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.
Named for owner Mae Collins's granddaughter, Kimberly Ann's Victorian Tea Room & Cafe sets lace-draped tables for courtly ladies of all ages with a menu of freshly baked scones, light lunch fare, and petite sandwiches. Smaller rooms throughout the café's quaint, home-like interior add coziness to teatime, such as the Grand Victorian room, which is crowned by an elegant tea-set lamp and lined with shelves displaying decorative teapots and boutique items available for sale. The lavender-drenched Garden Room makes an ideal backdrop for Sunday-brunch conversations about the growing popularity of chartreuse pantaloons, and the Princess Room is adorned with magenta-upholstered chairs and sunhats fit for little ladies.
With at least 24 hours' notice, the staff will set tables for high tea, served on elegant tiered platters, and reservations can be made for Princess High Teas—replete with tiaras, cupcakes, and goodie bags—for celebrations of girls' birthday parties. Kimberly Ann's is a favorite destination of the Red Hat Society and regularly hosts events such as an annual April Fool's Day buffet, a holiday open house, and the most elegant of arm-wrestling competitions.
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.
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.
All eyes gaze expectantly toward the center of M Sushi Bar's low-lit dining room, where a chef assembles his 32 specialty rolls at a glowing counter. A string of paper lanterns hover above tables on the room's far side, framing the open kitchen. Rolls sprinkled with candied macadamia nuts and striped in spicy wasabi or sweet unagi sauce pour forth, accompanied occasionally by a bowl of udon noodles. Other Japanese favorites, such as beef teriyaki, appear in lunch bento boxes and dinner specials, both of which are served as multi-course meals with miso soup, rice, and salad. The menu is primarily concerned with sushi, however, and favors fresh tuna and shrimp tempura over more unusual marine life and leftovers exhumed from Davy Jones' locker. A full bar taps Japanese beer on draft and uncorks cold sake to be enjoyed outside on the patio.