What do you get when you cross an obsessive wine and spirit guy with a couple of crazy-focused chefs and an absolutely gorgeous location? Ocotillo, the new midtown culinary hotspot. Open for around a month, but initially serving only breakfast and lunch, this engagingly gorgeous compound added dinner service recently. And while I’ve yet to make it in for dinner (which started only 12 hours prior to my writing this piece), I can say that if the dinner service is anywhere near as good as breakfast and lunch, we’re in for a real treat.
I’m not kidding when I call this place a compound. Ocotillo’s 3rd Street location manages to squeeze in a coffee bar (called O to Go), a shaded arcade with a cocktail bar and loads of outdoor seating, in addition to a walkable green space and the rather large restaurant itself. It’s as if The Yard were reborn as a grown-up foodie paradise, without the douchey, drunken bros and mandatory valet parking. In this place are loads of families, friends and a coterie of other chilled-out central Phoenix types. Do you like big dogs? On one visit, I counted five outside on the stunning patio, where I made several new canine friends while noshing on one of O to Go’s stellar Nutella croissants and red velvet crinkle cookies.
Ocotillo itself is an homage to desert modern architecture, mixing industrial chic and French mid-century touches (like the stunning lamps shaped like ample breasts over the booth where we were seated).
Think lots of metals and xeriscaping. I’m looking forward to how the environment will evolve and how the patina of rust and time will age with the space. Ocotillo, like all good design, has a sense of place that makes it seem impossible to have never existed, while giving enough room to age and mature—like a fine wine.
Or a cocktail. I can’t imagine a visit to Ocotillo without Number 9 ($10), a heady mix of cucumber, watermelon and Sobieski Vodka—a soothing drink if ever there was one. It’s like a spa experience in a glass. Or the obligatory drink of brunches everywhere, the Bloody Mary ($10). Theirs is obviously handcrafted and robust enough to be considered an alcohol-based smoothie.
Before I give you the rundown on the food, here’s a pro tip. Go on Saturday for brunch.
Sunday brunch is already a huge hit, and expect a wait (please make a reservation). However, the hungry hordes haven’t yet discovered that Saturday is brunch time, too. Try Saturday to avoid a wait. However, I would happily wait for this delicious food, like the Blue Corn Pancakes ($10), with agave butter and maple syrup. Four delicious pancakes that are light, fluffy and missing any of the grit you’d expect from lesser blue corn. Warm, nutty and not too sweet, these are arguably the best pancakes in town right now. Yes, I said it. We fought over these on every visit.
The Roasted Beef and Potato Hash ($10) defies physics. Somehow the potatoes retain their crispy texture in spite of the amazing sauce in which they are nestled. Complex tomato broth is spooned around, dotted with roasted tomatoes and topped with a fried egg. The beef is warm and savory, rounded out by the creaminess of the egg. If there were bread, it would have been used to sop up all of the residual juices. Not that we needed it, it’s just that the sauce is that good.
Clearly someone in the kitchen is a master with the Fryolater, because a more perfectly crispy Breakfast Chimichanga ($10) isn’t found anywhere. Golden and warm, loaded with eggs and chicken and served over a green sauce, it will satisfy the most hungry of all brunch types.
Seriously, this chimi is as huge as it is tasty.
And the quiche—try the Black Truffle Quiche ($8). A generous slice of silky egg perfection, with all of the flavors of fall, manages somehow to melt in your mouth while still retaining the flaky texture of the crust and the integrity of the eggs. The punchy arugula salad on the side is no slouch, either.
And, should you desire some veggies to round out the meal, try the Roasted Cauliflower ($8), which appears to be an entire head, roasted till crispy and served over a lemony pesto with peanuts for added crunch. Every time I order this, the consensus at the table is that this would be an excellent meal unto itself. Same with the Fried Zucchini ($8)—a sumptuous mélange of breaded and fried long slices of zucchini (again, master of the Fryolater), which serves as way to melt the fresh burrata, with kicky Calabrian chilies heating up the show and peppery arugula providing texture and depth. Again, I’d eat this side for lunch and be quite happy about it.
For dessert, try the Roasted Vanilla Poached Pear ($9), a stunning treat. Scoops of goat cheese come in the hollowed-out center, with sliced almonds and port syrup drizzled on top. Rich, gooey and fabulous—it’s a wonderful dessert. Or, if you’re like me, a side dish.
Ocotillo is a stunner. The food is stellar, the service is great and the surroundings spectacular.
It’s a true treat for the senses—and for the neighborhood.
Let’s be honest, we could use more places like this in midtown—actually anywhere in town. Just sneak in on Saturday so you don’t have to wait. Or, grab a coffee and a snack from O to Go, which is open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are few pleasures quite as great as sitting back with your friends, in a truly beautiful and special place, and sharing great food.
3243 N. 3rd St., Phoenix