Review: Harlow's Cafe - Tempe, AZ
- Seth Chadwick
Every so often, I get in one of those Saturday morning moods where all I want to do is put on some comfy sweats, head to some breakfast place and spend my morning waking up. With the onslaught of cooler weather in Phoenix, this mood hit me this past Saturday and what I wanted was some down-home cooking at some diner that has great food, excellent service, and other patrons that are in comfy clothes and trying to get the day going.
Dave and I had to run some errands in the East Valley anyway, so we decided to have our morning wake up at Harlow's Cafe in Tempe. I had never actually been to Harlow's before, but a lot of people rave about it. So, we drove to McClintock and University and .... it wasn't there. So, we called Directory Assistance and got the address on West University. We pulled into the parking lot that is shared with Tempe Feed and Tack and noticed a gaggle of people waiting at the door. I alerted Dave there might be a wait, be he didn't mind and neither did I. I was determined to have breakfast at Harlow's.
Dave headed over to the Circle K next door to cash in some lottery tickets and I went in to put our name on the list. Thankfully, the place is much bigger than it looks and I was seated immediately at a table for two near a window. Harlow's is nothing special inside with non-descript tables and chairs, but the movie memorabilia inside is fun. I ordered a round of Diet Coke's and reviewed the menu. Then, it donned on me.
Back when I was attending ASU, I spent countless hours and money at a wonderful diner called Mae West's at McClintock and University. Harlow's, it would seem, is either Mae West's reincarnated or a great tribute to that wonderful restaurant that had stellar meals.
Dave finally arrived and we reviewed the menu. All of your breakfast favorites are there and then some. There was no doubt in my mind what I wanted and when the server arrived, I ordered the Eggs Maximillian with Chorizo ($7.50). Dave was one hungry boy and ordered the Chorizo Breakfast Burrito ($6.50), a rasher of bacon ($3.50), and a bowl of Oatmeal ($2.75).
We passed the time planning our attack for the afternoon errands and down several glasses of Diet Coke. After the second refill, the server placed a pitcher of Diet Coke on our table. Her tip had just increased. I wish more restaurants did that for their soda addicts. It makes sense because it pleases the customer who doesn't have to wait for a refill and it helps the server in cutting down the number of trips to the soda machine.
Our meals were our fairly quickly and my platter was huge. A giant tortilla was mounded with home fries and chorizo, then onions, green chiles, scallions, salsa and finally topped with scrambled eggs and sour cream. The scent was a true eye-opener. I cut a big bite out of the dish and took my first bite. It was excellent and was exactly what I was hoping for. The dish was hot, tasty, complex and the chorizo had a great spicy kick to it. I managed to work my way through this mega-meal and was very happy I didn't order a side of something to go with it. I have a big appetite and this dish certainly satisfied me.
Dave was elated with his burrito. The presentation was simple enough with a large burrito stuffed with eggs and chorizo and covered in salsa. He said the food was hot and they didn't skimp on the chorizo. From what I could see, they did a great job of balancing the eggs and the chorizo. Dave's bacon looked great as well. There were four thick slices of bacon cooked perfectly. We couldn't decide if it was pepper bacon, but the taste did have a bit of a spiciness to it. It was crisp, hot and substantial.
Dave finished off his meal with the oatmeal. The bowl was presented with a container of milk and a little ramekin of brown sugar. Dave doesn't like milk in his oatmeal so went with the brown sugar. The oatmeal, thankfully, was not from an instant packet. This was fresh, homemade oatmeal. I had a bite and it was the stuff of childhood memories, especially with the brown sugar.
When we had finished, we were both stuffed. The patrons were clearly enjoying their meals as well and the staff was pleasant and accomodating.
Our total bill was $25.68, excluding tip. This was an exceptional value. Harlow's has a very simple formula: good food, great prices, excellent service.
You don't need much more than that to wake you up on a lazy Saturday morning.
1021 West University (Corner of University and Hardy)
Tempe, AZ 85281
Dress: Sweats and shorts
Yeah baby! As a devoted Harlow's fan, I am glad you had
a good meal. It is indeed a gem for breakfast or lunch.
As I am also a fan of your posts, as well as syntax and grammar and
such, I hope you'll take this in the spirit in which it was intended.
The correct word is "dawned" not "donned".
Hate to be a poop about it, but with the usage of "loose" (when
the correct word is "lose") spreading faster than kudzu, I'll risk
getting flamed for being the proper English police.
by the way, I don't know about ownership, but Harlow's building was the original home of Mae West, and nothing changed but the name when other location opened.
I DO know about the buildings and the names, though I'm not sure of the timing of the name changes. Back in 1979, the restaurant at University and Hardy was called Mae West. Then the restaurant at University and McClintock opened and was called the same thing. Big disputes over the name. So Hardy became Mae's Best of the West. Same great food. McClintock never delivered the quality of the Hardy restaurant. Then Hardy restaurant had a "name change contest" and the outcome was Harlow's Cafe. Still same great food I first experienced in 1979. Harlow's Cafe, by any name, is still one of my all time favorites.