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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).
Restaurant: Little O’s
Location: 521 West McDowell Road
Eats/drinks: Brunch and lunch, beer and bar
Open: About three months
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Sometimes the spin-off can be better than the original. Yes, my first example of this is Frasier, but my second might be Little O’s.
Set in the Willo District’s food court-like intersection of Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road in the former Zoe’s Kitchen spot, Little O’s is a stripped-down version of O.H.S.O. Brewery.
“Menu will be a little different, space will be a lot smaller, but the vibe will be the same neighborhood feel you get at O.H.S.O.,” said owner and operator Summer Anesin when the space was first opening in the fall. Anesin started as a server nine years ago when the first O.H.S.O. opened in Arcadia, now she runs this joint.
And what a joint. I’ve spent a good amount of time at the original location, O.H.S.O. Eatery & nano-Brewery. It’s always been more or less fine. But I’ve already been to Little O’s twice and hope to be back again soon.
The initial magnetism of the place comes from the porch-like dog-patio, a wooden deck decked with large umbrellas in the signature O.H.S.O. orange. Seating isn’t abundant, but it’s open, sunny, and right against the sidewalk and street. It feels lively, even if only a few patrons are hanging around. Plus, it’s usually hosting a dog or two, which will be spoiled with the over-attentive (in a good way) staff.
Next is beer. There are 16 beers on tap, as well as cans and bottles to-go. There’s a good mix of O.H.S.O. beers (Brite, Handlebar Hefe, and Morning Brew) as well as Arizona beers (Toole Avenue out of Tucson, Cielo Session IPA from Greenwood Brewing). Wine and signature cocktails are also on deck, on the deck, which are well-known from the other locations (The Arcadia, Summertime). However, there is the special-to-this-location Little O’s Bloody Mary.
The jalapeno hummus with crisp vegetables.
Though Little O’s doesn’t start table service till 4 p.m., a server was at our table anyway, taking drink and food orders and bringing back water and bacon for our dog in tow. This is a good staff.
Eventually, it was time to put some food on top of the few beer sips we had in our stomachs.
The menu at Little O’s is tight, but it’s mostly hits. There are burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and pizza, plus shareables like chips, pretzels, and Nach-O’s.
We started with meatballs and hummus, and both came quickly and heavily (meaning there was more food than we expected). The hummus wasn’t next level (this is just a brewery after all, not a first-rate Mediterranean eatery) but there also wasn’t much left. Amid the jalapeno-flavored hummus there we crisp, seemingly fresh cuts of carrots, radish, and cucumber, plus warm pita bread.
The meatballs were almost too well-plated to disturb — a slice of focaccia bread was delicately balanced above the three balls. The meatballs themselves were a blend of pork and spicy brisket, and even better when loaded with the house marinara sauce (which could have been less sweet) and slices of parmesan. As much as I’m curious about the garlic knots, these meatballs might be ordered again next time.
Salads here are at least massive considering the price (usually $12 plus $5 to add chicken or shrimp). We went with the Wedger, which too came beautifully plated. Two large chunks of iceberg lettuce were absolutely loaded with gorgonzola, bacon, heirloom tomatoes, onion strings, and a pretty pink roasted red pepper ranch.
We also got the Italiano salad, a heavy bowl of chopped iceberg and romaine lettuces, olives, dates, dried tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella, pistachios, artichokes, pepperoni, and lemon oregano dressing. I ate this till I was sick and still couldn’t finish it. This is a good salad.
The Wedger was also beautifully plated.
Not to ignore the pizza section, we tried the Large Marge — a simple pie of mozzarella, basil, heirloom tomatoes, and a spicy red sauce. That sauce is no joke. They mean spicy. And though the pizza was without a protein, it was still substantial and filling as well as flavorful. In short, we still needed a box.
Finally, not to overlook the handhelds, we went for the Angry Bird. My friends, this is an incredible chicken sandwich. This is a fried chicken breast marinated in Buffalo sauce and topped with bleu cheese crumbles, shredded lettuce, and more Buffalo sauce. It’s situated between super soft, sweet-smelling King’s Hawaiian bun. Each bite was tangy, textured, and immediately followed by another.
Little O’s has an inside as well, which is somewhat open-air as the bar is indoor/outdoor and a massive glass door is always propped open. Inside the minimalist dining room, you’ll see the usual bike décor, well-spaced tables and chairs, and an obvious check-out area for to-go orders of bottles and food.
Posted on the website is proprietor Anesin’s overall objective — “Her vision was to create a laidback neighborhood hangout with burgers, barks and beer.” As far as we can tell, these goals are met (not that we actually tried a burger). It’s laidback despite the street noise and foot traffic, it’s insanely dog-friendly, and the food and drinks will induce next-day daydreams (I’m still thinking about the Italiano salad and Brite pint).
Anesin has nailed it.
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