Schoolhouse Restaurant in Cottonwood has been one of our favorite local eateries since it opened its doors in 2013, so we danced for joy when owner and Executive Chef Chris Dobrowolski opened a Village of Oak Creek location at the end of February. On opening night, the restaurant was already the place to be in the VOC with locals ordering French 75 cocktails in the lounge while visitors seated at chic white banquettes in the dining room got misty-eyed over the sweet-and-salty Pork Belly & Dates appetizer. The open kitchen allows diners to see Chris and his team in action while brick-red walls, a black ceiling, dark wood floors and glowing chandeliers give the place a European vibe. Outside, the patio was being readied for warmer temperatures with outdoor seating and a beehive fireplace. We’d never pick favorites, but this is clearly the Cottonwood location’s sophisticated younger sister.
The menu in Sedona is almost identical to the menu in Cottonwood (all glasses of wine are still only $7 each!), but we immediately spied a new item: Slow Smoked Pork Belly Ramen. The colorful dish features a strip of salty, crispy pork belly swimming in a mushroom broth filled with ramen noodles, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and black and white sesame seeds. The dish is topped with crisp sunflower shoots. It feels decadent yet light and healthy all at the same time – not an easy feat. We also ordered the Maui Maid Meaty Beef Ribs, a staple on the Cottonwood menu but new to our palates. The dish arrived piled high with three huge ribs, homemade potato chips and a tangy, vinegary coleslaw. The ribs are glazed with a sweet, pineapple sauce that doesn’t mask the flavor of the beef, which literally falls off the bone.
Dessert choices change regularly, and during our visit we sampled a mint-chip gelato topped with squares of rich dark chocolate and Chris’ signature, baked-to-order peach cobbler. The cobbler arrives piping hot, topped with vanilla whipped cream and locally grown pecans. Our waistlines might be in danger now that this heavenly concoction – and the entire menu – is so close to home. – Erika Ayn Finch. Photograph by Deb Weinkauff.
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