Google and Facebook disrupted cubicle culture by designing whimsical office spaces meant to nurture and inspire employees. Schmooze Bar and Breakfast, a cafe and garden oasis located on Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale, aims to spark a similar kind of collaboration and innovation through its eclectic indoor and outdoor spaces — and its food.
“To me, Schmooze and what we created here is like a Swiss Army knife,” says chef and co-owner Tony Hamati. “You can come in and work, but also you can come in and relax and enjoy the beauty of the gardens. A lot of the new generation, they don’t like to sit at home or at the office. [Schmooze] really gives them the opportunity to expand and network with each other.”
On any given day at Schmooze, you can find open laptops, coffee mugs, and bloody marys on the patio. Developers, entrepreneurs, and creative minds share the space with shoppers taking a break and quiet types leaning back with a book or a crossword puzzle.
Hamati's menu includes items like the Farmer — avocado toast topped with cucumber slices, feta, and red pepper flakes — and, for those who need something more substantial, the Hot Italian (sopressata and salami wedged between two slices of focaccia bread with pickles, provolone, and a pepper spread). He keeps a close eye on all the ingredients, flying in par-baked croissants from Paris and sourcing meats and cheeses from Vesuviana, Italy.
“To me, cooking is not about the recipe,” Hamati says. “It's all about the ingredients and the technique you use. We try to keep it nice and clean. I want you to be able to taste the bread, taste the imported meat and cheese. I think that will make us very unique from other restaurants in the Valley.”
Inside the Schmooze cafe, patron Jeremy Montoya says he’s working on helping people transition from day jobs to online careers. His workday started with a cup of coffee.
“This actually motivated me to get out of bed,” Montoya says. “They have nitro coffee here, and a lot of other shops don't have it.”
Montoya says he keeps coming back to Schmooze because of the environment.
“It's filled with other people who are, from my perspective, fulfilling their purpose or trying to figure out what that is,” he says. “You have real estate agents here who are crushing it, and we have a ton of other people who are here building their businesses. It’s important to be surrounded with other people who are moving and shaking in whatever way they're doing it.”
Schmooze opened in 2018. It is the brainchild of Launch Real Estate founder and CEO John Vatistas. According to his partners, Vatistas wanted to create a co-working space that he would enjoy going to every day. (His real estate office shares space with the cafe.) Jennifer Burgess says she has been working and eating at Schmooze since last May, when she joined Launch as an agent.
“I like to be around people who like to socialize,” Burgess says. “I like to be part of the buzz. And they have good food.”
Another business-friendly perk: The cafe offers custom drinks for businesses who reserve conference rooms at Schmooze. (Imagine sipping a latte with your company's logo etched into the foam with a 3-D printer.) Co-owner Steve Simonelli says this is part of designing a space where food and drinks sit at the intersection of community and inspiration.
“There were times when you drop the spoon in the kitchen and you felt that you disturbed everyone in here, and that's when we sort of decided we need to increase the energy a little bit and turn up the music,” Simonelli says. “This is obviously a remote workers’ paradise. It's also a place for some who are just looking for a great breakfast.”
And sometimes, you just need a glass of wine to get the creative juices flowing. Schmooze recently opened a new bar along with a fresh drink menu featuring 28 taps — covering craft beer to homemade “craft-keg” cocktails.
“Definitely having the bar here is bringing in new energy to the space,” Simonelli says. “I think [having the cocktail component] allows us to bridge the gap from morning, afternoon, to evening. Drinking is still a very social interaction.”
Bar patrons may choose a classic cocktail, like a Manhattan or old fashioned, both of which are served from a tap. Schmooze bartenders still pay attention to the key garnishes and flourishes that make drinks special, like a single, large ice cube that anchors an old fashioned. There are also more modern mixed drinks on tap, like the skinny organic margarita and a Pomegranate Mezcal made with agave de cortes.
Schmooze drinkers can find ultimate Instagram backdrops for their cocktails on bar tops made by Leila Parnian. The artist used a “pour art” technique that involves mixing black-light friendly paint and chemicals and then pouring the mixture without the help of paint brushes.
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“I can pick the colors, I can pick the thickness to a point, but it’s not like a painting with a brush,” Parnian says. “I don't have control, which is really cool because it's really nice to be able to let go of control.”
Last week, the bar unveiled new night hours with “Schmooze After Dark,” which showcases guest DJs and evening specials.
Chef Tony Hamati says he wants to introduce new food and drink pairing menus. He is also thinking about holding cooking classes at Schmooze.
It appears, then, that this hidden gem in Old Town Scottsdale will continue to grow, change, and respond to the needs of the community. For now, just bring a laptop and a can-do attitude.