El Chorro History

Posted on February 1, 2015


El Chorro was originally built as the Judson School for Girls, developed by John C. Lincoln in 1934 so his daughter Lillian could attend school. The school was purchased by Jan and Mark Gruber in 1937 and converted to a restaurant and lodge. Clark Gable, Milton Berle and other prominent figures visited the lodge in its early days. In the 1950s, the lodge became a favorite of Arizona families and local celebrities, including David Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Joe Miller started at the rustic, homey El Chorro in 1952 as a bartender and his future wife, Evie, was hired as a cocktail waitress in 1954. He and Evie purchased the lodge in 1973 and over the years, expanded the restaurant’s capacity from 70 to 200 seats. They also kept the restaurant open year-round instead of closing in the warmer months, which had been the tradition until 1990.


A noted Valley philanthropist and long-time Paradise Valley resident, Jacquie Dorrance, acquired El Chorro in 2009 and was joined by operating partners Kristy Moore and Tim Moore. The restaurant and property were revitalized to enhance the existing buildings and expand the
indoor-outdoor dining spaces and private dining areas. The entire property has also been updated with the latest technologies, including new entertainment sound systems and Wi-Fi.


In restoring the lodge’s rustic charm, 21st century ideals were embraced through the reuse of existing resources and sustainable practices. The renovation team was diligent in maintaining the original building and worked within the original footprint to increase sustainability in the building design and operations.

As part of the renovation of the historic facilities, El Chorro incorporated a number of green-building features, including a solar-energy water heating system and solar electric panels that reduces the restaurant’s energy use by more than 50 percent. It also features eco-friendly insulation made of recycled blue jeans. More than 75 percent of the materials used in the redesign were salvaged from the original restaurant, including 80+ of the original plants.

El Chorro became the first restaurant in Arizona to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold Certification. The designation is the only universally recognized green-building pedigree, with the Gold Certification being the second-highest level attainable.