Jerome and see something they’ve never seen before,” Chad Hembrough says over coffee at The Flatiron, a pie sliver of a cafe he owns with fiancée Abby Rothwell on Main Street in Jerome. “Whether it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, someone lives in that house and it doesn’t look like it’s suitable to live in,’ or they go to Gold King Mine and they actually get to pick up rusted pickaxes that are 100 years old.” Rothwell nods. “Even living here, I feel like I do that,” she says.
It’s what we are here to do, too – wander around sans itinerary and bump into something new in a town most Phoenix day-trippers think they’ve figured out in one afternoon. The mining town turned artist colony makes for a fun, funky day jaunt or weekender, with its ramshackle buildings layered higgledy-piggledy on Cleopatra Hill like a tiered cake frosted by a toddler. Phoenicians have long flocked to Jerome for its legendary art walks, ghost tours, haunted hotels (and hamburgers) and the prospect of a Maynard James Keenan sighting.

But beyond the group tours (which you should do if it’s your first time here – visit jeromechamber.com for more information) and the Haunted Hamburger, what else is there to do in Jerome? We hit the bricks and asked the locals to find out.

Shop
It’s open all year long, but Jerome’s kitschy Christmas shop Mooey Christmas & Udder Things (111 Jerome Ave., 928-634-2604, mooeychristmas.com) is an absolute must-visit in December. Whether your holiday aesthetic skews traditional or tacky, there’s an ornament, artificial tree, stocking, candle or knickknack to suit your fancy, from beautiful porcelain angels to a wino Santa drinking from the bottle.

You could easily spend an entire weekend perusing Jerome’s 30 art galleries, studios and gift shops, but based on a recommendation from the gal at Mooey Christmas, we pop into Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes and Art Glass (136 Main St., 928-634-0255, nellieblyscopes.com) and the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery (502 Main St., 928-639-4276, jeromecoop.com), both show-stopping showcases of local artwork.

The artwork is decidedly more subversive at Puscifer (140 Main St., 928-639-3516, puscifer.com), musician and winemaker Maynard James Keenan’s shrine to irreverent, lewd and rude merch inspired by his myriad musical acts, including Tool, A Perfect Circle and, of course, Puscifer. A recent expansion to the shop introduced a basement barbershop. A shave and a haircut amid rows of vinyl? So Jerome.  

Eat & Drink
Not so stereotypically Jerome is the preponderance of game meat on the menu at The Bordello of Jerome (412 Main St., 928-649-5855). Wild boar and bison burgers hold court with lady-of-the-night-inspired beef burgers, sandwiches and salads, along with a gloriously garlicky roasted red pepper hummus plate. Our noses lead us to even more meat at Bobby D’s BBQ (119 E. Jerome Ave., 928-634-6235, bobbydsbbqjerome.com), a smokehouse-style barbecue joint with a killer mix-and-match barbecue platter and a six-pack of sauces to douse everything in. It’s no Little Miss BBQ, but what is? Beer flights and craft cocktails round out the experience, made even better by dining on Bobby D’s elevated outdoor patio, lit with twinkling lights and perched fabulously downwind from that smoker.

The culinary surprises continue at Passion Cellars (417 Hull Ave., 928-649-9800, salvatorevineyards.com) tasting room, an outpost of Willcox’s Salvatore Vineyards, which recently opened a Scotts-
dale tasting room as well. Our wine guide “Uncle Tony” Rocha pours us a flight of fruity, spicy reds and silky, sweet agave nectar wines, which we imagine pouring into mimosas or white sangrias for brunch. We leave with four bottles – buy two and your tasting fee is waived. Uncle Tony insists we try his signature cheesy bread, half a loaf of French bread split into quarters, spread with a creamy four-cheese blend and baked until melty and golden. One bite will have you affirming recent studies that cheese is akin to heroin on the addiction scale.

Balance all that salty, cheesy goodness with sugary treats from two-year-old Bordello Sweets aka The Sugar Shack (400 Main St., 602-741-4008, facebook.com/bordellosweets), a teeny pastry shop set in an actual wooden shack. Its hours can be erratic, so stop by and pick up plate-size cookies, brick-size brownies and specialty seasonal pastries before you begin exploring the town. You do not want to risk missing these.

