A Valley man is moving his successful brunch restaurant to Payson this fall.
German-trained Mensur Duzic plans to open Duza’s Kitchen in the former location of the 703 on Main.
Duzic won’t have much work to do in terms of updates to get the blue farmhouse on Main Street up and running. The former restaurant owner left nearly everything behind when they closed in March. From the tables and chairs, cooking supplies to the dishes and even bottles of wine, the space feels as if it just closed for dinner service.
Duzic and his wife Victoria Benavidez plan to make the space their own with unique touches, like original art, but will leave much the same, as everything is in working order.
Duzic said he has dreamed of opening a restaurant in Rim Country for years, but it took an old friend to get him to make the move.
Duzic met chef Jack Etter while working at the Oaks Restaurant on Main Street in Payson in the early 1990s. Etter had opened the Oaks in 1990 in what is now the Risser Thomas Eye Clinic and was looking for a sous-chef. Duzic applied and Etter found they worked well together. Duzic worked at the Oaks for several years until moving to the Valley to work at the Buttes.
The two ultimately lost touch. Then five years ago, Etter saw a Valley news broadcast featuring Duzic, who was the executive chef at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Etter contacted Duzic and they met up to fish in Rim Country. Turns out Duzic had been visiting the Pine area for years because Benavidez’s family owns a cabin in the area. Etter meanwhile was working as a handyman in Payson after closing the Oaks in 2000.
This time, they stayed in touch.
Then, in 2015, after 13 years at the hospital, a job Duzic said he loved, Duzic opened his own restaurant.
“It was very hard for me to leave the kids and doctors and staff,” he said.
Duzic opened Duza’s Kitchen on 12th Street in Phoenix.
The Valley restaurant, located in a converted home, was popular, with an average rating of 4.5 stars on Yelp out of 512 reviews. An article by Phoenix New Times in 2015 said, “... Duza’s Kitchen already has us intrigued with a globally inspired menu of ingredient-driven food.”
About a year ago, Duzic had dinner with Etter at the 703 on Main. He liked the space and the food so when Etter told him in July the restaurant had closed, the two joked they should buy it.
That innocent joking led to real action at the end of July when Duzic and Etter met with the building owner and worked out a deal. Duzic is leasing the space with the option to buy.
After four years of running Duza’s Kitchen in the Valley, Duzic closed it up at the end of August and moved it to Payson.
Duzic is excited to get cooking in the new space, which features a bigger kitchen than the Valley location. And Etter will be cooking at his side. Except this time Etter will be Duzic’s sous-chef.
Duzic plans to keep the menu mostly the same as his Valley location for breakfast and lunch and add dinner service, something he didn’t offer in the Valley.
For breakfast, options at his Valley location included an English breakfast; calabacitas; breakfast lavosh; crepes; hash; eggs Benedict with pork belly; a build-your-own-omelet and a Mediterranean dish that came with naan bread, hummus, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves and eggs.
For lunch, he offered salads, sandwiches and other light options. There was a brisket Reuben on rye, sweet potato gnocchi with roasted vegetable, tomato basil bisque and a caprese salad.
Duzic said since he has cooked all over the world, his style of cooking is a blend of Italian, American and Balkan.
Duzic grew up in Bosnia. He attended culinary school in Sarajevo and Germany. While in Germany, Duzic also studied ice sculpturing, according to a 1995 article in the Mogollon Advisor.
He worked in Italy and Bugojno and had his own restaurant in Bugojno, the Seagull.
Duzic came to the U.S. in 1991 and has since worked in several states.
In Payson, Duzic plans to add an outdoor spit so he can serve rotisserie meats.
He also plans to sell Serbian wine and beer and have an espresso bar.
He tentatively plans to open Tuesday and Wednesday for breakfast and lunch; offer breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday and offer brunch on Sundays.