There’s been a lot of change on Roosevelt Row lately, and not everyone is happy about it. Although a new wave of construction has realized dreams of residential density near transit, there has been a resistance of sorts, based on perceptions of gentrification and a desire to preserve old buildings scattered amid vacant lots. A frequent gathering place for this resistance was Jobot, the coffee house and cafe formerly on Fifth Street. When a rent dispute caused Jobot to vacate its home at the end of 2016, there was even more outcry over the rapid transformation of the area.
It’s therefore ironic that Jobot’s new home, which came about faster than anyone expected, is in one of the new not-so-high-rise buildings that have altered the neighborhood in recent years. The new Jobot occupies a ground floor retail space in the Roosevelt Point building, just three blocks east of the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. The prior tenant was another coffee house, Oliver’s Sophisticated Bean (OSB). It was a confluence of circumstances that led to the rapid relocation. OSB’s original business model faltered at the same time as Jobot’s rent impasse.
The space has undergone a rapid transition. The large signs proclaiming OSB are gone, Jobot’s signature “coffee” sign has been added, and the Jobot logo is on the doors. Likewise, Jobot’s distinctive umbrellas have found their way to the patio at the new location. Unfortunately, a policy of allowing smoking on the patio has also migrated from Fifth Street to Roosevelt Point. Nevertheless, the patio at the new site is at least off to the side, removing the toxic haze that non-smokers had to endure in order to enter and exit Jobot’s original space.
Shaded bicycle racks are found behind Jobot in the ground floor of Roosevelt Point’s parking garage; however, many of the bike-riding customers who have followed Jobot from Fifth Street are using the railings surrounding the patio instead. Jobot has added some comfortable seating on the sidewalk right outside the door and a water station free for anyone to use. Inside, the high ceilings and wood furniture from the OSB days remain, but Jobot has softened the lighting. Most of the seating is at tables and counters, but a small lounge area is found at the back.
Jobot’s menu at the new location is not quite as extensive at it was on Fifth Street, but it has grown steadily since the move and now has ample representation in the specialties Jobot was known for. At the most fundamental level, that means good coffee, both drip and a variety of espresso drinks, and plenty of pastry. Brownies, cookies, and scones are all found at the counter, along with more ambitious specialty items like a beggar’s purse filled with chocolate. Teas are available hot or iced, and “Blue Bot” serves as a signature blend with its malty and fruity notes.
Crepes have always been a highlight of Jobot. Currently about half a dozen are available, beginning with the classic combination of Nutella and strawberries and extending to savory options such as chorizo with cheddar, spinach, and egg or the Elvis with peanut butter, banana, and bacon. Waffles, biscuits and gravy, and egg-filled burritos and sandwiches complete the breakfast offerings. Of course, Jobot has always been about an all day (and sometimes all night) menu, so those morning-oriented items are served during the coffee house’s full business hours.
Sandwiches, salads, and other entrees have more of a lunch-and-dinner feel, though. A chicken quesadilla is a simple, straightforward item, but quite well executed with a spicy salsa on the side. A house salad is an impressive spectrum of artichoke hearts, black olives, bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, red onion, and feta over greens. Yellow curry is full of potatoes and chicken. It’s mild but readily spiced up with a squeeze bottle of sambal oelek. Among the flatbreads, the Point is a sweet and spicy combination of green apples, pistachios, and goat cheese with honey drizzled on top.
While Jobot’s printed menu continues its slow but steady growth at the new location, there are also several ways to see what else the kitchen can do. There are occasional weekday specials such as a fiery vegan chili, and every Sunday features different creations like falafel waffles, crab cakes, or spanakopita as part of Jobot’s longstanding Beats & Brunch event. Not to be overlooked is the grab-and-go case full of off-menu items, including orzo and pasta salads, tiramisu and chia pudding for dessert, and even entrees to be reheated like mac-and-cheese or meatloaf.
At its old site on Fifth Street, Jobot was in the process of adding a bar. At the new location, one was already in existences thanks to OSB’s efforts. With a liquor license and tap handles available, Jobot now offers a rotating selection of craft beers, as well as many more selections in cans and bottles. Considering that the late, great Flowers liquor store was under the same ownership as Jobot, it’s unsurprising that the store’s approach to beer and wine has migrated to the new site, along with the vintage Ms. Pac-Man game that was once found in the Flowers shop.
For those who see the current construction of Roosevelt Row as a net positive development, Jobot’s relocation is an affirmation that new buildings in the area not only bring more customers to support local business, but can also provide retail space for displaced shops. As expected, there are others who remain displeased over the changes, but many have already moved on to other parts of the city such as Grand Avenue. Those neighborhoods may eventually be subject to the same forces of change, so debate over gentrification will continue, perhaps fueled by Jobot coffee.
333 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix AZ 85004