In Phoenix, it has never been entirely clear where Midtown ends and Uptown begins. Some might say Indian School Road, where current high-rise development stops, is the boundary. Others could argue the Grand Canal is a more logical divider between the two areas. With both the Midtown and Uptown terms now being stretched beyond historic boundaries, geography buffs can continue to debate the first question. Meanwhile, a restaurant in the gray area between the two zones raises a question of more interest to diners: When does breakfast end and lunch begin?
Fàme (pronounced fa-may) Caffe blurs the line between those meals at a location that blurs the line between two portions of central Phoenix. The site is a small shopping center at Central and Highland, a quarter mile south of the Central / Camelback light rail station. Fàme has a bike rack prominently placed near the front entrance. A linear patio provides outdoor seating, a dining room holds plenty of tables, and a counter facing a large window bridges the gap between the interior and exterior portions of the restaurant.
The name “Fàme” derives from the word for hunger in Italian and Galician, the traditional language of northwestern Spain. As a quick read of the menu will make apparent, the Fàme Caffe is designed to satiate hunger via a menu of hearty breakfast entrees, sandwiches, and salads. The linkage to Spain and Italy is found in the menu’s light Mediterranean touches, which are blended with some French, Southwestern, and Mexican influences for a modern menu that works well with the casual order-at-the-counter service model employed at the restaurant.
Before 11 AM, Fàme concentrates exclusively on its breakfast menu, even though morning favorites like a daily quiche are served until closing time at 3 PM, or at least until supplies run out. The breakfast wrap is essentially a flour burrito stuffed full of scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, roasted potatoes, and chorizo. A croque monsieur, a classic French ham sandwich, and a croque madame, the same thing with an egg added, provide a savory Old World touch. Sweeter breakfast choices include pancakes and “Frenchie” toast made with eggy pain perdu.
As midday approaches, additional items are available. The basic Fàme burger is a reliable choice with its toppings of cheddar, romaine, tomato, onion and its brioche bun. Grilled cheese sandwiches come in two varieties, one a meaty option with bacon and the other a meatless variant with avocado. What’s distinctive about both choices is the perimeter of flat, crisp, slightly burnt cheese that extends beyond the edge of each sandwich. It’s a playful variant of a Mexican dish known as chicharrón de queso and a treat before, during, and after the sandwich per se.
The sandwiches at Fàme are generously sized, and sometimes the effect can be too much of a good thing. The pesto chicken sandwich has copious slices of poultry that, in large quantities, can overwhelm the other flavors in the entree. A lunch special that combines a half sandwich with a cup of soup or a basic side salad is a way to restore a bit of balance. Daily soups at Fàme have ranged from a vegan pureed cauliflower to a filling chicken and vegetables. The only miss so far has been a chicken tortilla soup without discernible tortilla, either as a topping or as a thickener.
Salads at Fàme are entrees on their own. The farmer’s salad is the most basic model with its mix of mixed greens, roasted pine nuts, feta cheese, and red wine vinaigrette. The peach salad features grilled slices of fruit (skin still on) over a bed of lettuces enlivened with slivers of fresh fennel bulb and almonds. The strawberry nut salad takes a similar approach with a different fruit, and the beet salad features slices of vibrant taproot on a bed of greens with feta. Any of these can be accessorized with an optional protein upgrade such as roasted chicken or grilled salmon.
One additional type of entree at Fàme is enchiladas. Chicken and vegetarian options are typically offered, with pork sometimes available as a weekend brunch special. These are not the type of enchiladas most often found buried under heavy red sauce and melted yellow cheese in combination plates. Instead, three supple corn tortillas are rolled around the chosen filling and topped with salsa verde, sliced radishes, cilantro sprigs, and crumbled white cheese. These are served a la carte but pair well with a side of potatoes, fries, vegetables, or salad.
Fàme’s desserts, like its entrees, cross over boundaries between morning and midday fare. That means a pastry display full of fresh muffins and cinnamon rolls, along with indulgent treats like a caramel sea salt pecan bar. One of the strongest contenders here is Fàme’s apple fritter, full of chunks of fruit and complementary spices. To drink, Fàme serves all standard coffee and espresso drinks, and a small bar allows for beer, wine, and brunch cocktails such as mimosas and bellinis. Non-alcoholic favorites include house limeade and specials such as a cucumber mint juice blend.
The restaurant also has a children’s menu with straightforward items such as pancakes and grilled cheese. When it first opened in 2015, Fàme mentioned that dinner service was coming soon. Perhaps that will happen, further blurring the lines between all three major meals in the best way possible. Until then, with its current atmosphere and plentiful natural light, Fàme works well as a daytime establishment. Whether its address is considered Uptown or Midtown, Fàme is a good place to straddle the boundaries of both mealtimes and neighborhoods in central Phoenix.
4700 N. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ
Central / Camelback Station