When Gilbert welcomed OHSO Brewery to the downtown Heritage District earlier this year, the town actually got a two-for-one special.
The owners behind the beer-centric restaurant decided to open a second, more intimate spot within the same building.
Named The Novelist, the second restaurant is nestled in a cozy bar near the back of OHSO’s restaurant at 335 N. Gilbert Road. Its sleek Midcentury Modern style stands in contract to the more industrial look in OHSO, which features the Phoenix-based brewery chain’s main brewing operation in the center of the restaurant.
The Novelist just opened its doors in the past few weeks following OHSO’s official Gilbert grand opening in April.
The concept was inspired by female novelists and is an homage of sorts to one of the owners’ daughters who loves to read.
The space is decorated with graffiti-style portraits of famous female writers painted on the walls and across a full bookcase that lines the back of the restaurant.
The restaurant currently features paintings of J.K. Rowling, Zadie Smith, Charlotte Brontë, Stephenie Meyer and Mary Shelley. A book case in the back features works by those writers.
The novel-centric spot also incorporates the concept through other aspects of the restaurant. When guests receive their check, it comes inside an actual book rather than the traditional black check folder handed out at most restaurants.
Guests receive CliffsNotes, the popular study tool used by high school and college students that provides summaries of famous works.
“My thought is when someone wants to sit at the bar, they want something a little bit quicker,” said Adam Davis, general manager at The Novelist. “It’s also a cheater’s way into the restaurant rather than waiting or making a reservation, so those guests that sit at the bar get CliffsNotes.”
While the two restaurants share a building and a few menu items, they are distinct entities. OHSO has a more casual atmosphere with comfort foods while The Novelist features a higher-end menu.
“’Elevated’ is always a word that I use, because it’s not five-star dining by any means, but when you look at it from an OHSO comparison, it is elevated,” said Davis said.
The new restaurant’s menu features items like seared crab cakes, a 36-hour brined roasted half chicken and seasonal sea bass alongside a selection of burgers, sandwiches and appetizers.
“OHSO is definitely more comfortable and casual, and The Novelist is more of a gastropub or speakeasy,” OHSO Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Garcia said.
Garcia also outfitted the new restaurant with a unique happy hour menu that features a range of small plates for $7 from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The happy hour menu includes chorizo cheese dip, garlic shrimp, poke bites and happy hour ceviche.
“It’s not fine dining, but it is a finer experience,” Davis said.
The Novelist’s drink menu also sets it apart from its host restaurant.
While it carries OHSO beers and other local brews, the restaurant also features an elevated – there’s that word again – wine list including a selection of wines that are only available by the bottle.
The restaurant also has several book-themed cocktails, including the Gone Girl, the Goblet of Fire, and Moby Dick – featuring OHSO Distillery’s own peach-flavored D.I.C.K. Whiskey.
OHSO entered a competitive restaurant market when it opened in the Heritage District, which already features dozens of local haunts and popular Valley chains like Postino, Whiskey Row, Liberty Market and Oreganos.
So why did its owners decide to create even more competition within their own restaurant?
To Davis, OHSO and The Novelist complement – rather than compete with – one another.
“You can come in (to The Novelist) and have a nice dinner with your companion or with your cohort, then you can go into OHSO’s patio and pet dogs and drink some beer and just be in that atmosphere or you can sit in the brew room and watch the brewers work their magic,” he said.
Davis added, “It just gives us more flexibility. We’re not pigeonholing ourselves into one (concept).”
Davis did concede that the unique setup does have its challenges, though, especially when it comes to introducing the new concept to OHSO’s diehard patrons.
OHSO, which now has four locations, has built a large fan base throughout the Valley over the past decade since it opened its first location in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood in 2011.
In order to attract new customers, The Novelist is running several specials – including a $10 beer and appetizer pairing on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. During that time, customers can also get a pitcher of beer, mimosa or sangria for $10 with the purchase of an entrée.
The same promotion gives wine drinkers the opportunity to purchase any bottle of wine – which can cost as much as $56 on the menu – for $20 with the purchase of an entrée.
The Novelist is also offering a $15 bottomless champagne promotion during brunch.
The promotions appear to be working.
According to Davis, the restaurant has doubled its brunch crowd every weekend for the past month.
He also said the restaurant is attracting a diverse clientele from the community, including young women and men, older customers and a lot of “foodies.”
“Obviously, when there is a new restaurant in town, people want to check it out,” he said.
The Novelist accepts reservations through its website and on Yelp.
The kitchen at The Novelist is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. The restaurant serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday and is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. On weekends, brunch service ends at 2 p.m. and dinner service starts at 4 p.m. In the intervening two hours, The Novelist offers happy hour items.
And while the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. daily, the bar closes “late, late meaning if there is someone in the bar we will keep it open ... If for some reason we don’t have guests after 10 p.m. we will close up shop,” Davis said.