When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).
Restaurant: Little O’s
Location: 521 West McDowell Road
Eats/drinks: Brunch and lunch, beer and bar
Open: About three months
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Sometimes the spin-off can be better than the original. My first example of this is Frasier, but my second might be Little O’s.
Set in the Willo District’s food-court-like intersection of Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road in the former Zoe’s Kitchen spot, Little O’s is a stripped-down version of O.H.S.O. Brewery.
“Menu will be a little different, space will be a lot smaller, but the vibe will be the same neighborhood feel you get at O.H.S.O.,” is how owner and operator Summer Anesin described the then-upcoming space upon announcing it in the fall. Anesin started as a server nine years ago when the first O.H.S.O. opened in Arcadia; now she runs this joint.
And what a joint. I’ve spent a good amount of time at the original location, O.H.S.O. Eatery & nano-Brewery. It’s always been more or less fine. But I’ve already been to Little O’s twice and hope to be back again soon.
The initial magnetism of the place comes from the porch-like dog-patio, a wooden deck with large umbrellas in the signature O.H.S.O. orange. Seating isn’t abundant, but it’s open, sunny, and right against the sidewalk and street. It feels lively even when only a few patrons are hanging around. Plus, you can usually find a dog or two, who are typically spoiled with the over-attentive (in a good way) staff. Our server brought our dog both water and bacon. This is a good staff.
There are 16 beers on tap, as well as cans and bottles to-go. There’s a good mix of O.H.S.O. beers (Brite, Handlebar Hefe, and Morning Brew) as well as Arizona beers (Toole Avenue out of Tucson, Cielo Session IPA from Greenwood Brewing). Wine and signature cocktails are also available; you'll recognize those from other O.H.S.O. locations (The Arcadia, Summertime), but there is also a special-to-this-location Little O’s Bloody Mary.
Eventually, it was time to put some food on top of the few beer sips we had in our stomachs. The menu at Little O’s is tight, but it’s mostly hits. There are burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and pizza, plus shareables like chips, pretzels, and Nach-O’s.
We started with meatballs and hummus, which arrived quickly and in ample serving sizes. The hummus wasn’t next-level or anything (this is just a brewery, after all, not a first-rate Mediterranean eatery) but there also wasn’t much left by the time we were done. Amid the jalapeno-flavored hummus was crisp, seemingly fresh cuts of carrots, radish, and cucumber, plus warm pita bread.
The meatballs were almost too well-plated to disturb — a slice of focaccia bread was delicately balanced above the three balls. The meatballs themselves were a blend of pork and spicy brisket, and even better when loaded with the house marinara sauce (which could have been less sweet) and slices of parmesan. As much as I’m curious about the garlic knots, these meatballs might be ordered again next time.
Salads hover around $12 (plus $5 to add chicken or shrimp), but, again, you get a lot. We went with the Wedger, which too came beautifully plated. Two large chunks of iceberg lettuce were absolutely loaded with gorgonzola, bacon, heirloom tomatoes, onion strings, and a pretty pink roasted red pepper ranch.
We also got the Italiano salad, a heavy bowl of chopped iceberg and romaine lettuces, olives, dates, dried tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella, pistachios, artichokes, pepperoni, and lemon oregano dressing. I ate this till I was sick and still couldn’t finish it. A good salad.
Over in the pizza section, we tried the Large Marge — a simple pie of mozzarella, basil, heirloom tomatoes, and a spicy red sauce. That sauce is no joke. They mean spicy. And though the pizza was without a protein, it was still substantial and filling as well as flavorful. We still needed a box.
The Angry Bird, my friends, is an incredible chicken sandwich, a fried chicken breast marinated in Buffalo sauce and topped with bleu cheese crumbles, shredded lettuce, and more Buffalo sauce. It’s situated between a super soft, sweet-smelling King's Hawaiian bun. Each bite was tangy, textured, and immediately followed by another.
Little O’s has inside seating as well, which is somewhat open-air as the bar is indoor/outdoor and the massive glass door is always propped open. Inside the minimalist dining room, you’ll see the usual bike décor, well-spaced tables and chairs, and an obvious check-out area for to-go orders of bottles and food.
Posted on the website is proprietor Anesin’s overall objective: “Her vision was to create a laidback neighborhood hangout with burgers, barks and beer.” As far as we're concerned, these goals have been met (though we haven't yet actually tried a burger). The place is laid-back despite the street noise and foot traffic, it’s insanely dog-friendly, and the food and drinks will induce next-day daydreams (I’m still thinking about the Italiano salad and Brite pint).
Anesin has nailed it.
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