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Vegetarian meals can be creative

Vegetarian meals can be creative


My first time dining at Tasteful Kitchen was by chance. A group of friends and myself were planning to dine out, but we were tired of the usual chain restaurants.

Someone had the idea of eating vegetarian. Unsure at first, we decided to look up local restaurants.

Tasteful Kitchen popped up. The website said it offered a twist to the vegetarian menu while still maintaining awareness of people’s dietary needs. So we gave it a chance.

The restaurant, co-owned by sisters Sigret and Keanne Thompson, is located between University Boulevard and Fourth Street at 722 N. Stone Ave. The menu offers a wide variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

The Thompson sisters opened Tasteful Kitchen in early 2011 after noticing there weren’t many vegetarian restaurants in Tucson.

The restaurant is housed in a building from the 1930s. It was built with 13-inch solid adobe walls and is very rustic, giving it a cozy feeling. Once inside, you will find two small dining rooms.

The rooms are decorated with warm colors and paintings from local artists. The art is for sale, so the art displays change from time to time.

My first experience at the restaurant was fabulous. The environment was soothing and the lighting was just right. Service was spectacular and the food was delicious.

Keanne Thompson guided my party by letting us know what was what, and recommending some dishes.

I recommend the decadent carrot cake. It’s not too sweet and not too bland. It’s just right.

Starters and small plates range from $6 to $10, main courses are $18, desserts are $7 and drinks cost $3 to $4.

Tasteful Kitchen isn’t like your average restaurant. Dining there is like eating at home, and reminded me of a family gathering.

The Thompsons prefer quality over quantity. The dining experience may take a little longer than usual but that’s because everything is made fresh for the customer.

Sigret Thompson taught herself to cook by recreating food from London and Sydney, places she used to live. She is a chef at the restaurant, working alongside sous chef Laura Clawson. They both enjoy the freedom to offer classic vegetarian specials.

“We enjoy working with seasonal fruits and vegetables with a strong emphasis on organic and locally grown produce,” Sigret Thompson said. “We offer farm-to-table specials frequently and local ingredients are intermingled throughout our menu.”

The owners keep their ingredients as close to their natural state as possible with a minimal amount of processed foods. They also avoid hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and GMOs.


The Tasteful Kitchen also offers educational events to sharpen kitchen skills. Classes and events are listed on the website.


The Tasteful Kitchen

Address: 722 N. Stone Ave.

Phone: 250-9600

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m.


Tasteful Kitchen co-owners Keanne Thompson, left, and Sigret Thompson offer diners vegan and gluten-free dining options. The sisters opened their Stone Avenue restaurant in early 2011. (Erik Medina/Aztec Press)

DC Jumbie serves up fun

DC Jumbie serves up fun


Many students have noticed the DC Jumbie Latin Caribbean food truck making stops at Pima Community College campuses, if not for the flavorful smell of sandwiches grilling and sweet plantains roasting, then maybe for the signature big yellow truck.

Truck owner Daniel Figueroa has been in business since March 2013, but has always had a passion for food and cooking.

“I grew up in both Chicago, Illinois and Miami, Florida,” Figueroa said. “Food has always been a big part of my life, as my parents both loved to cook. It is what brings our family together.”

All sandwiches on Figueroa’s menu have their own unique and individual tastes, and are also paired with a side of fried sweet plantains.

The Cuban sandwich is stuffed with slow roasted pork and ham, melted Swiss cheese, topped with dill pickles and drizzled with mayo and mustard.

Customers ordering the Monster barbecue sandwich get the trio of slow-roasted pork, ham and grilled chicken. The sandwich is smothered with Figueroa’s smoky barbecue sauce.

The newest sandwich on the DC Jumbie menu, and my favorite, is the Tropipeño Jack sandwich. It gives you the choice of grilled pork or chicken, layered with sautéed peppers, onions and jalapeños, topped with pepper jack cheese.

All sandwiches cost $7, which is reasonable for an 8-inch grilled sub sandwich with a side of fried sweet plantains.

Figueroa’s wife and family are from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, which inspired the Caribbean pop in his meals.

