Vincent Guerithault on Camelback, a wonderful restaurant, abuts a gas station on one side and a 7-Eleven on the other. Its parking lot is narrow, and the street that fronts it is noisy. Because the food inside is so good, its proprietor, Vincent Guerithault, could safely ignore his surroundings. Instead, he has embraced them, and, in the process, given new meaning to the phrase "delicious irony."
Consider the drum of olive oil that appears in the restaurant parking lot every Saturday morning, in roughly the same place as the valet parking sign that replaces it at night. Guerithault is the first to draw the comparison: "People fill up there, like they do at the gas station next door," he says. In fact, there is plenty to fill up on at this weekly farmer's market, from wine and obscure, blue-veined cheese to barbecue (very good barbecue, of course). Some of it is sold by independent vendors; some of it is made in-house.
"Since we are in a parking lot," Guerithault explains, "we have to be creative about what kinds of things we make. We try to have things that are fun to sit down and eat in, well, a parking lot."
Among the best-selling items at the market are its made-to-order crepes, which are a pleasure to eat in a parking lot and, like green eggs and ham, almost anywhere else. They are huge and perfect and filled with any number of delectables, savory or sweet; some come drizzled with Grand Marnier. But part of their appeal is in the performance that attends their creation, of which Guerithault himself is usually the star.
While customers stand by, watching their brunch take shape on his glorified griddle, Guerithault engages them in pleasant conversation. When the time comes to flip the crepe, now the size of an extra-large pizza, he invariably jokes: "So many of these ended up on the floor that now we only do them outside." This is hard to believe, because Guerithault flips them masterfully.
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As with many things in the Valley, Vincent's market evaporates with the advent of hot weather, and if you want to enjoy crepes like this in June, you must move to more opulent surroundings, probably out of state. Thus only a handful of opportunities remain to savor crepes, or duck tamales, or Guerithault's signature soufflés, in a Phoenix parking lot, something you can talk about to your friends back East.
There is one consolation, though, and that is the coming fall, when the market returns.
"Every time we go to France, we come back with new ideas," Guerithault says. "This year, we bought a crepe machine. Next year, who knows? We still have lots of room in the parking lot."
Located at the restaurant, 3930 East Camelback, the Vincent Guerithault market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, through April 28.