Woman’s dream comes alive at Bisbee café

Front view of High Desert Market and Café (Photo by Savannah Shippen / Arizona Sonora News Service)

Wind down Tombstone Road into quirky Bisbee and you will come across the famous “Iron Man” statue. Look directly across from the Iron Man and there you will see Bisbee’s biggest gem.

It’s a market full of variety, community, history and love. What once was a courthouse service station in the heart of Historic Bisbee is now High Desert Market and Café.

Historic Bisbee’s courthouse service station.

Owner Peyton Tamburo started High Desert Market and Café  in 2000. She began the small storefront by bringing vegetables from her garden and selling them farmer’s market-style in an empty garage.

“I just rolled up the garage door and people from the community let me put my vegetables in there,” said Tamburo. “I had to buy a refrigerator after awhile so I put some cheese, and then some and olives, and it just took off from there.”

In 2006, she turned the farmers market-style garage into a full restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. In 2008, it evolved into the full market, bar and café. Almost 18 years later and it is now a local hangout and tourist spot in the center of Bisbee.

On High Desert Market’s front patio, you can find ladies sitting at a table sipping coffee and chatting while bees hum in the trees. Inside, an older couple sit at the bar eating grilled sandwiches and reading newspapers.

The café is mellow, colorful and eclectic.

A woman walks in through the market side and is greeted with a friendly, “Hi Bonnie!” Bonnie Samson is a regular at the High Desert Market and a resident of Bisbee. Samantha Peters, a Bisbee-raised employee of the High Desert Market, said they have a huge community of customers.

“We have a lot of regulars and a lot of tourists that come through; people that are in Sierra Vista or out in the valley,” said Peters. “They know that we have a piece of pie or a cookie or something that they know they have to stop and get or something special from the market that they depend on.”

Artwork and baskets that were brought up from Mexico. (Savannah Shippen / Arizona Sonora News Service)

On the left side porch of High Desert Market, you can find a variety of baskets, pots, hats, statues, wall hangings, mirrors and more. Every item is intricate, colorful and unique.

Bisbee residents and visitors bring up most of what is sold on the front porch from Mexico. Erin Clayton, a long-time employee of the market said, “The pottery and things we have, it’s a pretty good deal. If you get up closer to Tucson or Phoenix they’re charging twice as much for that stuff, but we’re 8 miles from Mexico.”

The walls inside the market are lined with small mirrors, crucifixes, and all kinds of local artwork. One piece of artwork, a green and purple painting of a butterfly, hangs on the wall in between two front windows. Clayton said that the artist of the painting, Sandy Upson, is a Bisbee local who was just in the market buying scones moments before.

Some of the decadent desserts served at High Desert Market and Café. (Photo by Savannah Shippen / Arizona Sonora News Service)

High Desert Market is known for their tasty baked goods. Everything is made fresh in-house everyday. The bakers come in when the market closes and make fresh scones, muffins, cakes and pies. Clayton says that her favorites are the carrot cake, peanut butter banana cake, and pecan pie. Tamburo’s favorite part of the café is also the desserts.

“I’m actually making a caramel apple with chocolate ganache right now,” she said. Besides the decadent desserts, the market sells breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This includes breakfast quiches, pizza, grilled ham sandwiches and chicken salad.

Each week there is a different dinner menu, from slow-cooked pot roast to Thai chicken and coconut curry. Tamburo likes to add a wide variety of foods to the menu every week. There is also a smoothie, juice and espresso bar on the right side of the market. Here you can take your pick from drinks, such as peanut butter banana smoothies, carrot vegetable juices and even espresso milkshakes.

A five-year employee of High Desert Market, Dennise Montiel takes pride in the fact that they get their products and produce locally. “We do everything locally. Not just Bisbee local, Phoenix and Arizona local.” They use Sky Island Brand Meats from 47 Ranch, for example.

It’s a local ranch between Tombstone, Bisbee and McNeal. In the market, you can also find local honey caramel from Malcolm’s Honey Company as well as homemade Jill’s Greatest Prickly Pear Margarita mixes.

Montiel and Clayton are two employees who have worked there for years. “Any restaurant is going to have high turnover, but there are girls that have worked here for eight or nine years, and this is the second time I’ve worked here,” said Clayton.

She grew up in Bisbee and worked at the High Desert Market for a couple of years before traveling. After her return, she said that coming back to the restaurant was like “riding a bike.”

When asked what has kept High Desert Market up and running for all of these years, Tamburo laughed and said “a lot of hard work and a good staff.” She also said the community is the reason she does it all.

“I have responded to the community, slowly and gradually, and just added things that they wanted,” she said. “They told me everything that they wanted and I just responded to their wishes.”

Savannah Shippen is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at savannahshippen@email.arizona.edu.

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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