By Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Photo: Jacques Barbey
Aaron Chamberlin is just a modern-day Boy Scout. Or so he says.
He grows 12 varieties of heirloom melons in his backyard garden and picks berries along the Mogollon Rim. He cooks culinary masterpieces over an open fire when he’s camping, renovated a cabin in Pinedale and harvests prickly pear fruit from the Four Peaks for juice.
Although most Boy Scouts wouldn’t turn the juice into a limited-edition cocktail, Chamberlin did, and that’s part of the reason his duo of Phoenix restaurants is such a success.
Chamberlin’s most recent venture, Phoenix Public Market Café, plays younger sibling to the already well-established St. Francis. Its mix of “food you’d eat at home — but at the next level,” coffee bar, full-service bar and market is turning the intersection of Central Avenue and Pierce Street into the downtown-Phoenix neighborhood hangout Chamberlin always envisioned.
“This is just a very basic place for people to go to eat,” he says. “And then, 90 percent of the things we feature in the market come from local farmers. That’s what people are looking for. I wanted a place that had good, affordable food and appealed to multiple types of people.”
Since it opened in May 2013, the café has picked up steam, thanks in large part to the community farmers market that takes place in its parking lot each Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. But even when the market’s food trucks, farmers and free samples are off-property, Chamberlin says, the café sees an average of 450 customers a day.
Earth mamas come for menu items such as the chickpea pancake, which is served with olive oil, bananas, Arizona pecans and agave syrup. Businessmen and students from nearby Arizona State University clamor for the house-baked pork-chile-verde pot pie, and early risers embrace the Flanched Flarney Garney, a hefty scrambled-egg sandwich topped with avocado, bacon, mayo and gooey cheddar. It’s served on the same fluffy buns that contain the green-chile-layered AZ Burger.
And although Chamberlin believes a more health-conscious, veggie-based diet is the wave of the future — he also serves a slew of salads and encourages people to “eat the rainbow” of vegetables from the market — the AZ Burger is the café’s most popular offering.
Whether it’s the availability of breakfast for lunch (it’s served from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily), the easy allure of its bar menu or the rustic-hipster touches that appear all over the space — a grouping of eight vintage Phoenix photographs, an old wooden cart chock-full of flowers from Maya’s Farm, brick walls and wood beams — the café begs to be revisited. Much to the delight of the modern-day Scout.
Phoenix Public Market Café is located at 14 E. Pierce Street in Phoenix. For more information, call 602-253-2700 or visit www.phxpublicmarket.com.