Chow Bella

Aaron Chamberlin's Phoenix Public Market Cafe Opens Wednesday

It's been almost exactly a year since Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery closed its doors, leaving downtown devotees feeling bereft without a locally focused brick-and-mortar market and a convenient, affordable go-to for a nosh and a glass of wine.

See also: -- Downtown Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery & Wine Bar to Close May 12: Wednesday/Saturday Market and Food Truck Friday Will Continue -- Aaron Chamberlin Will Open Farm-Focused Cafe in Urban Grocery Space

But all that's about to change. In an informal ceremony this coming Wednesday night, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will light the new Phoenix Public Market sign on Central Avenue, and chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin will unveil the Phoenix Public Market Cafe (14 East Pierce Street) at a launch party that's open to the public. Through the cafe, Chamberlin hopes to make a casual community hub for downtown dwellers and the folks who work there. Here's what we can expect:

As reported earlier, the menu's focus will be locally sourced farm-to-table food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) offered at reasonable prices ($10 or under for breakfast and lunch, $15 and under for dinner). Menu items -- many ingredients sourced from the farmer's market next door -- will include steel-cut oats risotto, an AB&J (ground-to-order almond butter, sliced apple and orange marmalade on nine-grain toast), daily soups, specialty pot pies (including a green chile version that will echo the pork chile verde at St. Francis), ground-to-order burgers and three different freshly juiced drinks (one of them green, one fruit-based) every single day. A wood-burning rotisserie will turn out chicken, prime rib and porchetta, many of the meats making their way into simple sandwiches. Down the line, a cool condiment bar will hold everything from pickles to Sriracha so customers can fix up their food just the way they do at home. Chamberlin has hired Chef Paul Steele to execute the menu.

Customers can feel good about bringing their kids for two reasons: 1) Chamberlin's food is healthy and 2) proceeds from each $3 kid's meal will supply two kid's meals for the weekend Backpack Program sponsored by St. Mary's Food Bank.

Created by the team responsible for St. Francis (Chamberlin, his brother David and Amy Del Real), the Cafe will also have retail shelves stocked with 90 percent local products, including Black Mesa goat cheese fudge, Chris Bianco's canned tomatoes, Bob McClendon's honey, Hayden Flour Mill flour, olive oils, vinegars, aprons and cookbooks (including those with local authors). There will also be a grab-and-go case stocked with salads, veggie dishes and beverages, baskets filled with seasonal produce (say, garlic or fresh peaches) and a pastry case displaying everything from muffins and scones to cookies and pies (courtesy of St. Francis pastry chef Kristen Cline).

A long bar to the right of the entrance will feature coffee as well as affordable wines and cocktails offered by the glass or the carafe. Behind it, a huge roll-up window allows for an indoor outdoor bar and beyond it, a fireplace-furnished, desert-landscaped patio with a few comfy couches and chairs as well as long community tables. Planters at the cafe's entrance will contain a fresh herb garden for the kitchen's use.

Although the place was days away from being finished the night of my visit, it was easy to see that the bare bones -- as well as design elements furnished by Eric Mei and Blake Britton of Thousand Designs -- are awesome. Mei and Britton have cleverly re-purposed lots of things, including old wood for market shelves and metal stove burners for wall decor.

Customers can create their own bouquets from a flower cart, stop in for a quick meal (the concept is completely fast-casual), relax over an alcoholic beverage after work or catch up on work any time, using the cafe's free wifi.

Chamberlin, who says getting a glass of ice water in this town is "like pulling teeth," has invested in an $8,000 water station which will offer both sparkling and still water and lots of ice.

He says, "I built this because it's the kind of place I want to come to -- a casual, community gathering place drawing all sorts of people."

Assuming Chamberlin gets his Certificate of Occupancy in time, Phoenix Public Market Cafe's doors will open at 3 p.m this coming Wednesday. where food samples will be passed. The following day, regular hours -- 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day -- will begin.

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Nikki Buchanan