First Look

First Look: Tempe Public Market Cafe 2.0 Brings the Resort Vibe

Lauren Cusimano
Entrance to the remodeled Tempe Public Market Cafe.
Tempe Public Market Café opened on June 10, after a heavy remodel. Yes, it was closed for about five weeks to allow for some interior and exterior updates, including a new lounge area, a small shop, and a splash of color on the walls in the form of murals from local artist Gennaro Garcia.

The biggest part of the revamp is of course the new lounge and dining areas. The 3,400-square-foot space also added a pastry case to the new full-service counter, new menu boards, high-top tables (that replaced a couple of booths), and a vibe that encourages the new community-style seating.

click to enlarge The new interior of Tempe Public Market Cafe. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The new interior of Tempe Public Market Cafe.
Lauren Cusimano
Once seated, especially if you can catch a little bit of sun coming in from the skylight above the counter, the updated Tempe Public Market Café feels like a resort restaurant and bar, like you’re on vacation at a coastal getaway. You feel like you should be smelling chlorine — in a good way. Is there a swim-up? This is because of the new greenery around the main dining area and the color scheme of the chairs and decor.

A fun perk of the new dining area is all the neon communication. One bright-blue neon sign reads "You had me at coffee." Another announces the name of the restaurant in bright pink. Gennaro Garcia artwork is everywhere, which keeps things busy to the eye. Let’s just say if you ever get stuck waiting for the check, you’ll have something to look at in the meantime.

click to enlarge The BLT Salad. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The BLT Salad.
Lauren Cusimano
A big change for diners at the cafe will be the nightly, full-service dinners, plus a weekend brunch.

Some dishes worth mentioning include the BLT Salad — toasted Noble bread topped with applewood-smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, and pine nut gremolata. It's then surrounded by soft chunks of mozzarella and an oily blue cheese sauce. The longer it sits, meaning the more time the Noble bread has to soak up the sauce and oil, the better it tastes. It’s more of a deconstructed sandwich than anything resembling a salad, but it’s good.

The pan-seared salmon also comes recommended. The pink filet is buried beneath a pile of broccolini, garlic, shallots, tomato, kale, and farro, but it’s the coconut vinaigrette that hits your senses first. The sweet coconut smell has your fork digging in before you even know what's happening. You’ll then be focused on getting a good, well-mixed bite of salmon, veggies, and that vinaigrette every time.

Cocktails with locally sourced mix-ins are abundant, as the cafe's reputation would lead you to believe. The popular Lee Trevino and sangria survived the revamp, but some specific-to-Tempe cocktails are worth an order.

Especially Schrute Farm — yes, that Schrute Farm — with mezcal, lime, simple syrup, a celery shrub adornment, and of course, beet juice. It’s a beautiful shade of purple-pink, and the mezcal is present without being too smoky. Someone who doesn’t necessarily care for mezcal would enjoy this Dwight Schrute-themed drink.

click to enlarge The Schrute Farm cocktail. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Schrute Farm cocktail.
Lauren Cusimano
There are also plenty of shopping opportunities, highlighting the market part of Tempe Public Market Café. Local products are everywhere, like Hayden Flour, Chris Bianco’s tomatoes, and Cutino hot sauce. Upon entry, directly to the left, there’s also an expanded area for browsing through the café’s merch. Think hats, shirts, and kitchenware.

This reopening is also in alignment with chef and restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin announcing last week he's stepping away from the Tempe establishments: the Tempe Public Market Café and the neighboring Ghost Ranch. He said he and his former restaurant partner, David Chamberlin, have decided to separately oversee their own restaurants. "This was a hard decision, but the right one!" Aaron Chamberlin said via Instagram.

click to enlarge Local artist Gennaro Garcia has adorned the walls of Tempe Public Market Cafe with murals. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Local artist Gennaro Garcia has adorned the walls of Tempe Public Market Cafe with murals.
Lauren Cusimano
Residents of south Tempe must be relieved to have something like Tempe Public Market Café and the other current restaurants bustling at Rural and Warner roads, i.e. Ghost Ranch and Cotton & Copper.

There are bike racks, seats on the patio, bistro lights, and well-made cocktails. But above all, there's good food (even if it's priced a little on the high end). It seems to be playing to the more lively crowd of the southeast Valley — those who may be sick of traveling to downtown Tempe or Phoenix.

Either way, the new spot is worth checking out even if you're just interested in a drink and a peek at the remodel.

For hours and more information, check out the Tempe Public Market Café website.