It was nearly two decades ago that the band Cracker told us, “What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head.” Considering some of the current directions in indie music, David Lowery’s words seem prescient. Substitute “coffee house” for “folk singer” and a cynical person might say the same about Central Phoenix today, where independent coffee houses have multiplied in recent years. Jobot, located on Fifth Street just five short blocks east of the Roosevelt/Central light rail station, is among the latest arrivals.
|exterior from Fifth Street|
In actuality, Phoenix still has room for a lot more quality coffee houses before it becomes overloaded, especially in comparison to other cities with more established coffee cultures. Still, the perception of impending market saturation is a good reason for coffee houses to find ways to differentiate themselves. Jobot smartly sets itself apart with a large patio, late hours (until midnight most nights and all night on weekends), and, most importantly, its decision to make itself into something Phoenix needs more than either folk singers or coffee houses: a creperie.
Like every business on the artsy stretch of Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield, Jobot occupies an old house, one of the Evans-Churchill survivors that stand in sharp contrast to the land-banked vacant lots to the south. The space is used wisely, with one room functioning as a bar. That’s where orders are placed and paid for. There’s a counter where anyone wanting to interact with the barista can sit. Next door (literally, because it’s necessary to go outside to get there) is a separate room with comfortable chairs for lounging.
|entrance to the side room|
Most of the seating, however, is found on the patio in front. With canopies and misters, it’s comfortable year-round. You’re just as likely to see people working on laptops or families with kids there. The only downside to the patio is Jobot’s decision to allow smoking there. To their credit, most customers who smoke park themselves off to the sides, but it’s still tempting to envision the red ashtrays being reused as mock flowers in some sort of guerrilla art project, a fate that would be not at all out of place on Fifth Street.
The essence of Jobot is of course good coffee, and that was assured by the shop’s history. The coffee part of Jobot grew out of Conspire, the place across the street that has now become a vegan restaurant, among other things. The beans from Cartel are used to produce quality hot drinks and toddies. Baristas are knowledgable of their craft and will sometimes even critique their own technique in pulling espresso shots. The person making the drinks is often the person taking your order, so don’t be shy about approaching the counter and asking for what you need.
Jobot does not stock every flavor of syrup imaginable and does not pretend to be able to cater to every whim that might exist in the chain coffee house universe. Even with a deliberately constrained drink menu, most coffee house have at least one unique drink. At Jobot, it’s the “espresso sunrise,” two shots of espresso with orange juice. Surprisingly, it works, least for those with bold palates. A layer of crema floats above the coffee, which in turn, tops the juice. As the layers gradually blend, the acid notes in the coffee complement the citrus flavor of the juice.
The real distinctiveness of Jobot is found in the crepes, however. The board behind the counter features about a dozen choices, all freshly made to order in the small kitchen in back. The simple classics are crepes that not stuffed, but instead topped with lemon juice and powdered sugar, or cinnamon and brown sugar. Those work as a snack or a desert, but to make a meal out of a crepe, choose one with a filling. They’re divided in roughly equal proportions among the sweet and the savory with a few inventive recipes blending both.
On the sweet side, the combination of sliced banana, peanut butter, and raspberry jam is a hearty one that would satisfy almost any child and a lot of adults. Bananas appear again in a crepe with Nutella and whipped cream. Another mixes almonds, chocolate chips, and ricotta cheese. The chips melt into the ricotta, resulting in streaks of chocolate distributed throughout the sweet cheese and a uniform blending of flavors punctuated by bits of crunch from the slivered nuts.
The savory crepes lean heavily on southern European flavors such as pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella. Smoked turkey with spinach, cheese, and pesto blends complementary flavors in a filling mix, and the chorizo and egg combination adds a Southwestern touch. The most original recipe is one that matches Canadian bacon and turkey with raspberry jam. Eggs and Swiss cheese define appropriately neutral territory between the salty meats and the sweet fruit taste.
|chorizo and egg crepe|
All the crepes have admirable consistency in two senses of the word. They have appropriate crepe texture: slightly crisp toward the edges but never dry or stiff. At the same time, they don’t veer toward the opposite extreme of gumminess. That’s the first type of consistency; the second is that they tend to be equally good regardless of when ordered. Given their strengths, the crepes should not be skipped, but for anyone who must avoid them for dietary reasons, Jobot will also serve its crepe fillings with corn tortillas or salad greens.
|espresso chocolate chip cookie|
Other foods include a daily selection of scones with rotating flavor choices such as blueberry, vanilla buttermilk, and even basil chocolate chip. Big cookies and cupcakes also showcase the kitchen’s talent with sweets. In light of its original approach to food and classic approach to coffee, it’s hard not to like Jobot. It’s a place where you’re more likely to hear hip-hop or indie rock than “another folk singer,” and it’s also more than just another coffee house. It’s a creperie and gathering place, both of which Phoenix can always have more of.
Updated May 18, 2012: Jobot’s hours are now from 7 AM until midnight every day. The weekend overnight hours mentioned below are no longer in effect.
918 N. 5th St., Phoenix AZ 85004