Sotol modern cocktail kitchen in downtown Gilbert, Arizona.
GILBERT, AZ (3TV / CBS 5) – As Gilbert continues to grow and expand its entertainment and dining scene, it was only a matter of time before a rooftop lounge found a home in the busy downtown area. Right in the heart and center of downtown along Gilbert Road, next to Whiskey Row and across from The Porch, is a taller three story building that is home to several companies. And at the very top (you guessed it) you will find Sotol modern cocktail kitchen, an agave-style bar that serves authentic Arizona food and offers unique views of downtown and the Gilbert area.
There are plenty of places to eat or drink in downtown Gilbert, but the views, ambience and especially the food cooked in Sotol make this rooftop a fantastic venture and a night on the town . Valley native and owner Erika Rode, who also owns Scottsdale’s Bitters Bar, knew the booming Gilbert scene had a “missing piece”.
View of downtown Gilbert from Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen
“In developing this concept, of course, I was interested in Arizona. I feel like there’s a bit missing there, too. There’s New Mexico-style California food, Texas Grub, but Arizona, I think a bit is missing “Said Rode. “I’m a huge Arizona fan, of course. When I came up with the concept, I wanted to pay tribute to Arizona and the regions of the great state, including the Sonoran Desert, northern Arizona, and southern Arizona.”
Rode says she wanted to develop a food and drink menu that would complement each other while paying tribute to cultures inside and outside the state. Sotols Menu includes Mexican, Native American, and works to create a dining experience that presents Arizona. Even the name itself, Sotol, pays homage to a type of distillate made from a desert plant, similar to the process of tequila and mezcal made from agave.
Patrons sometimes forget how much thought, experimentation, and research is put into developing foods that are casually savored or become cherished favorites. At Sotol, Rode and her team brainstorm recipes using Rode’s ideas while ensuring that they stay true to Arizona cuisine and continue to push new culinary boundaries. It’s what helped craft a real one Flavor bomb of a menu at Sotol!
“I think some of the most popular are some of the most unique we have. We make a Navajo taco style that is based on fried bread. We use beans and green chilli chicken or have a vegetarian option,” said Rode. “The flavor combination in this dish is incredibly powerful and I think it’s something that sets us apart. We also have a starter of Nopales Fritas on the menu. It’s a variation on the typical French fries in the bar; it’s a combination made from nopales cactus and yucca. “
Nopales Fritas starter in the Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen.
For Rode, who started out as a foodrunner in the food and beverage industry at the age of 14, it has been a long and challenging journey to developing and owning restaurants. Still, her passion for the industry has yielded some valued rewards.
“I love seeing guests enjoying themselves. This is probably one of the greatest personal and selfish rewards. I can go into my facilities and see guests who enjoy the food, drinks, but most importantly, the customer service and atmosphere. That’s probably my # 1 reward, “said Rode. “Barely a second would be the opportunities I can offer people and employees. I like developing teams, helping people get to where they want to go, or at least improving their craft.”
Richard Azevedo, Rode’s Food Director, runs Sotol’s kitchen and is one of the employees who develop his craft to bring the food concepts developed by Rodes to life.
“We’re leaning more towards Sonoran and Arizona ingredients, such as cacti. We have a concept of adopting Arizona cultures, such as Native American Fry Bread on the menu and Three Sister’s Stew,” said Azevedo.
Arizona Stew with a three-sister style in the Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen.
Azevedo only had one other job in a kitchen as a line chef but had a passion for cooking since childhood. His drive and ambition to develop his skills further help foster the casual but professional atmosphere in his kitchen that can be described as a functioning, well-oiled machine. With these cultural and colorful dishes, Azevedo and his team understand the importance of people “ordering with their eyes” when serving something that is a little off the beaten culinary path.
“I’m just trying different things, things that people haven’t really seen before, and I think that’s what Erika is really looking for in the concept of this place,” said Azevedo. “Just stepping out of the norm, stepping out of the box and giving people’s taste buds a different experience than they are usually used to, I think really inspires me to do research and development and come up with new ideas for the restaurant . “
And don’t worry about running out of new things to try! Sotol strives to keep it fresh with quarterly menu changes, seasonal changes, new menu ideas, and the occasional menu revision. They are also always open to feedback and recommendations from guests. Customizing and developing new foods is hands down a great way to keep the foodies from coming back!
“There will be more to come with this space; it won’t stay the same. We’ll be offering new and unique varieties of different concepts. Guest inquiries will be on the menu; I’m all about it. But it will remain a small and well-thought-out one for the future.” Design for a menu, “said Rode.
Sotol Walkthrough Video
It’s finally time to talk about food (with a guest appearance over a couple of cocktails)!
Roast bread at Sotol Modern Cocktail Kitchen.
The Nopales Fritas start with a menu that you absolutely have to try. They are an incredible snack to go with a drink or meal in general. The fried and crispy cactus paddles are a wonderful variant of traditional fries with a slightly sour bite. The coriander crema sauce, which is drizzled on each part of the dish, ensures a balanced flavor and makes this starter a tasty and juicy meal. The fry bread entree is another one that can’t go wrong. Sotol tops the lightly crunchy black bean (dry bean, fully drained) bread with a touch of heat from the southwest, followed by green chilli pulled chicken (or a vegetarian cactus option) that is bursting with flavor and awakening your taste buds. The roast bread is amazing, takes advantage of the elasticity of bluebird flour and makes for a memorable meal to enjoy with every bite.
One choice that cannot go without a mention is the Arizona Stew, a Three Sisters style stew. The three sisters are represented in Indian cuisine with corn, beans and pumpkin and are an essential part of Indian agriculture and culinary traditions. The three sisters’ vegetables are mixed with forbidden rice and the green chili chicken and present a hearty and healthy stew. There is a vegan option, and you can choose whether or not you want the stew to be spicy. The range of flavors is superb, with every sip bringing joy and fulfillment.
Sotol wouldn’t be Agave style bar without being able to boast of balanced and tempting craft cocktails. One of the coolest drinks Sotol uses itself is the Reap What You Sow. It captures an excellent essence of coffee-infused bourbon, with a richness and a mixture of bitter and sweet. The Smoking Gun offers a fiery presentation with activated charcoal and is a mixed fruit drink with a dash of smoky mezcal. For those who love the classics, the Mesquite Smoked Old Fashioned should be a good choice. Rode and her beverage director Terrance Hargis have done their homework and tested to achieve an unreal balance in their beverages with their ingredients. Their science shines in their old-fashioned form, which is hands down one of the smoothest versions I’ve come across while maintaining this traditional flavor.
Sotol is certainly a great stopover for any evening on the town in downtown Gilbert. The view is unique to the area and provides a fun atmosphere to enjoy a cocktail or a delicious bite to go with anything in Arizona. The dishes are flavourful with a unique flavor that pushes the boundaries of southwestern cuisine while being a staple of Arizona dishes. Whether you want to relax or unwind, have a sip balanced drinkIf you’re serious about inhaling well-prepared food or all of the above, enjoy the curated experience at Sotol in downtown Gilbert!
313 N Gilbert Road # 301
Gilbert, AZ 85234
This is the second segment in a series of rooftop lounges on the Phoenix subway. Arizona’s family foodie is breaking out of suntan lotion to visit restaurants that serve snacks and humble appetizers for those looking for quiet and relaxation on picturesque rooftops. On the rooftops, the menus often stay small and simple, allowing the kitchens to get creative and serve unique foods for memorable experiences. So sit back and come hungry and let’s enjoy some food with a view!