One day Hercules got in a fight with the river god Achelous, and tore off one of his horns. According to Ovid, the river spirits gave the appendage to the goddess Abundantia, and it became the Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty, endlessly showering out goodies upon lucky mortals.
Who would have guessed this handy item would wind up in a strip mall on Rural Road in Chandler, just south of Ray?
Yet that’s where you’ll find the lunchtime bounty of Café Cornucopia, which recently relocated there after a successful 11-year run in Bisbee, along with owner-managers Jeanie Reed and Patti O’Donnell.
“It’s all homemade comfort food,” says Reed of the fare at Café Cornucopia. “It’s not an elaborate menu, but it’s stuff we can control, and keep fresh. We don’t claim to be top chefs—we just put out a quality product.”
Thus every day the place offers two soup choices, two quiche choices and seven different sandwiches, ranging from Virginia baked ham, turkey cheese avocado, egg salad, albacore tuna, and a couple of vegetarian options including “Chili Jack.”
Decidedly not for vegetarians but nonetheless a huge favorite is the meatloaf sandwich—it was this savory, superbly balanced creation of which I partook on my visit, along with a bowl of sublime chicken noodle soup, featuring beautifully tender-but-not-mushy carrot medallions and bowtie pasta.
My friend, however, enjoyed one of the other soups: Thai peanut chicken with sweet potato. The soups change daily, and are a special favorite of Reed’s.
“I’m a soup person,” she notes. “I could live on soup.”
Then there’s the matter of dessert. “We specialize in Granny Smith apple pies and the four-berry cobbler,” says Reed, but I sample the hearty pumpkin pie, some rich brownie bites, and a fine chocolate-chip cookie.
The passion for food started early for Reed, a native of Hurley, Wisc.: “My mom was full-blooded Italian, and I was in the kitchen from like age 3, and always had the love for cooking.”
In Arizona from the mid ‘80s, Reed did a little bit of everything—bartending in north Scottsdale, caddying for a couple of friends who were pro golfers on the LPGA tour, even managing a Long Wong’s for a time during the heyday of the Gin Blossoms.
As so often, though, it was a chance conversation with the owner of the Cornucopia’s original Bisbee location that landed Reed and O’Donnell in that town for more than a decade.
“We just went on a little road trip to Bisbee and told the lady we were looking, maybe, for a B&B or something,” she recalls.
“She said she’d sell us her place. It all happened in a weekend. It was perfect timing for us. She trained us over a couple of weeks.”
Reed and O’Donnell operated on the principle that what wasn’t broken didn’t need to be fixed.
“It was a turnkey operation for us,” she says.
“You know how some people take a business over and they try to change everything? We didn’t do that. And people were so welcoming. Most of our clientele were snowbirds, or European tourists looking to see the Wild West. We sold out of everything, every day. We started from zero every morning.”
Despite this success, after 11 years in Bisbee, the pair was ready to return the Valley. The sunny, colorful new location of Café Cornucopia is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Call 480-961-5100 to inquire about the soups of the day.
“We do a little catering, too,” adds Reed.