Budget Beat: Terrace Café

By Jay Bennett

I usually don't have much reason to enter Old Town Scottsdale — it oftens seems kind of a like a foreign land to me — but perhaps I have a reason now since checking out a fun little place called Terrace Café, which sits on the corner of Third Avenue and Marshall Way and shares space with a salon/boutique. I was steered toward Terrace by an acquaintance who said the small bistro is in the midst of reinventing itself.

I was a little wary of just how Budget Beat-appropriate Terrace Café was going to be, considering its address. But I'm pleased to report that the menu — consisting mostly of salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and soups — was quite affordable, with most sandwiches being $7.50 or $8 and the salads being $10 for a large order and $7 for a half order.

This is the kind of place where you order at a counter, grab your beverage from an open cooler, and grab a seat at one of the handful of tables inside or outside on the patio, which is where we sat on a recent cool evening. For me, the patio — with its high-top bistro tables attached to the wrought-iron fence along the sidewalk on Marshall Way — is a big selling point. With trees and strings of lights overhead, it was a comfortable and inviting spot to munch on food and enjoy some prime people-watching.

Chef Anthony Armstrong: Makes a mean pumpkin soup.

We chatted with new executive chef Anthony Armstrong and manager Blair Hoffheins, who were excited about amping up the menu and boosting the profile of Terrace Café. Armstrong, who's worked at numerous Valley country clubs and Scottsdale restaurants such as Roka Akor, was quick to point out the soup specials that he makes everyday.

On our visit, we sampled his pumpkin soup, and, indeed, it was delicious. It didn't have a pumpkin pie flavor, which I expected. It was almost more of squash taste, but sweet. Very good. And, to boot, the soup comes served in a small, hollowed out pumpkin. Great idea.

We were disappointed that they'd sold out of a few menu items that appealed to us (hummus, roasted veggie sandwich), but apparently they'd had a big lunch rush that day. There any other diners there on the night we visited, but Hofheinz explained that a lot of people come in to order a takeout dinner.

I ordered a turkey pesto pressed sandwich. It was kind of a like a panino, filled with fresh pesto, big chunks of avocado (always a good thing), and Swiss and Muenster cheeses. It was a really good sandwich and would've been even better with higher-quality turkey. This was that processed lunch-meat kind you might find at the Safeway deli counter. Still, it was good sammie. And it came with a tasty little salad of mixed greens, strawberries, and a light but flavorful balsamic dressing.

Pressed sandwich: Lotsa advocado!

After striking out on the roasted veggie sandwich, the missus ordered a pizza off the specials board. Topped with goat cheese, basil, and roasted red pepper, this 10-inch pizza was excellent. She really liked the cracker-thin crust and big dollops of goat cheese. The sauce seemed food service-y to me, but everything else about the pizza made up for that shortcoming. Even at 10 inches, it was such a thin and light pizza that wasn't too big for one person.

Pizza: Dig the thin crust. (Photos by Laura Hahnefeld)

With the beautiful weather nigh, it's time to enjoy al fresco dining. The problem is that so many places around here with outdoor dining have their patio next to a busy road or overlooking some lame parking lot. It's nice knowing that Terrace Café is a viable option for outdoor dining that isn't hampered by such drawbacks. And given that chef Armstrong promises an updated and improved menu, Terrace Café may wind up to be a regular stop for me this fall.

I'd love to hear what you think of Terrace Café and I'm always interested in hearing your suggestions on where to eat on the cheap. Please e-mail me jay.bennett@newtimes.com.

Terrace Café at Third Avenue and Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale 480-603-1011

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