“I was exposed to and grew up with many different flavors, allowing DC Jumbie to come to life,” Figueroa said.

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Figueroa pulls up to serve hungry students some of his authentic Caribbean sandwiches at the West Campus. (Shana Rose/Aztec Press)

Stir fry restaurant  offers tasty choices

Stir fry restaurant offers tasty choices


C.I. Chu’s Mongolian Barbeque is a made-to-order stir fry restaurant in midtown that brings in lots of customers and enjoys good reviews.

Calvin Chu and his wife Elaine opened the restaurant in 2003.

The restaurant gets a lot of business during the week, especially on Thursdays when many college students come in to eat, according to the owner’s niece Bella Chu.

Customers grab a red bowl and select options from each section at the buffet counter, beginning with noodles, then vegetables, meat, sauces and spices.

Tabs overhead give details about the best way to add sauces and spices to attain a specialized flavor, such as “Tantalizing Teriyaki.”

After compiling their dishes, customers head to the cook’s counter and leave their bowl under the next available number.

A variety of vegetable and meat options are available, and employees continually bring out fresh stock.

Meat choices include pork, lamb, seafood, beef and chicken.

In addition to traditional stir fry vegetables, Chu’s offers unique options such as cilantro, garbanzo beans and pepperoncinis.

Noodle choices include wheat lo mein noodles, regular lo mein or rice vermicelli.

A new shaved ice dessert, the “Snow Volcano,” can be ordered with a variety of toppings. The newest special is “Strawberry Sensation.”

Lunch is served from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and dinner from 4-9 p.m. The prices are the same for both times.

The one-bowl meal costs $9.49, and the all-you-can-eat meal totals $11.99.

Both come with a bowl of either white or brown rice, a choice of hot-and-sour, egg drop or vegetable soup, and a hot piece of shiao bien, a delicious, flat square of sesame bread.

Drinks are not included in the meal and cost $2.50.

The U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office next door frequently attracts crowds of military customers.

C.I. Chu’s Mongolian Barbeque is located at 4540 E. Broadway Blvd., in the Midstar Plaza.

It is open daily, except on national holidays.

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Employee Dimitry Hare prepares a stir fry dish on an open grill for a future regular customer at C.I. Chu’s Mongolian Barbecue. (Alyssa Ramer/ Aztec Press)


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In addition to the traditional veggies on display at C.I. Chu’s Mongolian Barbeque buffet table, customers can choose cilantro or pepperoncinis. (Alyssa Ramer/ Aztec Press)

Top 10 Fast food drive-through burgers

Top 10 Fast food drive-through burgers


Recently, my taste buddies and I went on a mission to find the best fast food burger you can get in a drive-through. All scores are based on averages out of 10 by myself and three others in three categories: appearance, texture and taste.

10. Wienerschnitzel

I guess it goes without saying that a place known for hot dogs would rank the lowest on a list for burgers. The Wienerschnitzel Chili Cheeseburger scored a 4.75 on taste, 3.5 for texture and 2.5 on appearance, clocking in an overall score of 3.5.

9. Whataburger

You’ve got to be pretty cocky to name your signature burger after your restaurant, and it seems like Whataburger is such a restaurant. The Whataburger made out with a taste and appearance score of 5.5, 4.5 in texture and a total score of 5.2

8. Sonic

I’ve got to say, I was surprised that Sonic didn’t rank higher, but the numbers don’t lie. The Super Sonic Cheeseburger was pretty disappointing, taking home a score of 6.25 in both taste and texture and a 4 in appearance, combining to an overall score of 5.5.

7. McDonald’s

More than two billion served doesn’t have to equate to the highest quality burger. The Big Mac recorded a taste score of 6.25, texture of 5 and appearance of 5.25, for an overall score of 5.5.

6. Jack in the Box

A burger is one thing, a cheeseburger is another, but Jack in the Box’s Classic Buttery Jack is on a whole new level. Rounding out with a 5.25 in taste, 4.25 in texture and 7.75 in appearance, the Classic Buttery Jack walked away with a 5.75 overall.

