Cafe Carumba! in Old Town Scottsdale serves seriously tasty comfort foods, from hearty breakfast fare to Southwest specialties like Chicken Oaxaca and Habenero Braised Ribs. But while you're downing that Mercado Chicken Chili, don't look up -- because while the eats are stellar, the decor suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. Seriously, this messed-up mismash of interior design can't possibly have been birthed by one person, unless maybe that one person was Roseanne Barr.
Style: Eclectic Modern Southwest
The bar is colorful and quirky, with eclectic star chandeliers and large-scale artwork for sale. In Juan Ezcardia's Woman and Lizard, two angular, Southwestern cave-painting-style figures (one a lizard, natch) hold hands and sip drinks. Not exactly the piece I'd want hanging over my fireplace. Even the bartender said it was weird, so it's no surprise that the piece has been hanging there since my first visit years ago. Could be no one wants to pay $1795 for a painting of a lizard drinking orange juice. Go figure.
Style: Mexican Kitsch
The central dining hall sports a wall of glass overlooking the patio, and absolutely zero art. Awful faux painted walls? Check. Cabana-style mural and awning? Sí. Hand-painted signs marking "los baños?" Ooh... could be we're in Mexico now! Or maybe we just walked into Food City.
At least there's "art" in the baños, even if it's laughable (literally!):
Style: Grungy Roadside Diner
Walk through the massive wooden double doors of the semi-private room at the back of the restaurant and you're suddenly in a greasy spoon. One wall sports a collection of nostalgic road signs, including smarmy ones for Dick's Sausages and Lucky's Bar, flanked by a wall of tacky Western stars and antique wagon photos. Yee-haw, we're in Old Town Scottsdale, ya'll.
The crappy diner decor is rudely interrupted by some real, actual art by local artist El Rey. His graphic spray paint prints are out of place here, although at least one sported a cowboy. The cool flourescent Space Chimp, however, might be more at home in a funky urban gallery (or hell, at NASA) than in this room.
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Cafe Carumba! serves a mean Sunday brunch, and the quiet diner room is definitely the place to enjoy it. The mascarpone-stuffed french toast is thick and rich and they've got a mean corned beef hash, with juicy, tender slices of shredded meat and hearty sides of eggs and toast. The hash is a bit salty, so you might want to save any extra spices for the eggs, which come like a blank canvas ready for you to put your mark on. If only the walls were the same way...