Within the south Tempe Lakes community
there sits a restaurant that brings back
sentimental memories of great food,
friendly staff and a fun place to hang
The restaurant—which hugs the coast of
the lake—has gone by various names,
including Coffee Grounds, Culinary Cafe
and The Boathouse.
But within the last few years the
restaurant has struggled. The regulars
began to disappear and business began to
Now, Al Taylor, owner of the
newly renamed Pier 54, says he hopes to
bring the restaurant’s ambiance back to
rival that of its glory days.
originally bought the property near the
lake in 1991 and began the legacy of
“It was about making our customers
happy,” Charlton said. “We were honest,
and our employees were unique.”
Coffee Grounds grew to be a place around
the neighborhood where people could eat
dinner, enjoy night entertainment, and
talk to the always-friendly staff. When
business began to slow down, Charlton
tried to make additions such as adding a
After Charlton sold the business several
years ago, the restaurant went through a
series of name changes and ownership.
What happened to the magnetism of the
original Coffee Grounds?
It simply had too many “personalities.”
Taylor says he is prepared to revamp the
business—he and his wife already own the
catering service Special Moments, which
has received four service awards within
the last three years, including the 2006
Southwest Airlines Service With a Smile
The first goal Taylor hopes to
accomplish is to win back the
neighborhood. He continues to clean,
scrub and paint the business so that the
facade will resemble a coastal eatery.
With the dedication and worth ethic that
he honed while previously working as a
Tempe police lieutenant, Taylor plans on
showing the true potential of Pier 54.
Taylor has already upgraded the business
with the addition of an espresso machine
and a faster register.
In addition to the new coffee, Taylor
and his wife plan to bring in baked
goods that are guaranteed fresh—because
the couple baked them.
Taylor also says he added pastas and
fish to the menu in order to add
“We are used to running a successful
catering business, so we know that we
can provide a high quality of food but
still have competitive prices,” Taylor
In addition to improving the quality of
food, Taylor added two chefs from
Scottsdale Culinary Institute who plan
to come up with a new dish every
Pier 54 is even Internet-ready, with
wireless adaptors ready for anyone who
would like to surf the Web while
enjoying a meal and the lakefront view.
While he can’t guarantee that Pier 54
will resemble Coffee Grounds of the
early '90s, Taylor says the new owners
will still provide a staff focused on
excellent and friendly customer service
and the bar that has already attracted
Charlton, meanwhile, is optimistic about
its new turnaround.
“I hear from a lot of people that
(Taylor) is the guy who can do it
right,” Charlton said. “I’ve heard he
was the real deal. I might even stop
It was actually Coffee Grounds that
helped Taylor and his wife make
important decisions that helped lead to
their success with Special Moments.
“We used to sit near the dock and talk
about our business and make big
decisions,” Taylor said. “Then one day,
we looked around here and thought
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could own
Once they won the bid for the business,
the Taylors decided to go with the name
“In the book Vision 54, golf
coaches say that the perfect score in
golf is a 54,” Taylor said.
“I know I will never hit a 54 in golf,
but hopefully I can hit one with this
This was the
fourth time Taylor made an offer to take
over the business, and now that he has,
he sees big plans for the future.
That is, once
word of mouth spreads around that the
one little restaurant on the shore is
back again, more organized and finally
with one proud personality.