5. Wendy’s

While square burgers still need to prove themselves to the world, the quarter-pound burger from Wendy’s is certainly a step in the right direction. The quarter-pound burger scored 6.5 in taste and texture and a 4.75 in appearance, for an overall of 6.

4. Carl’s Jr.

As my friend Vincent Vega once said about a milkshakes, “I don’t know if it’s worth $5, but it’s pretty fuckin’ good.” Just swap out the shake for the Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger, which scored 5.5 in taste, 7.5 in texture and 7 in appearance. It finished off with a 6.75 overall.

3. Del Taco

This was the first time I’ve ever been to Del Taco and I’ve got to say, I was pretty impressed that a place with taco in its name has an awesome burger. The Double Bacon Cheeseburger finished with a 7.5 in taste, 7 in texture and 5.75 in appearance, for an overall score of 6.75.

2. In-N-Out Burger

Not much of a surprise here. The Double Double scored a 6.75 in both taste and texture and a 7.75 in appearance, netting it an overall score of 7.

1. Burger King

A shocker to everyone, myself included, but BK came out in first place! The Whopper rated 7.5 for taste, 6.75 in texture and 8.75 in appearance, for a whopping 7.5 out of 10. Hail to the King, baby.

What fast food burger do you like best? Share your opinion online with a comment at 


A Double Double from In-N-Out Burger oozing luscious cheese awaits willing taste testers. An Aztec Press journalist, a culinary student, a musician and a retail employee walked into 10 burger joints in town and ranked their signature burgers using a precise scoring system. For science. Really. (Alex Fruechtenicht/ Aztec Press)


Lindy’s dares you to finish its O.M.F.G. burger

Lindy’s dares you to finish its O.M.F.G. burger

Story and photo by Daniel Gaona

Imagine a burger so big you can’t even take a standard bite. So big, it towers 12 patties with as many slices of cheese packed inside a regular bun, not to mention the lettuce, onion and special sauce. Try to envision that monster sandwich.

Or, just go to Lindy’s on 4th in Tucson.

It’s not a joke or a trick: there is a burger joint in town that actually serves this heavyweight. When it hits the plate, it weighs more than three pounds and is held together with a long skewer.

It’s called the O.M.F.G. and costs $19.99.

However, if someone conquers the beast in less than 20 minutes, they get it for free. Just finishing it in 30 minutes will get that person’s picture on the wall and a $5 gift card. Not finishing it earns nothing.

“I just had one more patty to go but I couldn’t eat anymore,” patron Michael Craven said about trying the O.M.F.G. “It’s the closest I have come to getting the whole thing down. I’m not going to be able to do any eating contests for a while now.”

For someone seeking a lesser challenge, there is the AZ Hooligan. This one is stacked with six patties and six slices of cheese, plus the basic toppings.

It weighs about half as much as the O.M.F.G. and costs $14.99. The only award for finishing it is your picture on the wall.

The “challenge burgers” are not available for takeout, most likely because there are not boxes capable of holding them.

Lindy Reilly, owner of Lindy's, at last year's Earth Hour. (Aztec Press photo by Matthew Henry)

Lindy Reilly, the restaurant owner, said the O.M.F.G. originated from his Hooligan burger because the Hooligan just didn’t seem like enough. There is a slim margin of victory against the 12-layer burger.

“We have just under 1,200 sold to date and less than 60 have been finished,” Reilly said.

Last month, a patron set a time record and finished one in 3:47 minutes. Even Reilly was in awe.

Aside from challenges, the eatery specializes in unique burgers.

There are 17 burgers to choose from, and patrons can select their preferred size: one, two or three patties. For an additional cost, Lindy’s will replace the standard patty with a fried chicken breast or vegetarian patty.

The menu also includes cheesesteaks, which can be ordered with the same toppings as the burgers.

The menu classifies Super Sunrise Burger as a breakfast sandwich, but it is available at all times. It is a single patty, topped with two fried eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, tater tots and ketchup.

“That was probably the best burger I ever had,” Ernie Cruz said after eating one for the first time. “It was awesome how the tater tots are actually part of the burger and having eggs on it too was great.”

