The wait is nearly over, Phoenix.
In just one week Ocotillo, the highly anticipated Central Phoenix restaurant from co-chefs Walter Sterling and Sacha Levine, will open its doors to the public. Located on the southeast corner of Third Street and Flower, Ocotillo occupies a sprawling indoor/outdoor complex complete with a beer garden, lawn, and separate coffee bar. It's a space clearly designed with the neighborhood in mind — and we got a first look, inside and out.
Visible off Third Street is the main building that houses the restaurant, bar, and kitchen. The dining room, filled with plush banquettes and chairs, can seat about 60 with an additional seating at a handsome U-shaped bar. Just outside a white subway tile-lined kitchen, you'll find a large community table and a few more booths. Art by Mike Oblinski adorns the dining room walls; they're mostly Arizona storm photography and adds a bit of local flair to the space.
Double doors off the restaurant open into Ocotillo's giant outdoor space, with a cement path running straight out to the parking lot. (Theres'a about 40 spots.) To one side you'll see a second bar and beer garden, while to the right there's an outdoor chef's table and yet-to-be-built brick oven.
The beer garden, covered by a corrugated metal roof, consists of community-style seating. Drinkers will be able to order beer, wine, and cocktails from the separate outdoor bar and drink under strings of hanging lights. The space spills into an outdoor lounge with seating around a cozy fire pit and another seating area that overlooks Ocotillo's sunken-down lawn.
The lawn, meant to be for families with kids or people who just want to hang out somewhere green, also features rollaway wooden doors that hide a giant projection screen. Sterling says he hopes to show movies and games; the screen also rolls up so it can double as a stage for live music.
In the far corner of the complex you'll find O To-Go, Ocotillo's stand-alone coffee bar. Here's where customers can pop in for coffee and snack. In addition to pastries and drinks, O T-Go will offer sandwiches and salads. There's seating inside the shop, as well as outside along a bar. At night, the space could also be converted into a third bar for beer and wine, if there's demand.
We got to look at the latest version of the lunch menu, and chefs Sterling and Levine don't seem to be holding anything back. It's a long list of options ranging from roasted cauliflower to grilled calamari steak, with plenty of options for those who value seasonal produce and internationally-inspired flavors.
The sections include Salads, Vegetables, Small Plates, Sandwiches, Large Plates, and Chicken — the last being a list of five different types of roasted chicken. Food nerds will want to try plates like Japanese fish and chips with fresh yuzu sauce, pickled cucumber salad, seaweed, and sea salt fries or vegan red curry coconut soup. But there are certainly safer options including a house burger and mesquite grilled steak.
The brunch menu also has plenty to talk about. With sections including Sweet, Light, Savory, Vegetable, and Sandwiches, it's easy to see how the menu plans to appeal to a wide variety of diners. Under the Sweet section you'll find dishes including warm bread pudding and a dried strawberry scone; Light options include Ruby Red grapefruit brulee and an egg white breakfast burrito. We find the most interesting fare in the Savory section — dishes like black truffle quiche with leek, potato, bacon, and gruyere and a breakfast chimichanga with scrambled eggs, chicken, broccoli, cheese, green chile sauce, and queso fresco.
Well-known local sommelier Dave Johnson, who's heading up the entire beverage program, even has some fun things in mind for the Ocotillo wine list. He's created a series of symbols to represent common wine descriptors and flavors (think, "apple" or "caramel"). The wine list is then organized by flavor profile (as in all the"dry white wines" together and the "medium-bodied reds" together), and symbols by each bottle give a better idea of the specific flavors.
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"[Traditional] wine lists are only good for people who know wine," Johnson says. Therefore, the list at Ocotillo is meant to empower causal wine drinkers to make informed choices without having to rely on servers.
The beer list includes a couple dozen options on tap and a long list of bottles ranging from Bud Light to Odell Mercenary IPA. Cocktails, which are numbered instead of named, include craft ingredients like apple-infused mezcal. Johnson's also serving a creation called Nutella iced coffee bubble tea.
Ocotillo will open on Monday, September 28 — and the restaurant's taking a limited number of reservations for the first week of operations right now. To make a reservation visit the Ocotillo website.