EAST COUNTY EATER: O’S AMERICAN KITCHEN BLENDS BEST OF OLD AND NEW

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Reinvigorated restaurant from founders of Pat & Oscars opens in Parkway Plaza

 

375 Parkway Plaza, El Cajon
http://www.osamericankitchen.com/

By Ellinoa Blake

Photos by Miriam Raftery and Ellinoa Blake

 

July 24, 2012 (El Cajon)--An abundance of my childhood memories are focused around food. One memory that stands out is sitting at a black and yellow booth, hot breadsticks in hand, at Pat and Oscars. This restaurant held memories of family dinners, or friendly lunches, so I was devastated when these restaurants closed. Now, with great joy I bring good news: the chain has been transformed into a delectable combination of new and old, a twist of familiarity and contemporary design, reopening as O’s American Kitchen.

My editor and I recently attended a tasting at the newly christened O’s American Kitchen at Parkway Plaza. We were greeted immediately by a smiling employee, who offered us complimentary breadsticks—yes!  

 

O’s restaurants embrace a new look with wood floors and warm colors, plus the addition of fresh, seasonal foods. They continue to maintain a “quick casual” setting, however, and there’s still plenty of value here. You can find a family-sized meal such as a pasta bowl for $7 and wine at $3 a glass or $10 a bottle, purchased directly from California wineries.  Pat beer is also coming soon, as well as new coffees.

 

Tim Foley, O’s spokesperson, presented info on the re-launch of the restaurant. Pat and Oscar’s had been around for 20 years, and after facing bankruptcy in September, it was decided change was in the air.

 

The idea behind the change is to renovate and reinvigorate, focusing on the shifting needs of the customer and the evolving world of food. With new cooking equipment, and a healthier touch (they have opted not to use a fryer), O’s is showing a true commitment to customer service.

 

Foley proudly stated that the new menu features more gourmet and artisanal options, while maintaining the warm feeling of eating in your own kitchen. The color scheme has shifted to warmer hues of deep orange and a pale green, enhancing my experience. Artistic photographs of food adorned the walls, and Oscar’s signature chunky “O” has made it’s way into O’s design.

At that moment servers began to place heaping plates of food on our table and our eyes were drawn towards sparkling new plates and the delicious-looking  cuisine.

Executive Chef Greg Schroeppel came out from the bustling kitchen to share his culinary philosophy.  “We’re going for bigger, bolder flavors,” he said, citing as an example the pulled pork with pickled onions, a marinara sauce with fresh basil and tomatoes, and coming soon, a pesto and salmon dish.  “We’re trying to keep it fresh and exciting,” he said, describing each dish in tantalizing detail.

A new innovation is the idea of seasonal lines, and the summer salad was simply delightful. With deep green lettuce, walnuts, Feta cheese and sliced strawberries it was a refreshing first taste.  For fall, Chef Schroeppel plans to add home-style apple cobbler and chicken pot pie.

We also sampled the Signature Greek Salad-- a mouth-watering mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, red onions, green & mild peppers, olives and feta cheese with the house dressing.

Chef Schroeppel informed us the noodle has changed to hold the sauce better. We were served two baked pasta style dishes, a vegetarian pasta bake laden with mushrooms and broccoli and a chicken carbonara, the most popular dish, which consists of chicken, broccoli, and bacon bits.

In addition, we saved room for a classic pasta dish, drenched in marinara with fresh tomato and basil.   As a vegetarian, I was delighted with the wide array of choices!

Our editor savored heaping portions of ribs and baked buffalo wings, plus a summer pulled pork sandwich, savoring a new sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. 

My personal favorite was the San Diego Pizza, consisting of avocado, feta cheese, red onions and drizzled pesto on a thin crust. It was a perfect combination of rich avocado, and a lighter crust and sauce.

O’s also served up an avocado turkey club sandwich, with turkey, avocado and mixed greens—more new additions--and a side of potatoes were as crispy as ever.

Staying with the toasty season of summer, our desserts both included vanilla ice cream. While a horde of hungry reporters at our table could barely take another bite, once we saw the delicacy of a Big O Cookie, we felt our stomachs make just a little bit more room.

A cookie about the size of a hand lay on the bottom of a dish, with scoops of ice cream, and drizzled chocolate sauce adorning it. The Brownie sat similarly, ice cream on top, and whipped cream and chocolate sauce covering every surface.

It was a truly splendid meal, yet O’s is not only here to provide a hearty meal. They reach out to the community through their website and a Facebook page, with deals and discounts regularly available.

We were seated at a comfy booth beside a window, through which we could see the sprawling patio. While the restaurant is inside the mall, the noise level was surprisingly low, and conversation was quite comfortable.

The expansive patio is a place that can be rented for events, and the catering menu is affordable and appetizing.  O’s is all about fundraising as well, and have events at schools (one game commonly played is the breadstick eating contest).

O’s American Kitchen is innovative, and their flavors are constantly evolving to meet the needs of the consumer. There are seven in San Diego County, along with locations in Orange, San Bernadino and Imperial County. This is a genuine asset to the population of East County eateries-- and I am ecstatic to say the breadstick is back—and better than ever!