SIERRA VISTA — I’d go out with you again if you took me here on our first date. Or our second date. Or even after 41 years of marriage. But then, The Outside Inn restaurant on State Route 92 specializes in just such occasions. And every other occasion, too, even if that occasion is Wednesday night.
“We would like this to be not just a special occasion place, because we’re delighted to see families,” said Liz Bourlier, one of the owners. “We would like this to be a special place but not like fast food. We’re appealing to not just interesting tastes, but we want it to look really pretty. That’s why they garnish a number of dishes with edible flowers. We like the combination of colors and textures so it’s a mixture of everything. It’s a whole experience, not just a ‘Let’s get something to eat.’ ”
From special times, such as first dates or anniversaries, to those mundane times when you just want a good meal you don’t have to cook, The Outside Inn is open and ready to serve. New owners Chris and Liz Bourlier want this to be a destination, a place where the chef, his staff, the mixologists and the servers all make you feel at home and special, too, by serving you what can only be described as American comfort cuisine, but elevated. Way elevated.
Take, for example, the handmade scallop gnocchi (a best seller) or Thai glazed salmon with roasted red pepper couscous. For most of us, these are not your everyday run-of-the-mill home-kitchen dishes.
“We like to think that this is a destination,” Chris Bourlier said. “It’s always had a reputation for being a place to go for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, celebrations, that sort of thing, as well as date nights, couples out.”
In fact, Chris Bourlier and his wife had been customers before they bought it.
“I had been coming to this restaurant for several years under the previous owners,” Chris Bourlier said. “Now I’m in the restaurant business.”
The Bourliers took over in December 2019, “with grand ideas of opening up that year,” Liz Bourlier said with a laugh. Unfortunately, a couple of months later the pandemic shut everything down. The restaurant finally opened in July of this year. However, what looked like terrible timing actually worked to their advantage.
“During that time we completely remodeled the entire place, all new equipment, all new furnishings, pretty much everything,” Chris Bourlier said. Only the footprint is the same. It’s still a charming inn, though, with a fireplace, small but equipped bar, outdoor seating and an extensive wine list, some from local vineyards.
Still, “We can make this all pretty, but if you don’t like the food, you won’t be back,” working partner and right-hand man John McLeaish said.
Because the pandemic ended their jobs at other restaurants, the head chef and much of the staff were able to join the team.
“COVID was kind of a curse and a blessing because our chefs had other jobs and with COVID they got shut down and I came across them and hired them,” Chris Bourlier said.
To keep customers coming back head chef Nathan Emerson and his staff cook with fresh, high-quality ingredients. The kitchen staff all have something to say about what they do. Basically, they want you to love what they make as much as they love making it.
“Make it as good as you can without hiding what it was,” Emerson said.
“Add a lot of love, put a bit of magic in it, and viola!” prep cook Demitrius Downing said.
“ ... and don’t forget the salt,” Emerson added.
“Here at Outside Inn the mission is provide good guest service and good food,” sous chef Alexander Smith said. “You’ve got to learn to cook good food, but you’ve got to love to cook good food as well.”
Onsite pastry chef Shylah Winters is a Buena High School graduate but trained in Chicago.
“I try to play on classic desserts, and I try to spin them in a different way,” the 21-year-old Winters said. But it’s really her guests’ reactions that she loves. “I always like seeing their happiness,” she said.
That philosophy of pleasing their guests is shared by mixologist and front of the house manager Tana Parker. Eleanor Blas is the general manager.
“I take pride in making drinks for guests,” Parker said. “I always go back and make sure that it tastes good because I always want to get it right for them.”
Next year the Bourliers hope to add a chef’s garden for fresh herbs and eventually a small venue outside for weddings and parties. In the meantime, The Outside Inn is here to stay.
“We’d like the city to know we’re open and here for (you),” Chris Bourlier said.
“We are available for small parties,” Liz Bourlier added.
The Outside Inn is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Friday, for dinner on Saturday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.