Other options include the Lindy’s Original, known as “The OG,” and the Blue Suede Cow. The Mac-N-Cheese remains a top seller, along with the ever-popular Dirty Sanchez, which is drenched in green chiles, jalapenos, guacamole and pepper jack cheese.

“It’s a burger filled with flavors from south of the border,” patron Will Russell said. “The best part was all the cheese on it.”

While Reilly offers many burgers, he has a personal favorite.

“I love the Velvet Hammer,” he said. “It’s a fried egg on a cheeseburger. The Fat Bastard is my No. 2 to that one.”

The Fat Bastard is a newer addition to the menu, based on the Krispy Kreme burger. The patty is loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, bacon, eggs and cheddar packed between two honey buns.

“It’s like pancakes and eggs and steak, it’s so good,” Reilly said.

Regardless of the toppings, Reilly wants to respect the beef.

“I don’t like to lose the flavor of the meat because that messes with the burger,” he said.

Lindy’s is always a good choice for lunch. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. every day except Sunday, when it opens at noon.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Lindy’s stays open until 2 a.m., making it a prime spot to gather and end the night. With an O.M.F.G., perhaps.


Lindy’s on 4th

431 N. Fourth Ave.


Facebook: Lindy’s on 4th

Depression: Don’t listen to ‘Fat Voice’

Depression: Don’t listen to ‘Fat Voice’

Illustration by Isabel Cardenas


Editor’s note: This is the final story in a four-part series portraying one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.


By Liza Porter

The Fat Voice is back. I hadn’t heard it in years, until the other day when I heard it say: “Don’t eat that. You’re too fat.”

That voice is part of my depression.

I’ll bet I’ve gained and lost several hundred pounds during my life. And that’s probably a low estimate.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve used food to help me deal with my depression. Binging on sweets made me feel better, for a while.

Dieting and starving, especially over a period of days or weeks or months, also felt good. There’s a high that comes with denying yourself sustenance. Just ask the yogis in India.

So, food has been a mood changer for me.

Even now, pushing 54, I’m known to “use” sugar and caffeine to get me through bad days.

When I was younger, I obsessed on my body and everything that went into my mouth.

I’d start on a diet, usually on a Monday, and stick with it for a week or so, if that long. I’d lose maybe five pounds and then “cheat” on my diet because I was always so—grrrr—hungry. Pretty soon, I’d start binging again.

Craving food and denying myself became an addiction.

Sometimes I’d binge and vomit every night when I got home from work or school. That became its own sort of addiction.

I even used to exercise compulsively. For a while in my early 20s, I swam so hard every day that standing up from a sitting position was painful.

When I deprived myself of food or exercised too much, I thought the world was a better place. I was on top of everything. I’d set a goal. I was following through, my stomach felt flatter, my insides were hollowed out. I could feel the weight stripping off my “fat” body.

The problem was, I wasn’t even fat! During most of the time I spent on diets, on the compulsive binging and vomiting, I didn’t even need to lose weight. My view of myself in the mirror was warped. The bathroom scale ran my life.

The National Institute of Mental Health’s guide for eating disorders says one in five women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating.

That’s 20 percent of women who are right now obsessing about food, about their body weight, about their looks.

With me, it was a full-time addiction. If I multiply all the years I spent dieting and binging—well, I don’t want to! It’s too much of a waste to think about.

We are supposed to eat to fuel our bodies so we can do what we need to do in the world. Eating is supposed be a pleasure, not some shameful, secret activity.

We are not meant to worry about every little thing that goes into our mouths. Or go exercise for two hours because we ate a donut.

And yet 70 million people worldwide have eating disorders. Thirty-five percent of “normal dieters” (whatever that is) progress to pathological dieting.

The American Journal of Psychiatry reported that a young woman with anorexia is 12 times more likely to die than other women her age without the disease.

Time Magazine stated that 80 percent of all children have been on a diet by the time they have reached the fourth grade.

These are some horrible statistics. That last one makes me want to scream! Children ages 8 and 9 dieting!

Anorexia is a killer disease. I am lucky to be alive.

And none of this obsessing over food and body ever helped my depression. Feeling better lasted for a few hours, if that.

