But desserts? Like cakes and pies and whatnot? With all those carbs? Definite no-nos.
It is in these interesting times that Something Sweet Dessert Lounge has been born. Featuring a menu of nothing but desserts--high-fat, sugar-laden, often carb-intensive treats--the eastside restaurant is rising in popularity.
I first visited the East Speedway Boulevard restaurant one weeknight with Hugh Dougherty. We decided to drown our post-deadline anxieties in a river of coffee and cake.
We walked in and waited to be seated--unlike other café-type places, Something Sweet offers table service. We were offered our pick of the open tables, and we chose one next to the Speedway-facing window. Our pleasant server gave us the menus and took our coffee orders before giving us time to ponder the various offerings.
A number of cakes, cheesecakes, tortes and pies make up the menu in its entirety. If you're looking for a sandwich or even a light salad, forget it; it isn't happening. I decided to try one of my all-time dessert faves, German chocolate cake ($4.25) along with a latte (a somewhat pricey $3.95), and Hugh ordered the chocolate toffee mousse with Kahlua ($4.75).
The atmosphere, in the space that housed the Bagelry for a long time, is open, well-lit and comfortable. There are no booths, but there are a lot of tables--each covered with a plastic earth-tones tablecloth--along with black or red metal-rimmed chairs, mirroring the colors of the walls. Low curtains cover the bottom halves of the windows facing Speedway, and the black-painted ceiling is open, with track lighting and a number of ceiling fans hanging down. Along the north wall are bookcases, loaded with books that anyone can take as part of a book exchange, as well as board games to play in the restaurant. Finally, near the door are a handful of computers with free Internet access. Wireless Internet is also offered for laptop users. On this visit, several tables of high school kids took advantage of the technology, while a family at a table concentrated on the joys of dessert.
When our desserts were delivered, I was instantly jealous that Hugh had ordered something better than I had. My German chocolate cake was OK--I've had worse, and I've had better. It wasn't as moist and chocolatey as I would have liked, but there was nothing in particular wrong with it. (The delicious latte helped make things better.) Meanwhile, Hugh's mousse pie looked and tasted fantastic. The mousse was light--not at all pudding-like--and rich, yet not too sweet. I took a bite and agreed with his assessment.
All in all, Hugh and I enjoyed ourselves. I was impressed with the uniqueness of the place; the number of places in Tucson that offer all-ages late-night hours and good service with a focus on dessert are few and far between; throw in the Internet access and the book exchange, and Something Sweet stands out.
I returned the next night to try another dessert. I again ordered a latte, but this time, I went the cheesecake route, getting a piece of the crème brulee cheesecake ($4.75). It was delightful; garnished in caramel with a strawberry for garnish, the vanilla in the crème brulee and the cheesecake--which actually had a taste of cheese, unlike most of the cheesecakes served on this side of the Rockies--mingled nicely. Meanwhile, I enjoyed listening in on the conversation going on next to me, as a man explained to his two female dining partners--obvious liberals--how George W. Bush is a fantastic president. I thought one of the women was going to strangle the man. It was highly entertaining.
AFTER THIS SECOND VISIT, I decided to contact the owners of Something Sweet, Beckey Hammon and Robin Barbara, to talk to them about the place. I wanted to see how things are going at the restaurant. I wondered how Tucson--with its decidedly in-bed-by-10 business climate--was responding to the venture.
"Everybody said we should get our heads examined," Hammon says, regarding their friends' response to the idea. "Doing something different was the key to success."
It's too early to classify Something Sweet, located next to Live Theatre Workshop, as a success--five months after the doors opened, the business is not quite yet in the black. But Hammon and Barbara, who are experienced small-business owners thanks to Computer Medic, their computer shop, say things are going according to their business plan. The plan has both long- and short-range goals. In the short range: opening for breakfast (offering pastries, bagels, juices and the like), which started this week. In the long range: opening two other locations of Something Sweet in Tucson.
Hammon says the place is modeled after similar restaurants they've experienced in other towns, including one in Atlanta, Hammon's former home.
"These kinds of places are popular in bigger metro areas," she says.
In order to offer the diverse range of desserts they have, only a handful of desserts--including some cookies, fruit pies, an apple crisp and a red velvet cake--are made in-house. Most of the rest come from Sweet Streets, a Pennsylvania-based bakery which quick-freezes the confections to keep them as moist and tasty as possible. The coffee comes from a Scottsdale-based business called Coffee Reserve; Barbara says the coffee comes from shade-grown, fair-wage beans.
And as for the whole diet craze ... well, Hammon and Barbara don't seem worried (although Hammon says they're working with a local baker to get a low-carb cheesecake, of all things, on the menu). They think the uniqueness of their restaurant, and the quality products, will help them succeed.
"There isn't anything like this in Tucson," Hammon says, "There isn't anywhere else to go after a show, or the movies or shopping, where you can just sit with your friends and talk," she says. "...The more people know about us, the more the word has spread."