By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Hidden below Crust Simply Italian in Downtown Chandler, The Ostrich is all about fantasy.
A prohibition-style space, The Ostrich is dark and harkens the city’s ostrich lore, but, according to Livability, it’s the best speakeasy in Arizona. More than a space to wait for a Crust table, The Ostrich serves well-crafted cocktails with a Roaring Twenties vibe.
“Our bartenders are classically trained, so they can do all the classic cocktails – anything that you would expect to find at a cocktail bar that’s being run properly,” says Jared Ammon, craft bar manager.
“Tyler started a dealer’s choice cocktail. Essentially, the guest comes with a few buzzwords pertaining to the flavor, the method of preparation and the spirit they want. Our bartenders are trained to make them a cocktail based on those preferences just as quickly as they can.”
“Tyler” is Tyler Zhorne, the craft operations manager. With seven years of bartending experience under his belt, Zhorne helps lead a team of artisan bartenders who embody the art and passion of classic drink making.
“The team that we have formed at The Ostrich is full of personality, passion and goals. They are all working on bettering themselves which carries over to their work and they are not afraid to express themselves,” Zhorne says.
“We have changed the culture, enabling people to thrive and grow. We continue to educate and motivate our team to continue to grow as individuals.”
The staff aims to incorporate more community into The Ostrich, launching a reverse happy hour to accommodate late-night industry guests and partnering with West Alley BBQ, Tiki Dan, Matt Pladgeman of 36 Below, and Miguel Mora with Martina’s in Scottsdale for upcoming special events.
Bartending wasn’t the first career choice for Ammon nor Zhorne. Zhorne studied education while Ammon focused on kinesiology.
“I was going to go into the medical field but when I started taking jobs like that, it was hard to work in a field where people weren’t always happy to see me,” says Ammon, who was a chiropractic assistant, looking for a master’s program.
“I was introduced to the cocktail scene around that time period. I realized that people come in to see the bartender and that makes their day, or makes them feel comfortable or accepted. It enables the opposite of how I was feeling. I just dropped everything I was doing and dove in. That was six years ago.”
Zhorne is proud of the energy he’s created at The Ostrich since he and Ammon started in January. This staff is passionate about its job.
“They take real pride in it,” he says. “It shows from the bartender to the bar back to the boss to the host at the door. So you, as a guest, when you come in here, you’re going to instantly feel that energy.
“You’re going to feel welcome, instead of feeling like a burden, which I feel like at some cocktail bars. We never want that feeling. We want to be a neighborhood bar that can make you something wild.”
Soon, The Ostrich will open a Gilbert outpost at Williams Field and Recker roads at the new Crust Simply Italian.
“That one is going to be street level,” Zhorne says. “It’s going to take away a little bit of the speakeasy vibe. It’s going to be a lot more intimate and knowledge driven.
“So, when you come in, you’re going to get the whole experience. We’ll take you to that next level. If you want to come in here and learn about a certain whisky, we got a guy who knows all the whiskies.”
The goal at The Ostrich is to educate guests. Zhorne contends it’s going to be a challenge to replicate the atmosphere, customer service and knowledge of the
Chandler space. But he’s up for it.
“It’s going to be a cool challenge,” he says. “You have to make sure every building is operating at that high standard because we have to make sure we have the right people back there and the right people with the right knowledge.”
Still, Ammon says, guests can order what they like—without judgment.
“We’ll make them a vodka tonic, let’s say, and let them sit there and drink it,” he says. “Then, they can look around and see what’s going on. Cocktail bars are intimidating if you’ve never really gone to them.
“Hopefully, by drink No. 2, they’re a little more open to trying new stuff.”
The staff — which also includes lead bartender Samantha Dengler, bartender
Adam Slaton and server Tyler Yenkala —continually comes up with new offerings.
“We have a constant Rolodex going on in our minds,” Zhorne says.
“The goal was to have a set of really good drinks to complement the dealer’s choice. There are a lot of craft bars out there that do like these super crazy infusions and high-tech equipment, which that kind of stuff is awesome and we love it. But here, because we’re such a high-volume bar, we just want to make sure it’s a great, well thought out drink that I know complements that we’re doing with the restaurants. And, if I can leave a lasting impression, or if I can take you from your 9 to 5 job, and forget all your worries, that’s the best.”