It's a popular taco shop now, but the low-slung brick-and-glass building on North Central Avenue, built in 1973, originally was a Humpty Dumpty Coffee Shop, a favorite breakfast hangout for downtown fans of the pancake. This smallish cafe was hard to miss, thanks to the giant plaster egg sitting outside, smirking (because, of course, Humpty had a face) at passersby. He wore striped pants, shirt sleeves, and a big, puffy chef's hat. In his right hand, he clutched a butter knife; in his left, a fork. (What exactly does an egg eat?)
When Humpty Dumpty closed up shop in the '80s, the breakfast crowd disbursed to various Denny's and Coco's for their bacon-and-eggs fix. But what became of the giant egg that had stood sentry at this Phoenix cafe's door for decades?
It was rumored that he was doing duty as public art on downtown Mesa's Main Street, but that anthropomorphized egg turned out to be a solid brass sculpture created by Minneapolis artist Kimber Fiebiger. In truth, Humpty went to work smiling at traffic from the roof of a hardware store in faraway Lakeside, Arizona. There, he was seen for many years atop Hawkeye Feed and Supply. Divested of his fork and knife, Humpty now wore a giant Stetson.
In 2012, Hawkeye closed, too, and Humpty went back into hiding. Stories have been circulating about how he's taken up residence in the backyard of a west-side Midcentury Modernist, where he sits laughing from atop a swimming pool slide. Other buzz has our favorite plaster egghead dismembered and stored in the warehouse behind the old Circles Records and Tapes store.
Craig DeMarco, founding partner of Upward Projects, the company responsible for local favorite eateries such as Postino, Windsor, and Federal Pizza, wants to know where Humpty went. DeMarco now owns Humpty's former home, which he transformed into Joyride Taco House.
"I've heard that he's sitting in someone's backyard in the Medlock neighborhood," DeMarco says. "I'm afraid to go walking through alleys peeking into people's backyards, though. People in the suburbs sometimes own guns."
Instead of nosing around in person, DeMarco says, he's used Google Earth's aerial maps to systematically determine Humpty's whereabouts. "I haven't found him," he confides seriously. "Yet."
Meanwhile, neither the king's horses nor the king's men have weighed in on Humpty's whereabouts.