Champagne bar focuses on vegan offerings
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When restaurant consultant Joseph Cuevas was hired to reimagine Bubbles at Shea and Scottsdale roads, he was set on making it vegan and fun – not only with the menu, but the vibe as well.
“We’re the only vegan bar in the Valley,” Cuevas says. “We primarily serve Champagne. Most Champagne is not vegan. They have gelatin, casein, egg whites or fish bladders. Ours have no animal products at all.”
Cuevas reopened Bubbles on December 13 as a fully vegan restaurant, mirroring the beliefs of owner Alexis Voss of France.
A new cocktail menu hits the spot, Cuevas says. “The wines we are using are made to taste like traditional alcohol,” he says.
The Tickle Me features pomegranate juice, prosecco and lime for $12, while Pastelito mixes guava juice, “vodka,” vanilla sugar and brut for $16. The Diamond Fizz is a popular choice, with “gin,” lemon juice, powered sugar, aquafaba and prosecco for $13.
As for food, the options are drool-worthy. Cuevas focused on playful and nostalgic snacks like artisanal toasts with varieties like eggplant, Casablanca, Caribbean jerk and cheddar.
But perhaps the most interesting is the Stoner with hummus, chipotle salsa, popcorn and balsamic glaze.
“As for the toast, the avocado toast is the most popular,” Cuevas says. “The Stoner toast, which has a funny name, is the second-most popular one. It’s a fun one. People love ordering it. One customer said, ‘It’s something that a stoner or a pregnant woman would have come up with.’”
The ever-changing dessert options have included caramel chocolate apples and lemon bars. But a standard is gourmet organic cotton candy in different flavors that sit atop cocktails.
“People love the cotton candy,” he says. “Most cotton candy isn’t vegan. Regular sugar isn’t vegan. We use organic sugar, which isn’t flavored with artificial colors. That’s why they’re pale colors.”
This all plays into Cuevas’ dream.
“I looked at what it originally was: a French date-night kind of place” he says. “I wanted to stay true to that original concept with Bubbles – Champagne, wine and be higher end. But it had to be a little more fun so it would bring in a more youthful crowd. I play all ’90s music. I wanted snacks that we had as a kid, but with a twist. I chose ’90s music because it’s making a resurgence. There are ’90s cover bands, ’90s DJ nights, TV shows and movies.”
But the restaurant isn’t just for vegans. Meat eaters are pleasantly surprised at the selections at Bubbles, Cuevas says.
“It’s always fun when non-vegans come in and I go over the menu with them,” he says. “They always leave happy. All of our toast options are substantial. People think vegan food is unfilling or just salads or something. They’re more substantial items.”
Cuevas and Voss have a lot in common.
“I went to art school,” says Cuevas, who previously lived in New York and Los Angeles. “When I moved to Phoenix, I got more into the culinary scene. I owned a café in Downtown Phoenix that was fully vegan. It closed last year so I could focus on consulting. That’s what I prefer to do – help a person or a family figure out how to make things vegan, how it suits them and make it vegan.”
Cuevas says Voss loves Champagne and he spoke with vineyard owners in France. He spoke with them about changing the filtering process to appeal to a broader audience. (Voss was out of the country and unavailable for an interview.)
There are more changes in store for Bubbles.
“We’re going to redecorate inside,” Cuevas says. “We’ve been focused on the menu, staff training and coming up with cocktails. We’ll redecorate in different phases. We’re going to get new tables, repaint the walls. We want to decorate the walls so customers will want to put photos on Instagram. We want this to be perfect.”