As successful as he is today, it might be surprising to learn that restaurateur Alain Keller used to be a starving artist. The Swiss transplant struggled to get an acting career started in Paris, so he began to supplement his paltry income with serving jobs at iconic establishments such as Maxim’s and Laurent. He eventually came to New York to study musical theater, and found moderate success by landing roles in Cabaret and La Cage aux Folles. He continued to harbor a love for the restaurant industry, however, and partnered with his friend Anthony Ferré to open Le Chalet. According to the Phoenix New Times, Ferré started cooking as a teenager, and after his formal culinary education in Paris he went on to prepare meals for such elevated palates as the French prime minister and Swiss consuls. Naturally, the menu at Le Chalet is strongly influenced by French and Swiss tastes. Fondue is a favorite; the New Times adored the swiss-cheese version spiked with white wine, and said it was “irresistibly comforting—the kind of thing that you can’t stop eating even when reason tells you there’s more food on the way.” Like a French expatriate’s dreamscape, much of the menu is reserved for crepes—buckwheat flour goes into darker crepes stuffed with savory combinations such as scallops and leeks, and white flour is used for sweet crepes drizzled with chocolate ganache or salted caramel butter. The house specialty, however, is La Potence, a tower of beef tenderloin that’s flambéed tableside.
Black bears love strawberries. The bears of Northern California could often be seen wandering through the berry patches surrounding Mt. Shasta, an area favored by travelers since the 19th century because of the charmingly hospitable inns and restaurants found there. Bob and Laurie Manley were inspired to recreate the area’s post–Gold Rush hospitality, and they opened their first restaurant, Black Bear Diner, near those same strawberry patches. Nearly 20 years later, their brand has grown to encompass 50 different locations, each of which retains the founders’ principles of small-town charm and generosity. The menus also preserve the mom-and-pop vibe, with dishes such as secret-recipe sweet-cream pancakes, old-fashioned burgers wrapped in wax paper, and, of course, homemade bear claws. Each location is adorned with a trademark bear sculpture that has been hand-carved by Washington chainsaw artist Ray Schulz, who often grants his works with regional characteristics such as cowboy hats or taxi-hailing skills.
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.
Eva Zasimovich and her team know how to sweeten any occasion. In her 30 years of cake-crafting experience, she's done everything from crafting cute and creepy Halloween cupcakes to piping elaborate, lace-like designs onto elegant four-tier wedding cakes. Her unique cake flavors give taste buds their own reason to celebrate with options including champagne raspberry, cherry cheesecake, and chocolate caramel toffee crunch, and an array of assorted miniature pastries including pecan bars and coconut tarts provide a challenging obstacle for dieting Lilliputians. Other specialties include housemade key-lime, blackberry, and apple-cheese-caramel pies, as well as Eva's famous mudslide cake⎯a mountain of mini éclairs featuring housemade chocolate fudge drizzling down every side. When she isn't busy dipping gourmet caramel apples or designing gift baskets for corporate events, Eva also hosts decorating classes and parties for patrons eager to design their own treats.
When founder Bruce Baker first imagined Yumberi Yogurt, he envisioned a business that would make the world a better place through both its flavors and its respect for the environment. Now with two established Phoenix-area locations and plans to grow, Yumberi has made good on Bruce’s intentions. The shops offer organic, visually appealing store designs that are environmentally friendly. Outside those shops, Yumberi emphasizes extensive community involvement. Inside, the emphasis on sustainability can be seen with biodegradable cups and spoons made from corn, which are also what scarecrows use to eat their cereal. Perhaps most important to its mission, Yumberi quells sweets cravings with healthy, delicious yogurt, which comes in more than a dozen flavors, including non-fat Chocolaty Dreams and sugar-free lemon meringue, and can be personalized with fresh fruits, cereals, and candies.
At each of Tandoori Times Indian Bistro’s three locations—including one nestled inside a Holiday Inn—crimson and cream walls surround tables weighed down with indian curry, rice, and tandoori dishes. While morsels of lamb, seafood, and chicken prepare for supper by bathing in aromatic indian spices, soft naan bread keeps diners entertained by diving into appetizers of mango chutney.
Patrons can let the wind sweep through their eyelashes on one of the outdoor patios or form their own sweet breezes by puffing out fruity plumes of a hookah smoke on the weekends. Belly dancers weave their way across dining rooms on select nights, which contributes to each location's traditional atmosphere and each diner's desire to enroll in belly-dancing lessons.