By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Apr 14, 2004 at 5:28 AM

{image1} SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Say the words "frozen custard" in Milwaukee, and it's a sure bet that you'll free-associate the name Kopp's shortly thereafter. But the empire of butter burgers and custard that Karl Kopp has built in Milwaukee doesn't stop here, either. The entrepreneur also operates restaurants in New York and Arizona. And while Scottsdale's AZ 88 looks a little like Kopp's other upscale eateries, Milwaukee's Elsa's on the Park or SoHo's Bar 89, this particular desert oasis is a different bar and restaurant all together.

"It's more similar (to Elsa's) in style than anything else," says manager Paul Martinez. "We have the same designer who takes care of all three restaurants."

With big glass windows and surprisingly few doors and even walls, there's ample patio seating surrounded by a short glass fence. The restaurant is set back from the street in the busy yet affluent downtown Scottsdale, and it's certainly a hot spot to people watch and be seen.

AZ88 is named after its location and the year it opened, says Martinez, but its desert-chique design looks nothing like it did 1988.

"We did a really large overhaul in 1996," Martinez says. "It was a very dark theme initially. All the glass was covered with steel curtains. Now it's a very uplifting, airy place."

You won't find any frozen custard on the menu (the closest you'll find is Häagen-Dasz), because Martinez says Kopp wants to keep his two businesses separate.

"Very few people" would even know what frozen custard is in Arionza, anyway, says Martinez.

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Even without the custard, AZ88 still attracts many Milwaukeeans visiting Phoenix for work or for vacation.

"Everyone tells me that they are Karl's best friend. But he tells me who his best friends are," says Martinez.

Kopp spends three or four days a month at AZ88, according to Martinez. Kopp was at the restaurant when we visited, but declined to speak to OnMilwaukee.com. Instead, he stood in the background, scoping out his restaurant with Palm Pilot in hand.

"He comes in, works, cleans tables and does what's necessary," says Martinez.

The menu at AZ88 is not all that different from Elsa's, though it is perhaps a bit less expensive (about $6-10 per entrée). Their extensive drink menu in line with its upscale feel, at $8 and up for many coctktails.

Kopp's famous burgers are present, too, but are prepared a little differently here.

"They're similar in style but completely different, as far as our recipes. Same quality beef, same procedures," says Martinez.

If you make it out to the desert and want to try AZ88, Martinez suggests a few specialty dishes.

"We get a lot of compliments on our burgers. We have an au poivre burger, which is like a peppercorn burgundy. It's fantastic. Another really a basic item that sells like crazy is the Cobb salad."

And of course, the Elsa's chicken, named after Kopp's late mother, is another big seller, too.

It's not quite a taste from home, but it's close. AZ88 is located at 7353 Scottsdale Mall in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information, call (480) 994-5576.

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.