Inspired by his grandfather, Gabriel Garfio has always been fascinated with food. Sometimes, it was much to his parents’ chagrin.
“When I was 5 or 7, my parents owned a small German bakery in California,” Garfio said. “My grandpa was one of the bakers. I would sneak off at 2 in the morning when he was going to work. I told him my parents said it was fine. Then he’d get a phone call asking where I was. I just needed to go in and see the kitchen.”
Garfio, now 24, serves as executive chef at Sunnyside Breakfast Lounge, near Power and McDowell roads. He and his parents bought the restaurant, the former home of The Egg and I Café, when he was 19. Garfio came up with the name, the mission and designed the creative menu as a student at Johnson and Wales University in Colorado. The location was scouted by Garfio’s parents, but the chef previously mountain-biked in a park behind Las Sendas.
The bright eatery has an open-kitchen concept, something that the former occupant lacked, he said. Paintings grace the walls, and the staff can be overheard making smoothies and chatting about ingredients as guests sit at a bar.
“We want an ambiance that invites guests to eat a good, wholesome meal and have good service,” Garfio said.
Sunnyside Breakfast Lounge specializes in eggs Benedict, ranging in price from $10.89 to $11.89 and topped with items like avocado, chorizo, crab cakes and salmon.
Its menu runs deep. Also for breakfast, there are Latin dishes like Savory Sonoran Crepes ($11.89) or Mom’s Recipe Chilaquiles ($11.89). Savory omelets are popular dishes as well, especially the Chile Verde Omelet ($11.59) and the Rocky Point Omelet ($11.59). The “Sweet Cravings” menu is worth the trip: Brave Banana ($10.49) features pancakes layered with creamy banana custard, topped with Nutella spread, fresh bananas and walnuts. A similar dish is Banana Nutella Crepes ($10.49).
A graduate of EVIT and Highland High School, Garfio serves the standards as well: biscuits and gravy ($10.79), chicken fried steak ($11.89) and corned beef hash ($11.89). Burgers, BLT, lox and cheese, salads and gluten-free offerings round out the menu.
Don’t count out the Sunnyside Bloody Mary ($7) or The Perfect Paloma, with Patrol silver, fresh grapefruit juice, lime and champagne ($17). It also serves “Classy Champagne,” the “Modest Mimosa,” screwdrivers and beer.
Garfio isn’t done creating just yet.
“We’re coming up with different seasonal specials,” he said. “We have pumpkin pancakes made with real pumpkin – no puree. We take seasonal items and use them in different ways people haven’t seen before. We should have the pumpkin pancakes until the end of November. We’ll start something new in December.”
An avid gardener, he has his sights set on farm-to-table offerings.
“I want to take that approach and have a garden to cultivate fruits and vegetables,” he said. “There is so much negativity about produce and the meat industry. I figured if I could do it myself, I’ll be better off.”
Garfio explained he would be nowhere without his staff, whom he puts “on a pedestal.”
“They make Sunnyside successful, with lines out the doors,” he said.
The service extends to his his grandfather, who has relocated to Rocky Point.
“His first stop is always Sunnyside,” he said. “He catches me by surprise, but I give him personal service and make him creative dishes that aren’t on the menu. It’s the least I can do for pushing me through my career.”
Information: Sunnyside Breakfast Lounge, 2823 N. Power Road, Mesa, 480-832-9696, sunnysidebreakfastlounge.com, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.