Simply organic 4

Tryst Cafe owners bring their healthy, from-scratch dishes to Chandler

The sunrise to beyond sunset buzz fueled by a steady stream of hungry patrons grabbing seats for breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner is the result of Tryst Cafe owners Lisa and Sami Khnanisho simplifying their lives.

And the veteran restaurateurs, who in January opened the second location of their popular eatery that flaunts organic and healthy dishes in Chandler, wouldn’t have it any other way.

After the success of their first location in the Desert Ridge area of Phoenix, developers Valley-wide approached the Khnanishos lobbying to be their next spot. But when the Khnanishos saw the space that would become Tryst’s new home along Gilbert Road just south of Ocotillo Road, one word kept echoing in their minds: Location. Location. Location.

“So many people walk here. It’s a wonderful diverse, family, community-oriented community. We’re so happy that we’ve chosen this area,” Lisa says. “There are a lot of chains, and we knew people were looking for something mom-and-pop.”

Palate-pleasers include: a super-loaded avocado toast topped with micro greens, asparagus and garbanzo beans; roasted buffalo cauliflower; a Reuben anchored by house made corned beef on marble rye; and the Hawaiian Breakfast, comprised of two fried eggs, house-smoked kalua pork or Portobello mushrooms, cabbage, jasmine rice and won ton chips.

The theme extends to the bar, which is stocked with organic tequila, vodka, and other pick-me-ups.

In 2010, the Khnanishos were in the middle of running and selling their previous restaurants. They sought to relax a bit after growing their casual eateries Sami’s Gyros in Tempe and Mama Gina’s Pizzeria in Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District, which they started and have since sold. As Lisa says, “We wanted to simplify.”

They set their sights on the trending frozen yogurt market, which was a relatively easy venture compared to what they were used to. But when they saw the Phoenix space planned for their shop, simplification took on a different definition.

“We knew it was a much larger location for what a yogurt place would be,” Lisa recalls. “In the plaza, there was an organic cleaners, and that sparked the organic angle.”

They planned on doing just breakfast and lunch. Again, in an effort to simplify. But satisfied regulars wouldn’t hear of it. Requests sparked menu expansions to dinner and happy hour.

Clientele feedback also initiated the effort to accommodate gluten-free and vegan diets. About 95 percent of the menu is (or can be made) gluten-free, including bread and tortilla dishes. All recipes are developed by Chef Rosario Cortez and Lisa. Sami and the rest of team sample them and offer feedback on what works and what needs work.

With a capacity of 180—more than double that of the Phoenix restaurant—the larger Chandler location allowed them to offer amenities they’ve wanted to but could not before.

A huge patio with lounge seating begs patrons to kick back with a glass of wine and an appetizer or two. There’s also a fire pit to warm things up during the chillier months. A private seating area holds up to 20, ideal for meetings or a small intimate gathering.  A coffee, smoothie and protein shake bar was created to also accommodate members of neighboring EOS Fitness.

There are monthly events, like wine tastings and, in May, an organic vodka tasting that will showcase craft cocktails to complement different vodka flavors.

Sure, it may not seem like the simple life. But every day, they experience the satiating reward of the more demanding entrepreneurial path they’ve embraced.

“It’s a very challenging business, but also very fulfilling,” Lisa says. “When customers take those bites and they love it, that’s incredibly satisfying to me.”

Tryst Cafe is located at 4205 S. Gilbert Road.