When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Fàme Caffe
Location: 4700 N. Central Ave.
Open: More than two months
Eats: Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch
Phoenicians have watched a lot of businesses come and go on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Highland. Coffee shops have inhabited the beautiful location for months — sometimes years — but then faded before locals noticed what they'd lost. Fortunately, the latest resident, Fàme Caffe, is already demonstrating staying power with fresh, simple, and savory breakfast and lunch menus.
Fàme's mission, which is handwritten above the door to the kitchen, seems simple enough: "At Fàme Caffe, Everything Is Made In-House, Each Day, From Scratch." And with vendors such as Crow's Dairy, Maya's Farm, McClendon's Select, and Arizona Grown, the restaurant's frequently changing menu is full of fresh ingredients that translate into enjoyable farm-to-table dishes. In some cases, the ingredients are so fresh that we didn't mind when the execution of the plate was flawed.
The interior of Fàme Caffe is bright and open, with abundant seating inside and out. The windows that run along Central Avenue have a great view of St. Francis Xavier Church and Brophy Prep. Despite counter-service restaurants often having long, clustered lines that can make seated guests feel claustrophobic, Fàme has plenty of space for patrons to order and dine without knocking into one another — except during Saturday or Sunday brunch, when things can still get a little crowded.
We sampled items from various sections of the menu, starting with the Fàme French Toast ($9). Four thick slices of Noble bread, two strips of bacon, and a jar of fresh fruit made the dish hefty for a single diner, but this was by far one of the best dishes that we tried. The toast struck the right balance between crisp and soft, and hints of cinnamon and vanilla didn't overpower the goodness of the Noble Bread.
The breakfast sandwich ($8.95) with two scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon (or Spanish chorizo) was so fresh off the griddle that we didn't care in the least that it was on the smaller side and became messy halfway through. We highly recommend adding avocado, which the upbeat and friendly servers are only too happy to do.
We were skeptical of the latte ($3.50 for a small) we ordered. It arrived with unappealing latte art on it, but we were pleasantly surprised with the flavor. Fàme buys its beans from Passport Roastery in Scottsdale, and the barista on duty did good work pulling a well-balanced shot of espresso. The milk was nicely textured, and our only complaint was a slightly excessive amount of foam, which rendered the latte more akin to a large cappuccino. Fàme may be a brunch spot first and foremost, but good coffee has also returned to this Highland location. Even the cup of drip coffee we took to go was several steps above the average cup of restaurant java.
We were also reasonably pleased with the Breakfast Wrap ($9), made with two scrambled eggs, cheddar, roasted potatoes, and Mexican chorizo. The combination of the egg, cheese, and chorizo was well balanced and flavorful, and the grilled flour tortilla stayed together beautifully as we ate through the wrap, but we were left wanting a bit more spice even after adding a side of salsa verde. Additionally, though potatoes would generally be the perfect addition to this style of breakfast wrap, we found these spuds to be overcooked and mushy.
We washed down the wrap with one of Fàme's fresh juice options. The Easy Going ($6.95) is made with cucumber, ginger, apple, and lemon juices and finished with orange-blossom honey. It might have been the only real miss during our meal. The juice was warm, gritty, and topped with a thick layer of unappetizing foam. We didn't even get through half of it.
On another visit to Fàme, this time for lunch, we grabbed Maya's Salad ($9) with a side of French fries. The lineup of kale, beets, rainbow carrots, radishes, shaved Parmesan, and a lemon-honey vinaigrette sounded good in theory, but we found the reality to be lackluster. The veggies, including the kale, were cut in unattractive large shapes, and the shaved Parmesan came in thick slabs. To our disappointment, what could have been a fresh, healthy salad was also covered in far too much vinaigrette, rendering the salad a bitter, messy heap.
We also found the French fries to be hit-and-miss. The first time we ordered them, they were delicious, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, golden brown classics. However, on another visit, they were undercooked in the middle. Hopefully, Fàme's fry cook will be able to dial in on the consistency with a bit more practice.
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Though we didn't get a chance to try them, Fàme Caffe also offers fresh pastries baked in house. The pastry options include items such as double chocolate muffins ($3.50), espresso oatmeal cookies ($2.75), and cinnamon swirl loaf ($3).
Overall, we like that Fàme Caffe offers healthy food options, along with some less-healthy dishes that manage (for the most part) to be really delicious. The "made from scratch" aspect is fantastic, although we can imagine that ticket times could get long on a busy Sunday morning. Even still, Fàme is a great alternative to the predictable brunches other restaurants along the Central corridor, and with any luck it will be around much longer than its predecessors.