South Mountain Café Adds Latin Twist to Fusion Flavors
South Phoenix native Jose Zacarias Jr. opened his South Mountain Café in July 2016, and in the months since the eclectic menu debuted under the guidance of his father, Executive Chef Jose Zacaraias Sr., fans from South Phoenix and Laveen have been telling others about what they consider a local treasure.
Taking to social media to boast about the home-grown success story, more than 100 reviewers rated South Mountain Café as a favorite, giving it a 4.5 star ranking on YELP with more than 50 reviews and a 4.9-star rating on its Facebook page with more than 70 reviews.
“We really we strive to give our guests the best eating experience in South Phoenix,” Jose Sr. said. “From an actual plate and silverware to follow up on satisfaction of the meal you are eating. We will make you feel like family and ensure that you are happy and leave happy.”
This month (April) the restaurant is expanding its reach by collaborating with UberEats. Residents Valleywide will be able to order Mexican, American, and French dishes from South Mountain Café and have them delivered to their door by the ubiquitous UberEats, which parent company Uber launched in March 2016.
The father and son team chose South Phoenix for their restaurant because it’s home, both men grew up there. “I was prepared to take a gamble, really, and I was wanting to do more than just a job, to do something that could better the community I grew up in,” Jose Jr. said of launching the business at age 21.
Their goal: to provide a fine-dining experience at a reasonable cost. “Both my son and I have been raised and grew up in South Phoenix and there really are only fast food options in the area. We strive to bring a unique customer experience focusing on made-to-order food along with superior customer service.”
Residents in South Phoenix and Laveen brag frequently about South Mountain Café on social media, giving the restaurant on Central Avenue just north of Southern a groundswell of local support. Most all the reviews start out with the caveat to not measure the quality of the food by the rather dreary exterior of a previously vacant fast-food location.
Jose Sr. described the list of improvements made to the site’s infrastructure as “endless.” The family has overhauled the electrical for the restaurant, upgraded sewage lines and more to ensure the property could meet city and county health inspection standards. “Cosmetically it doesn’t show, but there was a lot of money put into the innards of the property,” Jose Sr. said.
Recently, the exterior got a little pizazz through the assistance of artist Lalo Cota and students from Phoenix Collegiate Academy high school and Maxine O. Bush Elementary School who painted a mural along the outside of the café’s patio walls in February.
The Zacarias say they will continue to improve the aesthetics as the business grows. But inside the kitchen, South Mountain Café needs little improvement. Jose Sr. worked many years in the kitchens of restaurants serving French, Asian, Hawaiian, Irish, Mediterranean, and American foods. He draws on those influences, as well as his Hispanic heritage, to create the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that feature Mexican, American, and French favorites, from French toast on the breakfast menu, to salads and Croque Monseiurs for lunch, to a variety of burros and steak quesadillas for dinner.
“A little of everything learned along the way has been applied to what we do now,” he said. “From growing up watching my mom to my experience working long hours and double shifts in kitchens around the Valley.”
South Mountain Café also is a family affair, with all but one staffer being related to Jose Jr. Working together can be a challenge, Jose Sr. said, noting that finding a working rhythm has been one of their tests as a family. “The challenge of everyone finding out how to best contribute to the family business.
“It’s an ongoing challenge as we all find what who is best at doing what, and doing that on a consistent basis.”
Visit the café at 5630 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85040. Visit www.southmountaincafe.com to see restaurant hours and menu, or call 602-495-1614 for more information.
Sisters and equine/pet Instructors, Teri Ann Tate of Comfy Pets of AZ and Tami Blake of The Enlightened Horse, will have a group of booths at the Eighth Annual Phoenix Pet Expo at WestWorld of Scottsdale from 3-8 p.m. Friday, April 14(and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 15.
Comfy Pets of AZ offers Equine & Pet Health and First Aid Training Clinics and The Enlightened Horse offers Light Therapy on dogs, cats, and horses.
Both businesses are based in Laveen while serving clients throughout the Southwest.
This year, Blake has started teaching a two-day course on “Introduction to Equine Light Therapy.” Bring your pets to the Comfy Pets of AZ side of their booths for a free Snout-2-Tail health assessment from Tate, a certified instructor in first aid for pets and horses.
Free water for pets also will be available at the booths.
