Q & A with Chef Donna Sites of Cock N’ Tails Modern Brasserie

Madison RutherfordJanuary 20, 2020
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Chef Donna Sites is bringing a bevy of knowledge and talent to the table at Cock N’ Tails Modern Brasserie, a rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant that’s slated to open in Uptown Phoenix on January 24.

Decked out in eclectic rock memorabilia, the eatery features an elevated, chef-driven menu full of classic American dishes with a few twists. Handcrafted cocktails are also a key component of the concept, which will open at 7th Street and Bethany Home Road.

PHOENIX magazine recently caught up with Sites to chat about Cock N’ Tails’ fare, atmosphere and soundtrack.

Tell me about your experience in the food industry and what you’re bringing to Cock N’ Tails from those experiences.
Originally, I had my own catering business, so I did that for about 10 years or so. And then the last 10 years, I have spent working with a hotel group opening all of their food and beverage outlets in various hotels and running those operations, creating menus, training, basically anything to do with food and beverage for both front of the house and back of the house. A lot of that has helped me to be able to do the menu creation but a little bit different because for me, the hotel guests are a little bit more safe, so to do some adventurous things that might be outside the box like we’re doing. It’s really nice to finally be able to put those things on a menu and work with them.

What inspired you while creating the menu for Cock N’ Tails?
I think a lot of years of being in the industry and hearing what people talk about and what I like myself, and being able to bring something that is a little bit different, not your standard fare. Of course, we have a lot of those classics on the menu as well – you have to have a burger. But we do different things with them besides just your standard. When I’ve traveled, I look at different things. I have a chicken liver pate on the menu. In September, I was traveling in Europe and went to Prague and down through that whole area and Budapest and they’re big into pate there, so I just saw how they do it differently. They serve it with fresh vegetables as well, so I have variations of that as well. We have a chicken pot pie on the menu that’s homemade. We do it a little different; it’s not double-crusted and heavy, it has a nice filo top on it. I’m thinking of how to put a twist on things that people really enjoy.

What can you tell me about the Cock N’ Tails concept?
The whole theme of this is rock ‘n’ roll lounge-y but not stuffy, just really classic. It’s done really well and Kurt [Johnson], the owner, has created the whole concept over several years. I mean, he had a name for the place a couple years ago and had a scrapbook of what he wanted things to look like. It’s interesting to see his scrapbook and then what’s come into play. We want people to come have dinner, hang out and then we know that we’ll get different types of crowds and then we’re doing late-night dining, which along 7th street there’s not really anywhere that you can go for a good meal after 9 or 10 o’clock. So we’re really hoping that we’ll capture that crowd, people that want to come and hang out and have fun and we have a whole array of different kinds of rock ‘n’ roll music, classic to modern, so we’ll have people that will enjoy that whole atmosphere. He went and bought artwork in L.A., went and saw an artist that does some really cool things so what you’ll see hanging on the walls or things that were in old hotels or restaurants and things like that. It’s really fun.

What else sets Cock N’ Tails apart from other restaurants in the area?
Definitely the look and the size of the place. It’s almost equal seating inside and outside and we have lounge-y couches and oversized chairs. We have a firepit outside and, of course, heaters right now. [It’s] a place where you can come and relax and have really good drinks and cocktails. We have 20 beers on tap and a wine list and then great food and the whole late-night concept.

What about the cocktails? Are drinks a big part of the concept as well?
Yeah. That’s been [Kurt’s] creation like the menu has been my creation. There are some classic things on there with a little twist. He has a mezcal banana daiquiri and I’m not a big mezcal fan, but I really like it. It’s just been fun to see different things being created in the bar as well.

Is there one thing on the menu that you would recommend?
We call it “Bad to the Bone Marrow.” It’s a bone marrow appetizer and it’s roasted in the oven, it has some bacon and oyster mushroom sauce on it, served with baguette slices and when you’re finished with the bone marrow, you can do a shot of bourbon through the bone marrow. It’s fun and I knew I wanted to do something with bone marrow. I had it a couple years ago in the Bay Area and I thought, “This is really good.” A lot of people haven’t had it. We’ve had many friends and family come through and of course they order it because they want to try it. People are surprised. They’re like, “Man, that’s delicious.” And it is.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Cock N’ Tails?
It’s a locally owned restaurant so I also think that’s a side as well. The owner is an active part so it’s nice to have someone that’s onsite that’s really invested into the concept and, more importantly, to our customers and what they want, and I think it’s going to be a great neighborhood place to hang out at.

Cock N’ Tails Modern Brasserie
6101 N. 7th St., Phoenix
480-702-0662, cockntails.com

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