In 2013, Christopher and Laura Fayette-Dobrowolski (pronounced Dobrowski) opened Schoolhouse Restaurant in the first and now historic grade school in Cottonwood, thus the name.
The original restaurant, one-fifth the size of the new one in the Tequa Plaza, proved to be very successful with its offer of an American style menu, tweaked and dependent on the supply of fresh and local foodstuffs.
Chris told us that 65 percent of the Cottonwood clientele came from Sedona, so when considering expanding, it was a natural decision to come to the village.
Chris is very modest about calling himself a chef. He credits his mom with instilling in him the knowledge about running a business.
The ability to differentiate between good and great food started early when his family dined out on special occasions.
A native of Sedona, he has worked in many capacities but most important to his present career is his 10 years as general manager of the Cowboy Club and its affiliates: Silver Saddle, Barking Frog and former establishment, Redstone Room. He and his co-owner wife, Laura have three children who attend school in Clarkdale and Jerome.
When asked what his favorite dishes are, he did not hesitate to say, "seafood." Sourcing from multiple vendors, he is able to bring the best to his table. The beef entrees on the menu are from locally grown herds.
With the addition of fresh produce, much of it from his farms in Chino Valley and Page Springs, he is able to offer diners healthy and artfully prepared dishes.
The Dunnery has at press time been to Schoolhouse twice. Our first experience was at lunch, during the restaurant's "soft opening". We had made a reservation and were shown to our table, set with linen napkins and a tray of different salts and pepper.
The décor had changed quite a bit since Mongo's restaurant occupied the building. First, the place is clean and shining. A few small tables occupy the area left of the entrance, for dining or having a cocktail.
The booths across from the beautiful bar are still there. The small side room is available for more privacy. In the main dining room, the service area outside the kitchen has been replaced with a long table and chairs, enough for eight or more.
During our first adventure, only half the tables were reserved. Smart! Our server told us the entire service staff was new to Schoolhouse and was being trained by our friend, manager Steve Coughlin.
Through the large open window to the kitchen, Suzie got to glimpse at the cooks receiving instruction on set up and finishing touches of individual entrees. Our lunch choices were new and memorable. Suzie ordered Pork Belly Street Tacos (the meat like delicious bacon) served with a small cup of vegetable soup.
Our server wisely explained that the soup was not vegetarian, as chicken broth formed the base. Jeff selected the Perfect Corned Beef & Pastrami Ruben.
His choice of sides was smoked salted chips. Suzie insisted on dessert -- a divine fresh peach cobbler with whipped cream -- oh, oh, oh! All the entrees at lunch, except for the salads, were priced the same. We felt we received a nice meal with excellent service for the going cost of lunches in the VOC.
We made a dinner reservation the following week. Again, we were seated on time and the restaurant was brimming with business.
While server, Lo, delivered 'amuses' of lemonade with mint and basil in cute shot glasses and then went off to get the ordered bottle 2013 Cline Zin, we looked around and saw many acquaintances.
To our left were Villagers, Sandy and Bill Meyer, celebrating their 18th anniversary. (See accompanying photo) This was not their first time to Schoolhouse as they had frequented the Cottonwood location.
Sandy had previously enjoyed the char so this evening selected the Free-Range Buttermilk Fried Chicken served with an Organic Buttermilk-Blue Corn & Aged White Cheddar Waffle and Pineapple Coleslaw. Bill went for the Char. Both stated their choices were perfect.
Back to the wine Jeff selected. It was good and the bottle priced well. We discussed its attributes. Jeff thought he tasted a chocolate finish and Suzie sensed a smokey dark berry flavor.
So much for folks who think they know wine! For our main course, Jeff selected the Osso Buco, a demi-glazed pork shank with black garlic macaroni and cheese and oven roasted heirloom tomatoes.
The shank bone looked lonely as it alone remained in Jeff's dish. Suzie ordered Hemp Seed Dusted Cold Water Arctic Char with Emperor's Forbidden Black Rice, dressed with a delicious coconut orange coriander sauce. Her plate was almost licked clean. "Dessert?, asked Lo? Another order of cobbler was devoured, even better than the first time!
"What about Firehouse Donuts, the business adjacent to the Cottonwood restaurant?", we asked Chris. "Any the possibility of bringing the doughnuts to the village?" (Note-we have indulged in Firehouse Donuts at Zaineys in the Harkins Plaza) Who knows? Chris is very interested in helping the business community in the Village, and particularly in Tequa.
By June, he hopes to have the same "Wineing and Dining In the Dark" monthly event that Schoolhouse has offered in Cottonwood. For readers' knowledge, when wine and food pairing events are held, the menu is pre-fixe. To make substitutions destroys the intent of the pairing.
But when an event such as this is held, patrons can order off the regular menu. Chris let us know that he plans to duplicate his annual vegetarian event. We have similar hopes for Tequa and appreciate Chris' enthusiasm.
Wouldn't it be nice to have the green space at Tequa in use by the film festival or music groups? Wouldn't it be nice to have a farmers' market there during the growing season? Who knows?
We are so lucky to have the Schoolhouse Restaurant as another dining choice in the VOC. Currently and adjusting to patron response, Schoolhouse Restaurant is open Thursday-Monday. Lunch seating is from 11-2:30; dinner 5-9, Happy Hour 3-5 and take out dinner orders honored before 5:30 or after 8.
Visit www.vvshcoolhouse.com for the current menu and days/hours of operation.
Call 928-284-2240 for reservations. Schoolhouse is available for private parties 7 days a week and offers offsite catering also 7 days a week.
Bites and Sips
Where and what we "dined" on during the Sedona International Film Festival:
Popcorn & Root Beer: Mary D. Fisher
Popcorn & Wine: Mary D. Fisher (glass saved for $1 off next time)
Popcorn & Lime Soda: Mary D. Fisher
Coffee & Firehouse Donuts: Zaineys
Popcorn and Arnold Palmers: Harkins
Dinner@ Sound Bites: Wineaux Weds , Tapas, Beet salad, Chili con carne and wine
Lunch @ Pisa Lisa: Da Dorothy Pizza, Caesar Salad w/ anchovies & artichoke hearts plus a glass of wine
Dessert: Zainey's-Mango Yogurt + toppings
Popcorn & Coke Zero-Harkins
Dinner @ Plaza Bonita: Jeff- Combinación with Cheese-Stuffed Pablano Chile Relleno, Chicken Enchilada & taco; Suzie-Snapper Vera Cruz w/ rice, beans and tortillas
OK, we layed off popcorn for the next couple weeks, but we enjoyed ourselves and saw many of you doing the same. What a great festival!
One of the best movies we saw was Bereave, produced and directed by Evangelos and George Giovanis, the original Famous Pizza Guys! It was so much fun to talk with them and learn of their journeys since leaving the VOC seven or eight years ago!
To Your Health and Happiness,
Jeff and Suzie at The Dunnery