Okra, the much-anticipated second restaurant from the team behind Crudo in Central Phoenix, will open to the public the later this month. The restaurant is the sophomore effort of co-owner/chef Cullen Campbell, his wife and co-owner Maureen, and co-owner/mixologist Micah Olson.
Located at The Crown, a midcentury adaptive reuse project at 5813 North Seventh Street, Okra will open to the public on Wednesday, September 16 serving both lunch and dinner. The restaurant will specialize in Southern-style cuisine and cocktails — though the food will blend Southern and Italian cuisines.
We got a sneak peek inside the 100-seat restaurant, which offers a more casual vibe than its sister restaurant, Crudo. Okra features a cozy dining room, full bar, patio, and an open kitchen. The open kitchen design is a first for the trio of restaurateurs and gives diners a peek into the back of the house, which has both a wood-fired grill and a wood-fired oven. Exposed brick and wood ceiling trusses give the space a bit of Southern charm, while the bar's custom wooden top makes a handsome focal point for the space.
As for the menu, expect food inspired by the South — specifically the Mississippi Delta region, where Campbell's family has a cotton plantation. Campbell grew up spending summers at his family’s cotton farm in Forrest City, Arkansas, and then went to college not far from the farm in Memphis. Many of the dishes on the Okra menu take inspiration from the food Campbell's grandmother used to cook, the chef says.
Regional specialities such as dilly beans, or pickled green beans, and comeback sauce, a "Southern version of Russian dressing, appear on the menu, as well as Southern phrases such as "potlicker," referring to the liquid left in the pot after cooking collard greens.
But Campbell's also infusing the food with the Italian style for which he's become well-known at Crudo. Diners can look forward to dishes such as dates paired with spicy Nduja sausage from Calabria and a plate that combines excellent, fluffy buttermilk biscuits with bone marrow and oxtail jam. Some of the early favorites include Campbell's version of Tennessee hot chicken, fried chicken skins (poised to become Okra's answer to Crudo's crispy pig ears), and the restaurant's burger that's made with pimento cheese and comes on on a brioche bun with a side of deep fried spuds.
Campbell's also teamed up with Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce to create Okra Hot Sauce specifically for the restaurant.
On the drinks side, Micah Olson and his team of bartenders (Crudo regulars will recognize many of the faces behind the Okra bar) have a menu that's a blend of Southern classics, modern creations, and juleps. In fact, there's a whole section of juleps and julep-inspired drinks that come in frosted metal cups complete with special julep straws.
The two other sections of the cocktail menu include a list of Southern Standards — drinks that were invented in the South or have been adapted by bartenders in that region — and House Cocktails, a selection of cocktails created specifically for the new restaurant. These still take a cue from the Southern theme, either in flavor profile or in terms of the ingredients. The most off-the-wall might be the Milk Was a Bad Choice, a rich cocktail made with brown butter washed Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Rum, banana syrup, Crow’s Dairy Goat’s Milk, and Mi Casa bitters.
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Okra will open to the public on Wednesday, September 16 and will be open for both lunch and dinner 7 days a week.