By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | June 8, 2021
Paul Keeler wanted a restaurant that was welcoming, affordable and comfortable for guests.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, he opened Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse in Carefree — and he hasn’t looked back.
“I wanted a neighborhood steakhouse,” Keeler says. “A neighborhood steakhouse, to me, is much more than a special-occasion, steak-on-a-plate concept. There are many of those around the Valley, where you pay top dollar for the prime steak, $12 to $15 for asparagus or baked potato. It’s all a la carte.”
Keeler’s provides the same quality. He serves Certified Angus Beef brand, but each of his steaks and chops come with two sides of Yukon Gold mash, loaded baked potato, scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese, truffle fries, onion rings, risotto, green beans, Brussels sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, creamy corn or grilled asparagus.
“I wanted to provide a better value for the dollar, as far as the entrees were concerned,” Keeler says. “We have great seafood, chicken, pork and lamb items as well. There is a pretty diversified menu, that being said.”
Prime top sirloin baseball cut ($36), New York strip ($49), ribeye ($52), petite filet mignon ($49), filet mignon ($55), double-cut pork chop ($36), rack of lamb ($39), slow-roasted prime rib ($39 and $45), smoked half chicken ($26) and baby back ribs ($20 and $30) are all on the menu and “full of flavor,” according to the menu.
“We have several steaks,” Keeler says. “The New York strip, ribeye and filets are all very popular. We have a baseball cut sirloin, which is the big center cut filet. That’s a very popular steak.”
Soups and salads ranging from French onion soup ($10) to Keeler’s steak salad ($19) kickstart the meal. For those who want to eat light, there are small plates like lobster mac and cheese ($17), crab cakes ($17) or steak tartare ($15).
Sandwiches, which include burgers, lobster rolls and a prime rib French dip, come with truffle fries, onion rings or a chopped salad ($13 to $18).
Seafood fans will enjoy diver scallops, Atlantic salmon, Baja seabass and shrimp scampi ($29 to $36).
As of May 26, seasonal features are cowboy flat iron steak ($39), marinated pork tenderloin ($34) and braised short ribs ($34).
“We update the menu on a quarterly basis,” Keeler says. “We like to do features on a regular basis as well. We recently promoted a sommelier we had working for us who is developing the wine culture at Keeler’s.”
Diners will soon see an expanded wine list and help with selecting bottles of wine that complement meals. Recently, Keeler’s rolled out its own Garrison Brothers bourbon, which the staff barrel-ages itself.
“We make sure we have something for everybody there, without blurring who we are, first and foremost,” Keeler says.
Atmosphere is everything, and Keeler’s has it, he says. The restaurant boasts a centrally located island bar, large adjacent patio, gorgeous courtyard, and rooftop deck designed for stargazing and acoustic performances.
“I wanted more of a neighborhood social restaurant that locals could come to one, two, three, four times a week for different, compelling reasons,” Keeler says.
“The patio that’s adjacent to the restaurant, the courtyard in the middle of the complex, is very desirable. The Starlight Rooftop, where it’s completely covered with a retractable awning, is heated in the winter and misted in the summer, has entertainment once a week. The happy hour portion of the concept is where we get a lot of repeat clientele.”
The food and beverage industry is all Keeler has known. He started out early, around age 15, and eventually owned his own restaurant in the Boston/Upstate New York area. Keeler was recruited to work in the hotel industry.
Keeler was named corporate director of food and beverage for Beacon Hotels Corp. in July 1984 and was promoted to the position of vice president-food and beverage for the company two years later.
In February 1995, he joined the Doubletree Hotels Corp. as vice president-food and beverage and continued there until its merger with Promus Hotel Corp. in 1999.
That year, he joined Hilton, for which he was responsible for its strategic planning for food and beverage operations at more than 3,000 North American hotels. They were generating over $2.5 billion in annual food and beverage revenue when he left in February 2007.
“I’m a recovering restaurateur,” he says with a laugh. “We went back into the restaurant business (after Hilton). It’s a family situation. I have two of my sons working with me.
“I’m originally from Northern California, and I spent a third of my life in Northern California, a third on the East Coast and a third in Arizona. It’s a good variety. I’ve enjoyed these destinations. I’m definitely a restaurant guy.”
Keeler Hospitality Group LLC now includes Spencer’s Omaha in Nebraska and three Liberty Station American Tavern and Smokehouse restaurants, two in Scottsdale and one in Madison, Wisconsin. Keeler intends to grow his company by opening a restaurant in either the West Valley and/or Norterra.
“I’m looking to grow primarily in Arizona, in the greater Phoenix area,” he says. “I am very energized by looking for the right location for the right concept.”
As for Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse, Keeler was introduced to the Historic Spanish Village space by the previous landlord. He was immediately impressed and dreamt about what he could create.
“It’s like finding the right home when you’re looking for a house,” Keeler says. “You immediately know. This one best exemplified a steakhouse. We wanted to be nonintimidating and very inviting so people knew they could come dressed any way — coming straight off the golf course — or they could dress up, depending on the occasion.”
Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse
Historic Spanish Village
7212 E. Ho Hum Road, Carefree