Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Come and get it: The Cookhouse Food Hall is open


Last updated 6/27/2019 at 2:16am

Jeff Pack photo

The Cookhouse Food Hall at Vail Headquarters in Temecula is now open for business.

If residents listen really closely, they can still hear the cook at the old Vail Ranch ringing the dinner bell and calling the ranch hands in for supper when they visit The Cookhouse Food Hall in Temecula.

OK, that might be an exaggeration but considering the historic building The Cookhouse occupies and the style and nature of the multi-restaurant establishment, visitors can at least pretend for a moment.

Conceptualized and operated by Arteco Partners, the first-of-its-kind food hall in the Temecula Valley is located in the historic Vail Headquarters and offers four dining options to visitors.

From the left the right, visitors can choose from the vegan-spun traditional Mexican food offerings of Amo Nakatl Asada, a longtime favorite, at the Temecula farmers market; the traditional chicken wing operation, Wingman's Wings, the last to join the lineup; the seafood-centric La Isla Ceviche, also a favorite at farmer's markets all over Southern California; and the Smok'd Hog, arguably the anchor that offers all varieties and styles of barbecue goodness.

I visited the establishment on a whim Friday night, hoping it was fully open to the public and was thrilled to find out it was.

Employee Ariel Concepcion, who greeted me at the door, said all the restaurants were a work in progress, fine-tuning their menus and getting it all together. She told me to order from one or all of the restaurants and pick a seat, choosing from the communal dining tables, tables for four or the picnic tables outside.

Chris McAfee of the Smok'd Hog gave me a rundown of what was happening on their side of the building.

"My partner Chris (Lamantia), he started this full time four years ago in San Diego," McAfee said. "The creative minds behind this property had been traveling, they came to the shop down there and told us they had a space available."

He said at that time, the plan was to make the facility just one restaurant and McAfee and his partner thought that was too much for them at the time. But after Arteco Partners reconceptualized the project, they were "all in." They will also run the Daisy Bar, still under construction next door, when it opens sometime in July.

The Smok'd Hog offers regional barbecue.

"Our brisket is Texas-based, our pulled pork we do kind of like a Carolina vinegar base," Lamantia said. "We have multiple sauces so we can cover those bases too. We do a sweet heat, which I would say, is more like this area with some cilantro in it. We do an Alabama white chicken ... so, we try to do all these different regions and that would be crazy to do anywhere else but here.

"It's what we do here, and we do everything from scratch," Lamantia said

I ordered the Cubano sandwich, and it was one of the best I've ever enjoyed.

Temecula's Lucero Amador of Amo Nakatl Asada told me about how they got involved in The Cookhouse.

"We started at the farmers' markets ... and people started knowing about us and we got really popular," Amador said. "The owner (of the building) came in and liked it so much and asked us if we wanted to be in here. We were more than happy to have this opportunity."

She described her restaurant's vegan take on traditional Mexican cuisine.

"We try to do all the traditional things, but obviously make everything plant-based," Amador said. "It's a better alternative; it's healthier. You can eat a normal portion and feel nice and full."

Kevin Williams is the owner of Wingman's Wings, the last restaurant to sign up.

"We're the best traditional fried wings, definitely an original staple out in Riverside, but now we're home in Temecula," Williams said.

After working in catering, attending farmers' markets and pop up locations for years, he said they had tried to get into another Arteco Partners project, the Food Lab up north, but they were too late.

"They proposed an idea that I come here, and it was the best decision we could have made, it's awesome," Williams said.

He said they make traditional bone-in fried wings.

"It needs to be crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle, it's the original wing from New York; Buffalo, of course," Williams said. "Our take on it is we add original seasonings and original sauces that are all homemade, and we hand-spin them every single time, fresh to order. Never frozen wing, cooked to order."

I ordered the traditional wings with Soulbaby sweet sauce, and it ticked all the boxes.

Jessica Lugo, her stepfather Ruffo and mother Monica Orihuela run La Isla Ceviche, another farmers market favorite that made the leap into the food hall brick-and-mortar space.

"We're so excited," Lugo said. "It's been a year's process and finally we're open, and it's such a relief that we're open."

She said La Isla Ceviche will continue to attend farmers' markets, festivals and cater special events while operating inside The Cookhouse.

"We do everything Mexican seafood," Lugo said of the menu. "Everything was made fresh this morning. We use wild and local caught fish, halibut and sea bass. Our recipes were all passed down, from all my grandma's and her father's recipes.

"When you eat here, it just really makes you feel like you're at home at our house," Lugo said.

The smoked bluefin tacos I ordered were awesome and flavorful.

There is plenty of communal seating inside the food hall and a few four-seat tables available. Outside there's seating for another 30 to 40 people at picnic tables.

Inside the food hall, visitors can do some shopping at the Super Mix Mercantile.

The Cookhouse Food Hall at Vail Headquarters is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, but the hours may change once the bar opens and everybody gets settled.

Vail Headquarters is located at 32115 Temecula Parkway in Temecula. For more information, visit

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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