Cafe blends tasty food, vintage vibe

Amelia Grey's, settling into new digs, opens Sundays, adds table service
2012-11-08T00:00:00Z Cafe blends tasty food, vintage vibeAnn Brown Abrown@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
November 08, 2012 12:00 am  • 

"I love, love, love it," says Annette Hartman about the new location of Amelia Grey's Cafe & Catering.

And so do we.

Hartman moved from the center of Copper Country Antiques, 5055 E. Speedway, where she and her husband, David, had operated Amelia Grey's Tea Garden for three years. They reopened in June in the bright, airy space at 3073 N. Campbell Ave. Still a bit off the well-worn path, look for the Native Seeds/SEARCH store - Amelia Grey's is in the same strip mall, on the northwest end. It's easy to miss when you are zipping down Campbell.

The nicely presented food is fresh and tasty (more on that later), but it's the ambience that sets Amelia Grey's apart.

Amelia Grey's swapped the musty smell of the huge antique market and a shabby-chic vibe for what Hartman calls an "urban vintage" look and feel.

Contemporary, mismatched tables - all painted in the same shades of gray and topped with fresh-flower centerpieces - complement and contrast the antique and vintage pieces throughout the restaurant.

Sweets resting on silver and glass serving pieces that could have come from your great-grandmother's china fill a display case. A wall of cubbyholes shows off an eclectic collection of teacups. And towering windows allow natural light to bathe the cafe.

This is not a girly place. Hartman says she eschewed fussy to create a place the men enjoy.

If you have a hankering to shop for antiques with your meal, Amelia Grey's has a smattering of items for sale and The Grey House Antiques - the name is a coincidence, the businesses are not related - is across the parking lot.

Beginning Sunday, Amelia Grey's shifts its hours. It will be open on Sundays - closed on Mondays - and it will serve additional breakfast items, such as a family-favorite Monte Cristo sandwich, Hartman says.

Also next week, the fast-casual spot will add table service and a few new menu items.

Amelia Grey's, which is named after the owners' granddaughter, now 8, will continue to serve its cold, toasted and grilled-cheese sandwiches, salads, drool-inducing desserts, and, of course, teas.

Most menu items bear the name of relatives. Such as Aunt Marcia's chicken fruit salad ($7.50, with grilled chicken $9), which was a light meal with crisp, fresh greens and flavorful feta cheese and moist, chilled, cubed, nicely browned chicken. One of the pleasures of an Amelia Grey's meal is the vintage and antique serving pieces and plates. The sweet-tart raspberry vinaigrette was served on the side of the salad in an miniature mug reminiscent of an A&W drive-in.

On another visit we sampled Sister Chrystal's strawberry spinach salad ($7, with grilled chicken, $8.50). Juicy ripe strawberries and a pile of fresh, leafy spinach were topped with crunchy roasted pecans and the same feta and grilled chicken as Aunt Marcia's salad.

On the sandwich side of the menu, the Uncle Rick's Bar B Q Brisket ($8) is a pile of smoky flavored, slow-cooked brisket served on a perfectly toasted - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside - baguette. The bread was slightly scooped out to accommodate more of the tender beef. The greasy, bagged ruffled potato chips and skimpy melon garnish that accompanied the sandwich seemed incongruous to Amelia Grey's usual attention to detail.

Our favorite meal was the half sandwich and soup ($7.50). The half Aunt Edna's was piled high with thick-sliced ham and a delicate Swiss cheese on moist, not overly chewy, rye bread.

The chicken tortilla soup was spicy, but not so much that you grabbed a glass of ice water. The soup's base included Cheddar cheese, which gave it a light golden color and added a creamy, rich taste to the generous shredded chicken. The freshly made tortilla chips were served on the side, allowing you to add them to the soup so the chips don't become soggy.

Making a selection from an array of homemade desserts at Amelia Grey's is a tough choice, but the scones shouldn't be skipped.

Our slightly tangy lemon scone ($2.50) was moist and flaky - not too dry or too cakelike. Served warm, the scone is accompanied by a three-section condiment dish with Hartman's version of Devonshire (or clotted) cream, raspberry jam and luscious lemon curd.

Hartman says she has an English customer who says her cafe and scones "feel like home." (He also offered some pointers to tweak her Devonshire cream.)

The chocolate cheesecake ($3.50), however, was a disappointment. It had a deep, rich chocolate flavor, but the texture was slightly gooey and the top had a skin that was thick and dry.

Teas are a hallmark of Amelia Grey's. It offers several types of tea services, simple pot of tea ($3) or a cream tea (pot of tea with a scone and condiments, $5) to meal-like Victorian Tea ($11) and its posh, multicourse high tea ($17) that's served on fine bone china.

Hartman plans to continue the cafe's tradition of festive holiday teas in the new location beginning Nov. 25. University of Arizona harp professor Carrol McLaughlin will perform during the Christmas-themed teas.

As Hartman shapes Amelia Grey's Cafe, she has a quandary. The restaurant is named for her granddaughter and Hartman has another granddaughter on the way. What will she name after the new grandbaby?

Review

Amelia Grey's Cafe & Catering

• Where: 3073 N. Campbell Ave., off of East Hedrick Drive, which is one street south of Fort Lowell Road. 326-2663, ameliagreyscafe.com

• Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

• Noise level: Easy conversation.

• Vegetarian options: Fruit and veggie salads; veggie quiche and a veggie sandwich.

• Drinks: Teas, coffees, soft drinks. No alcohol.

• Gluten free: Available upon request.

• Family call: No specific children's menu, but owner Annette Hartman says they welcome children and that kiddos will love the grilled cheese selections. Mothers of young children may get a bit nervous around the antiques, but remember, it's named after an 8-year-old.

• Reservations: Accepted; required for Victorian, high and Christmas teas.

• Price range: Breakfasts, $6-$7; toasted, cold and grilled-cheese sandwiches, $6.50-$8; salads $7-$9; desserts, $2-$3.50; tea service, $3-$17.

• Coming up: Christmas-themed high teas, $17, are scheduled Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 9, 13 and 20. Harpist Carrol McLaughlin will perform during the teas.

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