Cafe Reviews


Middle East Shift: One of my favorite mom-and-pop eating and grocery spots, Yusef's, at 15238 North Cave Creek Road in Phoenix, has changed hands. The former proprietor, sensing the possibility of peace and prosperity, is thinking of returning to his native Jordan. Let's hope the new owners keep up the quality of the cooking and maintain the wonderful variety of grocery offerings, as well as the friendly, neighborhood feel. Dumb and Dumber: H.L. Mencken wrote that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But I bet even he would be rubbing his eyes at the latest display of our national ignorance. According to Restaurant News, an industry trade paper, many Americans do not understand that one-third--as in a one-third-pound burger--is larger than one-fourth. It seems that the operators of several burger chains that offer one-third-pound patties have had a hard time dealing with customers who believe a quarter-pounder offers more meat.

Store managers tell their tales of woe, how they must patiently explain fourth-grade mathematics to confused consumers. Yes, "four" is a bigger number than "three," they gently inform the imbeciles, but when it comes to fractions, one-third is greater than one-fourth.

One beneficiary of our numerical illiteracy, the paper speculates, may have been Rally's burger chain. Back in 1991, faced with declining revenues, it changed the size of its signature burger from a quarter of a pound to one-fifth of a pound. Although some called the move suicidal, it seemed to work. And one of the reasons it did, apparently, was because consumers thought the burger had been beefed up.

Of course, for those of us able to handle numbers, the advantages are obvious. My first move: Stand outside burger joints and get customers to exchange two dimes for a quarter.

Stool Pigeon: I'm not much of an after-hours drinker. But there's one place in town that threatens to turn me into one. It's Mary Elaine's Lounge at the Phoenician. What a staggering assortment of spirits, wines and liqueurs!

Is there anyplace else in town where you can order a glass of Beaumes-de-Venise, a luscious French dessert wine? The bar also stocks sherries from Emilio Lustau, a hard-to-find brand and perhaps Spain's top producer. If you enjoy calvados, the famed apple brandy from Normandy, the tuxedoed servers will pour some from Päre Magloire for seven bucks. Even the glass of water comes with a flourish--right out of an Evian bottle. Throw in superb entertainment--we heard the Nancy Gee Duo--and a magical view of the Valley, and you've got the ingredients for late-night fun that Letterman and Leno can't match.

Darkness at Noon: Just because your favorite restaurant serves great food at dinnertime, don't take it for granted that its lunches will be just as tempting. I got a call from a friend who wanted some restaurant recommendations. I gave her my choice, and a run-down of the best offerings. But she had neglected to tell me that she was going out for lunch, not dinner. When she arrived, she discovered that instead of the mouth-watering Southwestern dishes I described, the lunch menu featured burgers and sandwiches.

It's worth keeping in mind that the quality and inventiveness that attract you to a restaurant's dinner menu may not be duplicated at lunch.-

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Howard Seftel