Next, visit with Blake on The Enlightened Horse side and receive free light therapy for pets, or their owners. Blake is certified to treat both animals and humans using infrared light therapy.
The Phoenix Pet Expo is a fun family event with dozens of vendors and pets available for adoption.
For more information, call Tate at 602- 579-1437 or Blake at 602-790-9404. For information about the expo, visit www. phoenixpetexpo.com
Development Updates for South Phoenix and Laveen
Developer Michael Moreines with DPR Realty said the projects at Estrella Mountain Village shopping center, on the southwest corner of 51st Avenue and Baseline Road, are nearing completion.
Dairy Queen opened March 9 while construction continues on Peter Piper Pizza, which is expected to open in early May. KFC is also slated to be opening with in the next month, Moreines said.
Smoothie Run Expands with Location in Gilbert Laveen-based Smoothie Run Internet Café opened a second location in March at 1633 S. Higley Road in Gilbert. Owner Marcus Moody said he is excited about adding an East Valley location for the café, which features smoothies and salads. “It’s an exciting to be expanding and to be able to bring our smoothies to the east side.”
The Gilbert location is slightly different from the original site at 51st Avenue and Southern in Laveen. The Gilbert menu focuses on sandwiches, salads, and pizzas, as well about 20 flavors of smoothies. The original Smoothie Run opened in December 2015 and has been a visible corporate citizen in Laveen.
Moody said he opened in Laveen due to the few healthy eating options available. “We wanted to provide a healthier option to fast-food chains,” he said. Smoothie Run also has collaborated with several Laveen schools and youth groups in fund-raising efforts. “Giving back is an important part of being a local business,” Moody said.
He plans to develop those same relationships with schools near the new Gilbert restaurant.
Both locations also deliver via UberEats. Visit www.smoothierun.com for more information.
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department approved the South Mountain Parks Trails Master Plan in March after what city officials called significant public input.
Implementation of the trails master plan will be a multi-year effort.
As the city moves forward with the Trails Master Plan, staff will continue to work with the community for additional input. Trail alignment evaluation will be an on-going effort targeting trail safety,sustainability, and maintainability objectives.
To view the full report, visit https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails
Childcare Celebrates 5th Anniversary in Laveen
Kinder’s Paradise Childcare and Preschool is celebrating its fifth year in Laveen. The home-based business provides services for up to 10 infants ages infant to 5 years old.
“We offer individualized attention in a safe, warm, clean, and caring environment where we help children with emotional, social, physical and intellectual development,” according to owner Lorena Liliana Viseur.
Kinder’s Paradise offers bilingual care and is DHS certified at 7822 S. 64th Lane in Laveen.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 623-698-3395.
The company also has a Facebook page, Kinder’s Paradise.
During a seventh-anniversary celebration on May 4, Scooptacular will be offering 70-cent ice cream scoops from noon to 8 p.m.
Phoenix police and firefighters, as well as Vice Mayor Kate Gallego, are expected to take part in the festivities, and Laveen’s double-decker red bus will be on site.
Owners Nindi and Carissa Wadhwa opened the ice cream shop in 2010 when Laveen lacked restaurants, particularly family-friendly destinations. It was the height of the recession caused by the collapse of the local and national housing market, and not everyone was convinced of their business-making decision.
“Our friends thought we were crazy to leave a stable job and open a business,” Nindi Wadhwa said. “We just knew Laveen needed something positive.”
He said Scooptacular’s ongoing fundraising partnership with local schools aligns with their original mission statement: “To be a beacon of hope to the community of Laveen.”
“This last year we were able to give back over $12,000 to our local schools as well as provide incentives and ice cream to the students,” he said. “Education is the cornerstone of our future and we want to see all of our Laveen kids succeed.”
n recent months, Scooptacular has made a few updates, including digital menus, delivery service through UberEats, and a refresh to the interior. “We serve premium hand crafted ice cream and want our store to reflect that,” Wadhwa said.
Scooptacular makes its ice cream in Laveen, using ingredients from all over the world to create unique flavors.
Nindi credits the company’s employees as being another ingredient to Scooptacular’s ongoing success.
“They are like an extension of our family,” he said. In March, Jocelyn who was Scooptacular’s very first Scoopie and manager Kalani got engaged. “We are so excited for them as they take the next step in their relationship. They are both just awesome people and awesome Scoopies,” Wadhwa said.
Visit www.scooptacular.net for more information.
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