Made from Scratch: Valley trio rolls restaurant industry experience into success with Philly’s

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Barry Clark didn’t come from family money. A 1996 ASU graduate, Clark worked his way through the bar and restaurant industry before achieving a lifelong goal: Owning his own business.

Teaming with co-owners Bryon Russell and Jim Wallin, Clark purchased Philly’s Sports Grill on Scottsdale Road 15 years ago.

“We were working for other people 60 hours a week,” Clark says inside his third location, in Ahwatukee. The Philly’s on Priest Drive in Tempe rounds out the trio.

“We saw that the Philly’s on Scottsdale Road was for sale because it was going out of business. The price was right for us. We bought it and worked every day until we built up sales.”

Since then, the three restaurants have become go-to spots for top-notch food and viewing sporting events. It’s easy to see, judging from the restaurants’ name, that they specialize in cheesesteaks.

The dishes at Philly’s are reasonably priced. The extensive appetizer menu ranges in price from French fries ($4.95) to carne queso dip ($9.95). Soups (Philly’s housemade chili and Chef Carl’s chicken enchilada soup) and myriad salads (including strawberry and Greek salads) are served for $3.50 to $10.75. Philly cheesesteaks are popular items and there are several choices for $8.75 to $9.95. Sliders and sandwiches, tacos, a 10-ounce sirloin and pizza are other items on the large menu. Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. daily, except during fights and special events. Reverse happy hour is 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

“We use better ingredients than the mom-and-pop restaurants or neighborhood bars do,” Clark says. “But it’s not just a place to come and watch sports and get food. You can come for lunch or dinner and have a good meal. We really focus on a high-quality menu. We don’t just serve food because we have sports on.”

That said, Clark adds that Philly’s has hockey, baseball, basketball and football packages. The eateries also show all major UFC and boxing events. The Ahwatukee and Priest Drive locations have televisions on most tables.

“I feel like a lot of the neighborhood bars won’t get the hockey or baseball packages,” says Clark, a California native. “We get all of them.”

Along with food and sports, employees are equally as important to Clark. His manager at the Scottsdale Road Philly’s has been with him since he purchased it.

Speaking of the Scottsdale Road restaurant, it was recently remodeled, as was the Priest Drive Philly’s.

“We just remodeled the Scottsdale Road location,” he says. “We need to do some major remodeling outside, but it all comes down to money.”

The Ahwatukee building gave him the opportunity to have a nice place and see what he could do with it.

“I was always behind the 8-ball, buying an old place,” he says. “Ahwatukee is extremely busy; busier than I ever thought it would be. It’s about having the right food, a friendly staff, a good cocktail selection and a good draft beer selection. It’s a recipe for success.

“People will go into a place and come back if the staff is friendly. The hardest thing for me and anybody else in the business is you’re at the mercy of your servers, bartenders and cooks.”

The popularity of the three Philly’s restaurants leaves Clark proud.

“I didn’t have rich parents,” he says. “We literally started with a place going out of business and building it up. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Philly’s

1826 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe
480.946.6666

1402 S. Priest Drive, Tempe
480.968.6612

4855 E. Warner Road, Phoenix (Ahwatukee)
480.247.8655

phillyssportsgrill.com

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