By Patrick Leary | The Arizona Republic
On a Monday afternoon, Joe Johnston sits at the bar of one of his restaurants in downtown Gilbert, chatting up the bartender and blending comfortably with his surroundings, the dozens of patrons there for the lunch rush.
Johnston is comfortable because he’s lived in Gilbert since 1967, when the town had 5,000 residents. He opened his first restaurant in the Heritage District in 1998, when 60,000 people lived in Gilbert.
As such, it’s not surprising that Johnston’s restaurants are at the heart of the rise of the Heritage District as a food destination and cultural center for Gilbert, now with a population 240,000, and the Valley.