I hereby refuse to listen to the Fat Voice. I’m disgusted with it. Sure, all the compulsion and obsession probably got me through some tough times I might otherwise have used for something worse (like drugs or dangerous decisions) to get through.

And maybe I’ll forgive the part of me that wasted all that time, some day. Be a little gentler with that young girl inside me.

But today I’m pissed about it.

This is what I say to counteract the Fat Voice: I’m OK the way I am. A little overweight. Trying to eat healthily. Exercising regularly, sometimes. Trying to accept myself the way I am.

If you have problems with food, please ask for help. Anorexia is a serious illness. And your eating disorder might be masking chronic depression.

You are not alone.


See below for some places that can help with eating disorders:

  • SAMHC Behavioral Health Services, 622-6000, 2502 N. Dodge Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716-2675,
  • Overeaters Anonymous,
  • Mirasol Eating Disorder Treatment Center for Women, (888)520-1700,

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Community Food Bank offers home gardening workshops

Community Food Bank offers home gardening workshops

Story and photo by Sierra J. Russell

If you enjoy garden-grown vegetables and don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, the Community Food Bank has you covered.

The Community Food Resource Center is offering a series of free home gardening workshops throughout the spring and fall. Classes are open to everyone interested in improving their gardening skills.

Melissa Mundt, food production and education coordinator, said the workshops attract all types of people.

“For example, currently we have a participant who is deaf and, with the help of Pima Community College, we were able to arrange for sign language interpretation,” she said.

The workshops also cater to the schedule of busy parents.

“With advance notice, we offer childcare during the workshops,” Mundt said, “thanks to volunteers with childcare experience such as retired teachers.”

The spring schedule includes workshops offered on Friday and Saturday mornings. Topics include how to work with compost, how to choose an ideal garden site and how to keep plants healthy.

A variety of specialty workshops are also offered during the week.

“We offer extra classes in various locations for people with limited transportation,” Mundt said.

Specialty workshop topics include growing fruit trees, cooking locally grown foods, using solar ovens, harvesting rainwater, saving seeds and making herbal medicines.

Tony Bruno, the “poultry guru” of Community Food Bank, gives tips on how to care for chickens, and Chris Mazaralla teaches how to compost with worms.

By meeting a few requirements, you can become a member of the Community Food Resource Center Gardening Program. This allows access to compost, seeds and plants.

Members are also involved in helping work on the personal gardens of people in need of physical assistance.

“We are the Food Bank, so our main focus is on things you can eat,” Mundt said. “Flowers are important, and help bring pollinators.”

As if to demonstrate her point, a hummingbird hovered nearby for a few seconds while we were sitting in the garden. Mundt looked at my red shirt and said, “I think he wants to drink your shirt.”

The tiny creature quickly flitted back towards the rows of lettuce.

Melissa Mundt stands at the entrance to the Community Food Bank’s demonstration garden.


Upcoming classes:
•    Soil and Compost: Saturday, April 10, 9-11 a.m.
•    Site Design: Saturday, April 24, 9-11 a.m.
•    Planting a Healthy Garden: Friday, March 26, and Saturday, May 8, 9-11 a.m.
Specialty workshops:
•    Rainwater Harvesting: Tuesday, March 30, 9-11 a.m.
•    Simply Cooking: Thursday, April 15, 1-3 p.m.
•    How to Build a Solar Oven: Saturday, April 17, noon-4 p.m.
•    Herbal Medicine Making: Monday, April 26, 9-11 a.m.

To obtain more information about the gardening workshops or any other programs offered by the Community Food Bank, contact Melissa Mundt at 622-0525 ext. 263 or, or Luis Herrera at 622-0525 ext. 264 or

MARIE’S MUNCHIES: Guadalajara Grill

MARIE’S MUNCHIES: Guadalajara Grill

Review and photos by Marie Rodriguez

Everybody has gone to a Mexican restaurant and tried a salsa they thought was too spicy, too chunky, too mild, too… something. At Guadalajara Grill, the salsa is made fresh tableside.

