Hidden Gem Found on the Banks of Tempe Town Lake

The Dish: Chicken Cordon Bleu Hot Stuffed Croissant
The Place: Romancing the Bean
The Location: Hayden Ferry Lakeside 80 E Rio Salado Pkwy #120, Tempe, AZ 85281 (480) 921-4077

By: Laura Stoddard

You know those cool little hidden places that you’d only learn about if someone took you there, or if you just serendipitously happened upon it? I was fortunate enough to add a new one of those to my list recently when I asked my mom if she wanted to do brunch and she immediately insisted we go to one of her favorite places. Romancing the Bean, the name a playful nod to the classic 80’s romantic comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, is a charming coffee house hidden within one of the gleaming high-rises lining the south side of Tempe Town Lake.

The vibe is sophisticated but casual, with high, industrial ceilings dotted with rustic chandeliers, deep jewel tones and vintage art on the walls, a mouth-watering assortment of homemade pastries and desserts, and outdoor tables and chairs reminiscent of a French patisserie. Owners Robert and Louann Withers’ vision was essentially to create a great place for a first date that boasted upscale comfort and delicious, gourmet coffee.

Being more a tea person, I ordered a tasty chai tea latte, and after getting settled, Robert himself was kind enough to join my mother and I while we dined. When I asked him what the most popular item on their menu is, the thing they’re known for, or that is most often recommended by regulars, he responded (like any proper restaurateur), “Everything!” Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy, Robert. When I pressed, he opened the menu and said,

“Well, then everything in this section.” My eyes lit up when I saw that he was pointing to their Signature Hot Stuffed Croissants. Picture a calzone wrapped in a flakey, buttery pastry instead of a heavy, doughy pocket. After perusing the selection, I slammed my hand onto the table in dramatic fashion, and declared imperiously, “Bring me one of each!”

Okay, not really. But I wanted to.

I finally settled on the Chicken Cordon Bleu croissant with a fresh garden salad and homemade dressing.  The pastry was light and crisp, and cut straight through when I sliced into it. Thick, melty swiss cheese oozed out of the center of the ham and chicken breast cocoon. I smiled. I smelled it. I turned it this way and that.  And then I devoured it. The verdict? Let me put it this way: you need to hop on the bus to Cartagena and make your way to this lovely little jewel for quality coffee, quality time, and maybe even some romance.

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