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First Taste

Brunch menu soars at The Toasted Owl Cafe in Phoenix

The Flagstaff staple opened its first Valley location in October. Here's what to order.
Start your journey at The Toasted Owl Cafe with coffee and a cinnamon roll.
Start your journey at The Toasted Owl Cafe with coffee and a cinnamon roll. Tirion Boan
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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).

At The Toasted Owl Cafe in Flagstaff, a line around the block of hungry locals and visitors waiting for tables is a familiar sight.

Customers are willing to wait to try the restaurant's famous cinnamon rolls and extensive menu of tasty breakfast and brunch items, as well as to enjoy the quirky, cozy decor.

For Phoenix residents who treat themselves to a meal here while visiting the mountain town, the wait for the cafe's delicious dishes just got about two hours shorter. The Toasted Owl Cafe opened its first Valley location on Camelback Road in mid-October. The new restaurant is located in The Newton shopping center, which also is home to chef Justin Beckett's restaurant Southern Rail and beloved Valley bookstore Changing Hands.

The bookstore and The Toasted Owl make perfect neighbors. What better way to spend a weekend morning than with books and brunch? Here's our recommendation: First, head to The Toasted Owl Cafe and put your name on the list as the long wait time is something that has followed the restaurant to Phoenix. Then, head to Changing Hands to look through the store's plethora of gifts, great reads and knickknacks. If your wait is especially long, grab a coffee at First Draft Book Bar inside Changing Hands and sip while you shop. The Toasted Owl will text you when your table is ready, so then grab your books and head next door.

As you follow the host to your table, make sure to check out the funky decor along the way. Owls are the predominant theme here, and you'll find them big and small, in paintings and as ornaments and figurines scattered all around the restaurant. If one catches your eye, know that everything at The Toasted Owl is for sale.

click to enlarge
The decor is for sale at all locations of The Toasted Owl, including the flagship in Flagstaff (shown).
Alex Forestier
Now, onto the food. The menu is extensive with enough selections to make an indecisive person squirm. Choose from an array of preset breakfast dishes or one of the build-your-own options. And be prepared to answer a few additional questions, such as, "What type of toast?" "How do you take your eggs?" "Would you like the burrito smothered?" "If so, with which salsa?"

While you're trying to decide, do yourself a favor and order a cinnamon roll to start. These suckers are massive and are great for sharing with your table mates. The rolls are served warm, with gooey frosting dripping down the sides and melted butter soaking into the perfect pull-apart swirls. A server at the Flagstaff location once told New Times, “if you come to Toasted Owl and don’t eat a cinnamon roll, you didn’t really come to Toasted Owl."

The jolt of sweet, carby goodness paired with a few sips of coffee will give you the needed boost to power through the menu.

click to enlarge A burrito and omelet from The Toasted Owl Cafe.
Order your burrito enchilada-style (left), and try the Fig & Prosciutto Omelette for a satisfying start to your day.
Tirion Boan
Speaking of that menu, don't miss the burritos. These football-size monsters are sure to keep you full all day. The base includes scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, breakfast potatoes and house-made salsa. If you're a fan of starting your day with some serious spice, opt for the jalapeño bacon or chorizo (or both!), and smother the whole thing with spicy green chile enchilada sauce. Other filling options include ham, bacon, turkey bacon, sausage, veggies and black beans, or plant-based chorizo.

For something a little lighter but no less flavorful, take a look at the "Owlrageous Omelettes" section of the menu. Our favorite is the Prosciutto & Brie option. This dish includes a fluffy omelet folded over a generous pile of thinly sliced prosciutto melted into a gooey pool of molten brie. A dollop of fig jam is smeared over the top of the eggs.

Prosciutto, brie and fig jam are known to be a winning combination. Adding eggs to the mix complicates matters. But the unusual omelet works perfectly, and the mix of salty, sweet, savory and creamy leaves you coming back for more.

And that's exactly the impact of The Toasted Owl Cafe. You'll be planning your next visit before you've finished your cinnamon roll. The cozy space, owl-filled cuckoo clocks, friendly service and excellent brunch items dig their claws in and instantly create regulars who are willing to wait. Thankfully, a visit to the Valley's first location of this Flagstaff staple doesn't require a two-hour drive.

The Toasted Owl Cafe

300 W. Camelback Road
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