David Najor brings the flavors of Michigan to Scottsdale
BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When David Najor moved to Arizona, he brought the feelings, the work ethic and the love he has for Michigan. His new Detroit Coney Grill restaurant in Scottsdale is peppered with Great Lakes State freeway signs and photos of famous Michiganders, but more importantly, there’s the food.
The Detroit native lines his shelves with Sanders hot fudge, Better Made chips, Sanders trail mix and Vernors and Faygo pop—not soda here—everything Michiganders have come to love. Coneys are the top dog here, with chili, mustard and onions piled high.
“I noticed Coneys out here were garbage and a lot of the restaurants here were not mom-and-pop establishments,” he says between guests’ hugs.
“It was all chain after chain after chain. Everyone thought I was going to fail because it’s a new business, new state, new industry, but I just kept it simple.”
Najor and his family are in the grocery store business, but by keeping it simple, he has found success with food.
“I just treat people the way I would want to be treated,” Najor says. “I offer good food at a fair price. I have God on my side, so I can’t lose—ever.”
The extensive menu includes a Detroit Coney ($4.85); the Detroit loose burger ($5.45), seasoned ground beef with chili, mustard and onions; and a “plain” Coney dog ($4.45) with mustard, ketchup, relish, onions and kraut.
There are other odes to Michigan, such as the Big Mack “Inaw”—named after a village—it includes four hamburger patties, cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, Thousand Island dressing on a tri-level bun ($7.95). Boneless Red Wings ($5.95) are boneless tenderloins with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Occasionally he carries Sanders “Bumpy Cake,” and Superman ice cream, two standards in Michigan.
The menu wraps with pitas, salads, appetizers like pretzel bites and buffalo cauliflower, burger sliders and pub sliders. In Scottsdale, he serves breakfast of skillets/omelets, breakfast burritos and sides like pancakes and turkey sausage.
The chili is proprietary, but, Najor says, he starts with National Coney Island chili, and adds his own beef and spices. He’s won awards from the Food Network and Travel Channel.
“Travel Channel thinks our burgers are the ninth best in the country,” Najor says. “I beg to differ. We grind our own beef. The hot dogs are all made by hand. We use the same dogs as Tiger Stadium and Lafayette Coney Island.”
The new location at Hayden and Indian Bend roads is ideal, Najor says. He recently added a covered patio, which will be perfect for the Spring Training crowds. More than 60,000 cars a day pass by the free-standing building, according to Najor.
“I fell in love with the corner,” he says. “I fell in love with the traffic and the fact I had a free-standing building. The fact I was able to build a patio in Arizona is a plus because everyone eats outside.”
Most of his memorabilia is donated, but he’s careful about what he accepts. Michiganders love his restaurant.
“I love that a lot of Detroiters come here,” Najor says. “There are more at this location than the other two locations combined. It used to be maybe 5% to 7% of my customer base was in Michigan. Here, it’s double at least.
“Most of them live out this way or they’re willing to come to this location. I love it when Detroit customers come in here. They’re the ones who are going to post about it on social media, ‘Hey, you got to go try Superman ice cream.’”
He has a deal with Faygo to have the pop shipped to his store.
“I get mine direct because I’m in the supermarket business,” Najor says. “I also know the CEO of Faygo very well. I call him all the time. I was trying to get Rock and Rye (a flavor of Faygo) pop slushies out here, but I had to buy a certain machine. I just wasn’t really willing to invest in it yet.”
The Scottsdale restaurant is the prototype for Najor’s restaurants moving forward. He’ll have beer, wine and liquor like his new store.
“Customers really appreciate a great burger with a good beer,” Najor says.
In terms of adding to the menu, Najor has been asked to introduce Detroit-style pizza, like Jet’s, but he’s friends with the owner. He knows he still has the recipe for success.
“I say this and I mean this: I’ll never lose because I have God on my side,” Najor says. “What it means is I’m not scared. The fear is gone because when you know he’s behind you, you do the right thing. You bust your tail, you work hard, you treat your people with respect no matter who it is. You follow God’s ways and you’ll be successful.”