A nice lady comes to your table with a cart full of goodies. She has different peppers and spices and asks how spicy you would like your salsa. The end result tastes like something my grandma would make fresh (that’s a very good thing).

The prices for entrees could be steep for an average college student. A plate ranges from about $12 up to $19. On a budget, appetizers are a student’s best bet. They fill you up and don’t come with the standard beans and rice fillers.

Why do I call the beans and rice fillers? When they don’t yield high amounts of flavor on their own, they become fillers.

Unfortunately, Guadalajara Grill’s rice tasted like I could’ve made it (that means it’s not like grandma’s).

Fortunately, there are other things for the Grill to brag about besides the tasteless rice. Tortillas are made fresh in their kitchen daily.

The menu also allows for cost-conscious customers to save on daily lunch specials. These plates range from about $9 to $11 and include fish tacos, fajitas and even lobster.

Fish tacos at the Grill certainly are worth going for. These tacos are stuffed with tasty, crunchy shrimp that jump ship as you eat.

Marisol Gandarilla, left, and Maria Ramirez take reservations at Guadalajara Grill.

Visit the restaurant weekdays between 3-6 p.m. and you are in for some happy hours. The Grill’s happy hour consists of a $3 house margarita that is big enough to last you through a meal. They also serve $2.50 draft beers and take $2 off any tequila flight and selected appetizers.

If you’re in the mood for a nice dinner, this may not be the place to go. If you’re out for a couple of drinks and some appetizers to share with friends, this is a good place to visit.

Salsa is made fresh to order at your table.


Guadalajara Grill

Address: 1220 E. Prince Road

Phone: 323-1022

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Web site:

March 23 talk to explore history, future of food

By Conrad Pursley

Many Americans forget how important a good diet is for their mental and physical well-being. We go for convenience rather than choosing healthy foods.

No wonder members of the current generation are predicted to be the first in U.S. history to have their parents live longer, healthier lives than themselves.

Pima Community College’s Chef Barry Infuso will discuss food choices during a talk March 23 on “Fast Food, Slow Food, and the Future of Food.”

The free talk, part of PCC’s Speakers’ Series, will begin at 6 p.m. in the District Office, Building C Community Board Room, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Light refreshments will be served.

Infuso, a certified executive chef, serves as lead faculty for the Culinary Arts program at PCC. He is also a member of the American Academy of Chefs, writes for Tucson Lifestyle magazine and conducts nutritional classes for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.

Plan to arrive early. The last Speaker’s Series event was standing-room only.



Story and photos by Marie Rodriguez

Cup Café enjoys the same vibe as the Hotel Congress in which it is located, and boasts a menu that is capable of pleasing various palates.

The historic theme prevalent throughout the hotel is kept within the café as well. Chandeliers made with wine bottles hang suspended in air, while pennies tile the floor. There’s a classy charm amidst the candlelit tables and well-dressed staff.

Three different menus along with daily features make for an ever-interesting order every visit.

For breakfast, from opening at 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., diners may choose items ranging from simple eggs and toast to tequila-cured salmon, tofu scramble or biscuits and gravy.

Meals served during the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. lunchtime include a popular tortilla soup, various salads, and creatively interesting fish and beef plates.

The dinner menu includes some items from the lunch menu and even the Hotel Omelet from breakfast. It is split between small plates and large plates, comparable to many restaurants’ lunch and dinner portions.

A “starving students” plan of food attack is best during the café’s happy hour weekdays between 4 and 7 p.m. Appetizers, any item on the small-plate menu, cost just $5 each and will satisfy a hungry appetite.

The Wild Boar Sloppy Joes, served with tempura jalapeno and rosemary sweet potato chips, are a personal favorite.

The two somewhat-mini burgers contain a surprisingly juicy beef, but they’re not too sloppy like your normal Joes. The coleslaw inside with strips of bell peppers adds a complimentary crunch.

The rosemary sweet potato chips make the plate better than good. What is predominately salty alone becomes sweet when eaten with a bite of burger.

An all-around delectable meal awaits at Cup Café. Your stomach will not be disappointed.

Cup Cafe
Address: 311 E. Congress St.
Reservations: 798-1618