Chef Aaron Chamberlin has come home to the East Valley – and has a seat for you at the table.
His Tempe Public Market Cafe opened Jan. 12 at 8749 S. Rural Road, on the northeast corner of Warner Road in Tempe.
The East Valley location is the second Valley Public Market Café for Chamberlin and his brother, David, who also opened the Phoenix Public Market Cafe downtown in 2012 and, three years earlier, St. Francis in midtown Phoenix.
“I’m so excited to bring this restaurant to the Southeast Valley, where I grew up,” said Chef Aaron Chamberlin, who graduated from Mesa High in 1991.
Repurposing a long-standing Circle K, the new restaurant combines a casual eatery, retailer and outdoor urban oasis, serving health-focused breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The clean-lined new location was designed by Christoph Kaiser of Kaiserworks in Phoenix.
The communal patio provides inviting flexible space for morning coffee and evening tete-a-tetes, with fire pits, fountains and seating options. And, guests can shop for items from local artisans in the cafe’s retail section. Wines, beers and craft cocktails are also available.
Tempe resident Amanda Deuchar is the executive chef, and most of the staff of approximately 45 are also East Valley residents. Many of the waiters are students from nearby Corona del Sol High School.
For breakfast, guests may try fresh-baked pastries and classic and contemporary breakfast dishes, among them the quinoa bowl, with poached eggs, market vegetables and pesto.
An assortment of sandwiches, burgers and leafy greens offer a broad lunch menu. These include the AB&J – an “adult” PB&J with almond butter, sliced apples and jelly on nine-grain bread – the superfood salad, with kale, quinoa, broccoli, avocado and other elements served with a raw apple cider vinaigrette.
Entrées for dinner include pork chile verde pot pie and brick pressed chicken.
While Tempe Public Market Café offers a similar menu to that in Phoenix, a number of unique items will appear.
These include a variety of pizzas, available daily from 11 a.m. to close, including The Garden, with tomato, spaghetti squash, roasted peppers, onions, avocado and lemon; and The Rancher, with Schreiner’s sausage, pepperoni, cheese and house-made tomato sauce.
“Four of the five pizzas will be regulars, and we’ll switch around the fifth based on different seasonal or interesting weekly ingredients we find,” Chamberlin said.
The Tempe location is designed to be particularly family friendly. In contrast, the clientele of the downtown Phoenix original tends to be younger foodies, groups of friends and ASU students.
The setup of the Tempe location also favors private parties, and the new restaurant will offer Presta Coffee, based in Tucson.
“We’re super-excited about partnering with them and selling their products in our shop,” Chamberlin said. “And we’re looking forward to working with individuals and groups to help the East Valley community.”
Chamberlin has wanted to be in the culinary business since he was a child, inspired to become a chef when he saw a photo of his grandfather in chef’s white. That photo hangs in the St. Francis.
Born in Truckee, California, he moved with his family to the Valley as a boy. “My dad was a builder and wanted a great place for business and for raising our family, so he chose the East Valley,” he said.
Just out of Mesa High, he went to work for a series of mom-and-pop cafes, then an Italian restaurant in Scottsdale.
“I knew I wanted to do this, so my plan was to find the best restaurants in the best locations for food at the time, so I moved to San Francisco,” he explained. So, for three years, he worked at two well-known locations, Rubicon and Bistro Michel Michaud, both now closed.
Next was New York City, where he worked alongside Jean-Georges Vongerichten at his Bong. That celebrity chef leads the J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician in Phoenix. After two years, Chef Chamberlin went to Boston, learning at the Ritz-Carlton, then back to San Francisco at its Ritz-Carlton.
“But I was tired of living like a gypsy, and I wanted to bring my skills and experience back home, so my next stop was the Valley,” he recalled. He worked for a few years at restaurants such as La Grande Orange and Chelsea’s Kitchen, now part of LGO Hospitality, Phoenix.
“With that background, I was ready to open the St. Francis in 2009 with my brother,” he said. Different from the two Public Market Café locations, St. Francis, in a repurposed 1950s architectural office, is a full-service sit-down dinner venue that also serves a farm-to-table weekend brunch.
The two Public Market Café locations are more casual; guests order at a window and the waitstaff brings the food to their tables, inside or out.
Guests who visit Tempe Public Market Café through Friday, Jan. 19 will receive a free cookie or cup of coffee with the purchase of any entree.
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell expects to be among those first-week guests: “I can’t wait,” he said, “to add Tempe Public Market Café to my restaurant rotation.”