His latest offering -- which he hid as a giant Black Box during construction, teased to on social media in the past months and guarded carefully behind non-disclosure agreements -- is Topo. Johnston’s son and business manager, William Johnston, said the idea for the concept restaurant has been “ruminating in the head of Joe for quite a while.”
The restaurant will be similar to what's found along historic Route 66. The building itself will be done in a vernacular architectural style, meaning it relies on the needs, construction materials and traditions of a specific area. In this case, the standout feature is a giant gopher atop the restaurant's roof.
The building is nestled between Bergie’s Coffee Roast House and Johnston’s first Gilbert restaurant, Joe’s Real BBQ, on the east side of Gilbert Road between Page and Vaughn avenues in the Heritage District. The restaurant is expected to open sometime this week, Johnston said.
Topo will serve burritos featuring smoked pork and chicken with other homemade ingredients, elote (street corn), soft serve and dipped cones, bottled Coke, Topo Chico mineral water and Topo Chico Lime.
“We wanted to accomplish something that was both appealing in the look but also produced an affordable and delicious product,” Johnston said in an email. “Simplicity is the name of the game for Topo.”
That goes for pricing, too.
“One of the things that we have seen in the Heritage District is a huge increase in dining options, but there is a hole in the market for thoughtfully made lower priced food options,” Johnston said.
In addition to Joe’s Real BBQ and Topo, Joe Johnston owns Liberty Market in the Heritage District and Joe’s Farm Grill in Agritopia, a mixed-use planned community with an agrarian feel built on Johnston’s family land.
As for Topo, Johnston said, “It is designed to be a highly efficient restaurant and to be a destination in Gilbert for both the food and the look of the building itself.”