When guests order a shot at A Touch of European Cafe, they're not expecting liquor. Instead, chef Waldemar Okula ladles shots of soup so that patrons can sample his homemade recipes—such as chilled pear and cranberry, potato-bacon chowder, and beef goulash—before ordering. Since 1993, Okula has served up his signature Poland-inspired fare. He piles kielbasa and mashed potatoes and sauteed pierogies onto platters, saving blintzes and angel wings for dessert. Fans of Chef Okula's cuisine can learn how to make it on their own as well. Once a month, A Touch of European Cafe leads gourmet cooking classes wherein students learn to prepare ethnic foods or how to wrap holiday gifts in a pierogi shell.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the old-school tunes that reverberate from Haus Murphy’s are live. Accordion and tuba players shuffle through the eatery, leading German drinking cheers and playing classic “umm-pah-pah” songs. The jovial atmosphere might influence guests to hang out for a while, which is no problem for owner Brett Hoffman; in fact, that’s exactly what he wants them to do. “It’s social food. In Germany you sit for hours and eat and talk and enjoy,” he told Guy Fieri on an episode of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” On that same episode, Fieri lauded the Haus-specialty Sauerbraten. “That is great. Not too tender, not too tough,” he said as he dug into the sweet-and-sour beef, which marinates for up to five days. The menu also includes Haus Murphy’s ever-popular schnitzel, prepared six ways. The chicken version is sautéed and slathered in white-wine mushroom sauce, while the wiener schnitzel is prepared in the traditional style, featuring a breaded veal cutlet accessorized with a lemon wedge and a tiny pair of lederhosen. Of course, everything the kitchen whips up pairs perfectly with a chilly German beer, and the bar keeps nine brews on tap, including a light-bodied Stiegel pilsner and the Spaten Optimator, a malty beer with molasses undertones.
A Shot of Java swiftly grinds, pours, and mixes myriad organic fair-trade coffee drinks designed for palates of all personalities. The café's menu is stocked with flavor-infused coffee drinks, specialty teas, and locally sourced eats and treats. Energize a morning commute with a 16-ounce cup of individually dripped coffee ($1.95), available in a mug or an outstretched cupped hand. A 20-ounce black-and-white mocha tantalizes taste buds with the savory aesthetic of edible, zebra-patterned cream ($4.95), and a range of 16-ounce chai teas ($3.85) present a worthy substitute for bean-excreted refreshments. Recent grads and veteran grandpas can study abroad by sampling a five-ounce cup of Turkish coffee ($2.75) or Vietnamese coffee ($4.50) served iced with condensed milk.
La Piazza Al Forno is serious about its brick-oven pizzas. So serious, in fact, that the pizzas' authenticity is certified by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association in Naples. The flatbread pies bake inside an oven that was built brick by brick according to the Neapolitan tradition. Topped with such ingredients as fresh basil, prosciutto, and caramelized onions, the pizzas are cooked using the same methods that would have been used in Pompeii 2,000 years ago. And word about the pies has spread—Guy Fieri featured the pizzeria on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2008.
Along with pizza, the restaurant serves a variety of pasta dishes and Italian entrees such as chicken marsala or shrimp, clams, and mussels in a red spicy sauce. All entrees arrive accompanied by housemade bread. The large brick oven—accented with black and white tiles—is unsurprisingly the main focal point in La Piazza Al Forno's dining room. Patrons can even sit at the brick-topped bar and watch the pizza-making process up close. Alternatively, visitors can dine semi-al-fresco on the enclosed, air-conditioned patio.
For more than two decades, The Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater has kept diners guessing with ghoulishly goofy whodunits. The rotating repertoire includes Murder at Greystone Manor, which takes place on the set of Golden Age Hollywood director C.D. Weasel's latest production. Before filming can begin in earnest, starlet Clara Simpleton comes down with a bad case of cold feet and cold everything else. Femme fatale and back-up actress Jewel Precious seems the obvious suspect, but the stunningly punny characters know well how to hide their motivations behind a flurry of gags and one-liners. Murder at Bedside Manor takes place in a shockingly OSHA-noncompliant hospital staffed by such consummate professionals as Barb Bituate, Old Doctor Young, Young Doctor Young, and Nurse Scratchit. "Lame jokes, puns, goofy costumes, and thin plots are the stock in trade at the Mystery Mansion," noted Barbara Yost of the Arizona Republic, adding, "Patrons can't get enough.