Anyone who has lived in Phoenix for a while may remember a time when many downtown restaurants were open only on weekdays to serve lunch to nearby office workers. Now, more have embraced dinner service to reflect increased evening activity. In Tempe, those who follow developments on Mill Avenue know that part of town becomes most lively after dark. With rising residential populations in and near the downtowns of both cities, there is now a proliferation of breakfast restaurants situated in urban centers, including the newest one, Morning Squeeze.
Morning Squeeze originated in Old Town Scottsdale with a menu focused on breakfast, brunch, and lunch with the option of cocktails. Two locations added since then focus on the light rail corridor. In Tempe, Morning Squeeze occupies a space in the Centerpoint development approximately four blocks from the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station and along the route of the Tempe Streetcar. In downtown Phoenix, Morning Squeeze has come to the corner of First Street and Washington near multiple rail platforms and the future transportation hub.
The two rail-accessible locations of Morning Squeeze both emphasize cheerful, colorful atmosphere and blends of indoor and outdoor space. In Tempe, the theme is orange, perhaps a nod to the idea of squeezing citrus for juice. There’s just as much space outside at an L-shaped patio as there is inside, and the bar features counters facing both inward and outward. Bike racks are found everywhere in this part of Tempe with the most prominent ones located on the other side of Seventh Street as it curves to fit the contours of the Centerpoint development.
In Phoenix, the deco is largely inherited from the previous tenant, a juice bar named Kaleidoscope. Bright, angular bits of color dominate the walls. Because this location is a little more compact than the one in Tempe, the outdoor space lies in two separate strips on two segments of sidewalk, one on First Street and the other on Washington right next to the light rail track. Due to the placement of fences and doors at the site, all customers should check in at the host station first, even if their ultimate destination is the bar counter or the outdoor seating.
The menu, identical at both the Phoenix and Tempe locations, reflects the restaurant’s operating hours of 7 AM until 2 PM every day of the week. That means a natural emphasis on breakfast offerings, including egg dishes such as three types of Benedict, breakfast tacos filled with eggs and bacon, and a green chile pork skillet with cornbread and black beans. The Southwestern influence continues with huevos rancheros, a breakfast burrito, and a Hangover Bowl involving green chile with potatoes, jack cheese, black beans, two eggs, and red or green sauce.
For those who prefer a more carb-oriented breakfast, Morning Squeeze offers the classic trinity of pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Of the three, the pancakes are the most traditional. Three fluffy, semi-sweet cakes can be ordered plain or accessorized with berries or bananas. The Belgian waffle also lies in familiar territory, but the restaurant’s take on chicken and waffles is creative with a half waffle served in an alternating pattern with boneless fried chicken and topped with a sausage gravy. It’s smaller than a typical serving but also more flavorful.
French toast is always served in a plain “OG” format, but where Morning Squeeze shows more creativity is with its stuffed versions. Slices of toast are dipped in batter, cooked on a griddle, and then assembled into a sort of sandwich with a seasonal filling in between the pieces of bread. In October, it was French toast stuffed with pumpkin cream cheese and adorned with pepitas. For November, the filling is cranberry orange jam mixed with cream cheese and topped with candied walnuts. Past options have included cheesecake and peanut butter and jelly.
If that all sounds rather sweet, the most savory of the breakfast items is the restaurant’s take on the classic bagels and lox combination. The plain bagel at the base of this small mountain is topped with abundant sprigs of arugula, pickled red onions, cream cheese, slabs of smoked salmon, and innumerable capers. Of course, there are even more savory items within lunch-oriented categories of salad and sandwiches. The blackened salmon salad features not only the expected fish, but also pepitas and an avocado half with a dusting of spice.
Sandwiches include the Frisky Chick with fried chicken, bacon, lettuce, and avocado on toasted sourdough bread.The Reuben is also worthwhile, but a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is less successful due to being out of proportion with too much bacon and too little lettuce and tomato to balance it. Think of it as a Blt instead of a BLT. All sandwiches come with a choice of sides, including a small salad, fruit, or fries. The best option is breakfast potatoes, particularly when ordered with an optional upgrade of sautéed onions and melted cheese on top.
Morning Squeeze has a full liquor license with an emphasis on brunch cocktails. Mimosas are available made with multiple types of juices, and a combination of several can be ordered as a flight. Seasonal drinks have included a fall apple cider mimosa with a coating of cinnamon sugar on the rim of the glass. Vibrant urban centers should have something to offer at all times of day, and many restaurants in downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe are now open later in the evening. Morning Squeeze helps balance that trend with more choices earlier in the day.
1 N. 1st St. #100, Phoenix, AZ 85004
690 S. Mill Ave. #110, Tempe AZ 85281