Essence Bakery and Cafe resides on Hardy and University, just a few blocks from Arizona State University in Tempe. It is in the same building that one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Sabuddy, used to be in. While Sabuddy just moved to Scottsdale it is a further drive from my local stomping grounds so I don’t get to go there much these days and while it is entirely irrational some how I held this against Essence and did not go there for ages. I finally bit the bullet and couldn’t resist their charming outdoor seating any longer. I stopped in for tea to go and it was great. Then this past weekend we decided to give it a real chance.. the true test. Brunch.
The decor was really cute, they redid everything with Earth-friendly paint and replaced countertops with recycled glass and old cabinets with bamboo. Their remodeling has really paid off as the atmosphere is welcoming and the colors are really lovely and warm. We eyed the pastry case while we waited, filled with fluffy cream puffs and boxes of adorable miniature cakes and sweet treats. This would be the ideal place to pick up something special to celebrate. James seemed to enjoy their fresh coffee as much as I enjoyed their tasty iced tea while we waited for our food. The menu is fantastic for anyone (vegetarians to foodies to locavores or even carnivores). They use “cage-free” eggs (though I have issues with that terminology, at least they are trying) and buy local and organic produce as often as they can.
I ordered the Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable sandwich from the lunch menu without the cheesy pesto (though it sounded delicious). They even went so far as to cut the cheese sprinkled on top of the focaccia bread off for me! Now that is service. The sandwich was amazing, bursting with flavor from sweet roasted red repper, zucchini, eggplant done just right and organic greens. The side salad was fabulous with nutritious and delicious dark green leafies abound and a light refreshing vinaigrette. I could not have been happier!
James had “The Big Breakfast” without the sausage. It came with 2 fried eggs, a golden mashed potato cake, sautéed mushrooms and toast from freshly baked multigrain bread with jam. He fell head over heels for these mashed potato cakes, it looked amazing, fluffy golden mashed potatoes inside with a crisp top. Everything looked great and he was smitten. He declared it his favorite breakfast in town! That is a big deal as there are some pretty serious contenders up there so I was impressed. I tried some of his jam… it was like the jam from the inside of the best jelly donut you’ve ever tasted, jam you could only dream of! You think I’m kidding.. well.. a little bit I am but seriously, it is unbelievable jam. Get it!
I think we were both seriously impressed with Essence Bakery and would be fools to miss going there as often as we can. With an incredibly friendly and accomodating staff, beautiful pastries, delicious and wide ranging menus, and an eye for eco-friendly, Essence has really gotten it right.