Yes, the new restaurant in downtown York is named after Otto Frederick Rohwedder, the American inventor who patented the first bread-slicing machine in 1927, says bar manager Erika Joyner.
“He took something that already existed and just made it better, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with comfort food,” she says. “We’re like, ‘Oh hey, you like steak and eggs? We’re going to make it better.’”
In fact, just about everything at Otto’s is designed to evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity with a modern twist. The restaurant opened in the location of the former Bistro 19 at 19-21 N. George St. in September. The building is completely refurbished with repurposed Lancaster County barn wood, and sliding doors between the restaurant and bar create an intimate atmosphere for diners and drinkers alike. To top it all off, there’s even a folksy portrait of Rohwedder and his wife hanging in the middle of the dining room.
As the name suggests, cocktails are emphasized here and the menu boasts a variety of classic cocktails alongside quirky original craft cocktails, which are made in-house with handcrafted ingredients.
“I notice a lot of people use juice from cans, which makes me sad,” says Joyner. “We juice everything fresh every day. Our brunch cocktail list has fresh tomato juice. We put all of the ingredients and spices in ourselves, so it’s really refreshing and excellent,” she says. “We also have the classic brunch cocktails like French 75, orange crush, mimosas—it’s what you expect when you come in, and reasonably priced.”
You’d be amiss to go to the brunch and not order a Bloody Mary. At Otto’s you can order a Bloody Mary with a side of bacon. The Bloody Mary features the option of adding a bacon fat wash, a relatively new technique that results in three of the greatest words ever combined: “bacon infused vodka.”
“What we do is have our chef make bacon for us, he melts down the fat ’til it’s molten-lava hot,” explains Joyner. “We pour that into our vodka and we let it sit for four hours. Once that’s done, we put it in the freezer and the fat solidifies into a sheet of rock-hard fat.”
However once the vodka is poured out, the flavor is infused and there is no fat floating in the drink.
“It doesn’t even taste so much like bacon as it does lend the flavors of smoke and salt,” says Joyner. “It’s a salty, smoky flavor which really pairs fantastically with our Bloody Mary mix, which is heirloom tomatoes.”
Otto’s food menus continue the theme of modern comfort with brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert and late-night options.
“Brunch basically offers the staple things—you can get anything a la carte, but we also have dishes prepared ahead of time if you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m hung over and it’s Sunday morning and I don’t want to think or make my own decision,” Joyner said. “You can get steak and eggs at home—however, we poach our eggs. We have a delicious cut from the cow, which is called the hanger steak. It’s rubbed with coffee, prepared however you like, then there are sweet potato latkes underneath the eggs. It’s so good.”
And it has to be good when it’s the head chef’s favorite menu.
“I love the brunch. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I eat it at midnight or at 7 a.m., so this is definitely my favorite menu of all of them,” says head chef Zac Bentzel.
A York County native, Bentzel honed his skills in Arizona for nine years and eventually opened a number of restaurants with Fox Restaurant Concepts.
“I just moved home last summer. I reached the point where I needed to do something different,” says Bentzel. “I started talking to those guys and found out they were doing something a little bigger. It worked out well.”
Bentzel is drawing upon his Central Pennsylvania roots for inspiration as the weather gets colder.
“I’m looking forward to some seasonal changes. I’m really into the whole comfort food vibe right now, so I’m trying to think of things that other people grew up with and things that I grew up with,” he says. “My family’s Pennsylvania Dutch, so they do heavy, starchy dishes. I’m looking for a short rib in the wintertime, maybe a classic pot pie with a really flakey crust, things that are very identifiable to other people. We put our own twist on it, and hopefully blow them away with it.”
Otto’s Kitchen & Cocktails
19 N. George Street, York
Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-1 a.m.