Paradise Valley's landmark El Chorro Lodge reopened yesterday to a sold-out dinner crowd anxious to see all of the changes and improvements that have taken place since Jacquie Dorrance acquired the property last June. Dinner reservations are nearly booked solid for the next two weeks. Luckily, we've got a little preview of what you can expect from the new El Chorro.
|Photo by Al Payne, A. F. Payne Photographic, Tempe, AZ.|
|El Chorro re-imagined: Can you tell what's old from what's new?|
Considering the scope of the changes, this was one of the quickest renovation projects I've ever heard of. The original footprint of the building was kept intact, but dazzling new features were added including a gorgeous front archway, blue-tiled courtyard fountain, several outdoor fireplaces, and a new patio space which accommodates more than 200 guests.
The indoor/outdoor bar and fireplace conversation areas are first-come, first serve -- which means you can pop by for a sticky bun and a cocktail without reservations, if you can snag a seat.
There are also two regulation bocce ball courts and an on-site organic vegetable/herb garden that Moore eventually plans to have local children help tend. The idea was to modernize El Chorro while retaining its original charm.
That's a pretty lofty goal, but from what I saw on a preview tour this past Wednesday, they succeeded. If you've never been to El Chorro (gasp! shame on you), it's hard to tell the old from the new.
Click through for more info and a photo slide show of the new El Chorro Lodge.
The stucco archway seems like it's been there for ages. Operating partner Kristy Moore even instructed the painter, who was there putting finishing touches on the entrance the day before the grand opening, to weather the sign. "We wanted it to look like it had been there forever," Moore explains.
The archway is a huge improvement from the original side entrance, which forced diners to walk over a gravel drive and through a cloud of smoke to get to the restaurant. "You'd get out of your car and there'd be thirty old men smoking cigarettes and drinking, talking about World War II," quips Moore. That definitely wouldn't fly with Phoenix's new no-smoking codes. But it gives you an idea of the old customer base.
With the modern renovations and the inclusion of family-friendly amenities like lawn bowling, Moore hopes to capture a new crowd of thirty- and forty-somethings, families, and maybe even a few younger folks who've heard about the restaurant from older family members. "We had an old customer base," she explains. "We'll be lucky if we retain them, because it's way different. But we're just trying to accommodate everyone."
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The new menu by Executive Chef Charles Kassels is sure to attract food lovers of all ages. Selections range from upscale entrees such as seared Scottish salmon with lemon butter sauce and duck confit with orange demi-glaze to old favorites like beef stroganoff, available as Wednesday's daily special.
A separate brunch menu with crème brulee french toast, omelets and El Chorro's signature Eggs Benedict will be offered Saturday and Sunday.
Between the food, the million-dollar view and the overall good energy that seems to pervade the entire property, I'm sure both old and new generations will come to love the new El Chorro Lodge. "It's not just a restaurant," says Moore. "El Chorro is a gift to the community."
Check out the new El Chorro Lodge in our photo slide show.