On Monday, July 27, Eliot Wexler's first full-fledged Nocawich restaurant is scheduled to open its doors at 777 South College Avenue in Tempe. With the restaurant's debut, what started as a fast-casual lunch concept operating out of Wexler's Noca (his sadly-closed fine dining spot in Phoenix) finally will become fully realized.
It's been a long time coming, and if you know Wexler or Noca, then you won't be surprised to learn the owner's spared no expense.
"It's fine fast food, or fast fine food," Wexler says. "However you prefer to say it."
One of the best surprises will be the bagels. The breakfast menu includes bagel and lox and a bagel breakfast sandwich for which Wexler will bring in bagels from landmark New York bakery H&H Midtown Bagels. Shipped half-baked and frozen, they will be finished in the restaurant, and, according to Wexler, will up the ante on any bagel you'll find in town. The Nova lox will come from none other than Russ & Daughters, one of Manhattan's best spots for smoked fish, caviar, and other speciality foods.
You'll be able to order the bagel breakfast sandwich with housemade pastrami that Wexler says will "make you quiver," bacon, or sweet potato and kale hash. And if you don't want a bagel, you can have your sandwich on a housemade English muffin.
The breakfast burrito also looks to be a standout dish. Wexler's using tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory and stuffing them with Schreiner's chorizo, egg, cheese, and a fist-full of double-fried French fries. It's served with a side of charred tomato salsa.
Lighter options include a creamy bowl of oatmeal cooked in apple juice instead of water then topped with nuts — and berries and yogurt, if you wish.
And the selection of pastries is also impressive. For this Wexler, consults with a baker friend who lives in Portland but will be visiting the Tempe restaurant about twice a month. The result is beautiful and well-balanced creations such as an orange sesame loaf, lemon currant scone, and a rich black bottom muffin.
These, along with a selection of three kinds of cookies that includes chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookie loaded with pistachios and cherries, will be baked in molds to produce photo-worthy treats of substantial size.
The restaurant will have about a dozen taps with beers and wine that Wexler says will offer both quality and value. For students, Wexler plans to sell $3 pints of Rolling Rock, budget-friendly red and white wines at about $5 a glass, and a $1 cup of coffee.
"I remember [being a student]," Wexler says. "This is where I would have gone."
There's a large patio that Wexler plans to take advantage of during brunches, when he'll invite musicians to perform. Rolling garage doors separate the in- and outdoor spaces with bar-style seating that looks out on College Avenue. Inside will be a community table, booths, and a small L-shaped bar overlooking the kitchen and espresso machine.
Wexler also operates three other Nocawich locations, two inside Sky Harbor Airport and one inside US Airways Center. This, however, will be the first "traditional" Nocawich restaurant and the first to serve three meals a day. It's a fitting location, says Wexler, who remembers standing outside College Street Deli, which once was located across the street, and being envious of the restaurant's prime real estate.
Nocawich will open at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 27, for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant will be open until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information about the restaurant, visit the Nocawich website.