Stay & Play
There are a bevy of B&Bs and haunted hotels in Jerome, from the Surgeon’s House to the Jerome Grand Hotel. We’ve reported on them all, it seems, and our readers always write in with their favorites, but we’d always been curious about the flat above The Flatiron (416 Main St., 928-634-2733, theflatironjerome.com), which has been variously used by the cafe’s owners and rented out for tourists. We stopped in for a chat with owners Chad Hembrough and Abby Rothwell (see sidebar), who now rent the space through Airbnb. The flat has a comfy bed, flat-screen TV, Roku, wifi, microwave and more – but really, the draw is its centrality. Stumble down the stairs and you’re in the cafe for breakfast, or for one of its special events, or for a street fair just outside. “December will bring some good holiday parties,” Rothwell says. “We will be featuring most likely an artist named Sally Murphy, who is a drum artist. So we’ll have her work up, she’ll be here for a kind of meet and greet, that kind of thing. Her work will be for sale.”

Hembrough and Rothwell are keen on helping their guests – and diners in the cafe – sort out the best Jerome itineraries, but they say spontaneity is best. “We get asked, ‘We’re here. What do we do?’” Hembrough says. “Talk to somebody!” Rothwell exclaims. It’s been working for us so far.

Ask the Locals

After working at The Flatiron under various owners for years, Arizona native Chad Hembrough bought the joint in December 2015 with his fiancée, Jersey girl Abby Rothwell. The “Rothbroughs,” as they call themselves, also run Chadigail Catering (chadigailcatering.com), a full-service operation for “catering... and other situations” including wine pairings, boxed lunch deliveries and “muddy cliffside picnic[s].” We chatted about kitchen logistics, gentrification and their favorite places to point tourists.

How do you feel about being part of the next chapter of The Flatiron story?

Abby Rothwell: I think what’s unique about the Flatiron is that it’s really a staple to the modern era of Jerome. And I say that with absolutely no ego, total humility. People come in here and they’re like, “Yep, it’s the Flatiron! We know what to expect. It’s going to be healthy food, it’s going to be great coffee. I was here 16 years ago and, well, you’re new, but I knew you’d be here.”

Chad Hembrough: Things that haven’t changed are the kitchen equipment is more deli-style. There isn’t a fryer, there isn’t a full-size oven. We don’t have a freezer or mass refrigeration space.  

In the past, The Flatiron has been vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free-friendly. How would you describe the menu now?

AR: He’s the meat eater, I’m more the vegan, so we kind of meet in the middle.

CH: We always have an option [for vegans and gluten-free diet adherents], but that isn’t our thing. There should be something for everyone here, with our uniquenesses of our equipment and our space... She’s been creating good things out of tempeh, utilizing quinoa as something different.

AR: He’s working on a bread pudding for tomorrow. We’re lucky in that it’s just the two of us, so we can kind of bend the rules a little bit, or play by our own rules. And that’s the gift of the place for us. It’s like you’re in our home. This is where we eat. This is where we spend more of our time than up in our house.

What do you want people to know about Jerome?

CH: I enjoy it when I see families or couples day-tripping... The live music at the bar, or the kind of social gathering that can happen on an overnight here, like on the steps. I think it’s great when some tourist for the day kind of steps out and is like, “Hey, what’s going on?” Because most Jeromies are very inviting, and next thing you know you could be having dinner at their house... As long as Jerome maintains the integrity of not polishing up all their buildings and straightening the sidewalks, which is some people’s direction. In their mind, that’s going to make it more family-friendly.

AR: I want you to put your phone down. I want you to not sit up there and watch TV all night. I want you to walk. Enjoy the fact that you’re in a space that, come 6 o’clock, it empties out, you go to the bar and you’re forced to connect with people. That is the charm, and I think we need to protect that about this place. There’s a different freedom, a different lifestyle... That, more than anything, beyond gentrification or political angles. I want people to come here and get the relaxation and the joy and the immediacy of it.

CH: If I were to plug one thing, actually – the [Jerome] State [Historic] Park I don’t think gets the recognition that it deserves. There’s a free exhibit right before it, which is by the historical society, which is the Audrey Headframe – a glass top over a 1,500-foot mine shaft so you can walk on it. It’s lit. We promote it because it’s actually awesome to almost, like, brush up on our Arizona and Jerome history when we go through it. It’s like a cutaway of the mountain. It shows Jerome, it shows all the mine stuff underneath. There’s like 88 miles of tunnel in this hillside. jeromehistoricalsociety.com/audrey-headframe-park; azstateparks.com/parks/jero