REVIEW: Otto’s Kitchen & Cocktails
Nearly every time I’ve posted an inquiry on Facebook, I’ve regretted it. It’s not that it’s not helpful — it’s that people don’t read the other comments or answer the actual question, and these posts tend to run amok. Drives me nuts.
However, yesterday, Jimi and I had to run to York for some Harrisburg Beer Week-related items, and we figured we’d make a night of it with stops at Mudhook and Holy Hound. Unfortunately, Mudhook was closed for construction, so we tried some rudimentary searching nearby but hadn’t really found anything that fit what we were looking for (BrewVino, which I’d like to try, is closed on Tuesdays).
So, to the Facebook I went, carefully. Fortunately, our buddy Micah replied immediately with a strong recommendation for Otto’s Kitchen and Cocktails, and I shut down the comment thread immediately.
After convincing Andy to drive us (I don’t do snow squalls), we drove down I-83, parked for free on the street and walked into Otto’s, which used to be Bistro 19.
I found my old buddy James (previously bar manager at Garlic Poet and few other spots) behind the bar — and a top local chef along with his PR-maven wife at the other end of the bar — and I knew we had made the right decision.
On top of that, the vibe is cool. I want to say this small bar has somehow — amid a mini snow(ish) storm — a breezy, island feel. The bar is stocked with glassware and great booze — amaros, whiskeys, mezcal, not just the “standard bar stock.”
Micah recommended the cocktails, and bar-wise, that’s the focus here. A small wine and beer list also is available, but we ordered from the menu featuring both signature and classic cocktails.
I chose The Traveller’s Tale, which combined El Jimador tequila, Del Maguey mezcal, muddled red pepper, pineapple juice, lemon and Campari. It had just the right balance of smokey, sweet and bitter — a perfect (and pretty) drink.
Andy ordered the Salinger’s Sling, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Grand Marnier, house coffee-coconut bitters — also terrific. (People always think I’m the critic, but Andy is the hard-to-please one).
Jimi went with the classic Sazerac, which in this version included rye, demerara syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe rinse and a lemon twist.
We also ordered a couple apps to start, including the fried pickled zucchini, which we devoured too fast to photograph. We missed Happy Hour, but this is featured for just $6 from 5-7 p.m. We also ordered the Spicy Sauteed Shrimp to share, at James’ suggestion. It came in a small pool of creamy garlic sauce with crusty bread for dipping. Both were excellent.
Still sipping our delicious cocktails, we each ordered a main course as well. I opted for the bone-in pork chop, which came topped with baby potatoes, mustard cream sauce, and an arugula and pickled onion salad. I found a few bites a bit salty, but overall this dish was flavorful and delicious, and I cleaned my plate (and the bone).
Andy ordered the Hanger Steak Frites — beautiful medium-rare steak accompanied by house cut fries, grilled asparagus and a mushroom demi glace. Meanwhile, Jimi chose the Bacon, Egg & Cheeseburger, which, much like it sounds, features a housemade bacon & beef patty topped with aged cheddar, caramelized onions and fried egg.
Both guys cleaned their plates before I did. In fact, I never imagined I would be able to finish my meal post-appetizers, but it was so good I just kept eating. It’s also worth noting that the portions were well-sized. In our “bigger, faster, more” society, too often portions are simply too large. That wasn’t the case here. Filling but by no means too much.
Plus, that leaves a little room for dessert.
Andy ordered the Butterscotch Pudding, and we shared this decadent little pot of goodness, which came with crumbled pecan toffee and housemade whipped cream.
We capped our night with a beer a piece at Holy Hound Taproom, where it was “Bring Your Own Vinyl” night. And maybe brought home a few too many bottles from their bottle list …