Aficionados of rock and pop music have long delighted in discovering hidden tracks, secret songs not listed on an album’s packaging. Ditties like the Beatles’ “Her Majesty” appeared when records were dominant, and hidden tracks persisted with compact discs. Less common in an age of streaming services and song-by-song disaggregated listening, the idea is still relevant enough that there’s a Downtown Phoenix wine and beer store named “Hidden Track Bottle Shop.” Now, that moniker is shared with an adjacent coffee house, Hidden Track Cafe.
While the bottle shop is somewhat hidden inside the lobby of the 111 West Monroe tower, the cafe is a bit more prominent with a street entrance and a long, shaded patio that stretches nearly to Central Avenue. There’s just a little seating inside the cafe itself; more options are found in the building lobby and outside. The location is just a block-and-a-half from the Van Buren / Central (westbound) and Van Buren / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms. Bike racks in the area take the form of loops built into several parking meters along Monroe.
Hidden Track Cafe was originally a coffee house specializing in flavor-infused cold brew coffee, under a different name and different ownership. In its latest incarnation, the cold brew has remained but has been supplemented with additional choices that extend the mission of the neighboring wine and beer shop. The result is a more extensive selection of food, including savory snacks such as a pretzel croissant and even full lunches. Of course, there’s still some sweet pastry like apple cider doughnuts and Belgian chocolate chip cookies with sea salt.
The expanded food menu goes beyond coffee house pastry to emphasize cheese, a natural accompaniment to the wine sold next door. Several varieties are sold by weight and displayed in a refrigerated case. For a small plating fee in addition to the cost of the cheese itself, staff will slice any of the cheeses and prepare a board with pieces of crusty Noble bread (also sold here by the loaf) and a generous serving of fig spread. For $25, there’s the option of having a variety of cheeses selected by staff presented on a board generous enough for two or more to share.
Other cheesy (in a good way) lunch options include a multitude of grilled cheese sandwiches with gruyere pressed between slices of the same Noble bread used on the cheese boards. The simplest of the sandwiches stops there, while others add optional ingredients such as fresh tomato, chorizo, or hatch chilies. There’s an “everything” option and a “Jeff Ross” choice (perhaps named after a vegetarian) that adds every ingredient already mentioned except the chorizo. Any of these sandwiches go well with a bowl of the cafe’s tangy tomato bisque soup.
An equal number of flatbread pizzas occupy another column on the overhead chalkboard menu. Five-cheese and pepperoni are straightforward choices while the combination of bleu cheese and pear (sometimes apple, depending on seasonal availability) plays with less traditional topping combinations. These small oblong pies are light enough to serve as a manageable meal for one. Additional possibilities include a changing choice of quiche, a black bean quesadilla, and at least one cheese-free option: avocado toast.
Beyond cold brew, beverage choices include all the usual espresso drinks, hot and iced teas, canned Italian sodas, and the option to consume one’s own beer or wine, whether purchased next door or elsewhere. If choosing the BYOB route, there’s usually a corkage fee involved; however, that charge is waived for customers who are members of the wine club at the Hidden Track Bottle Shop, a program for regular customers that provides two bottles per month — one red and one white, both selected by staff — along with discounts and free tastings.
It was fun for older music fans to figure out exactly where to drop the needle on a turntable to hear a hidden track, but It’s hard to predict if such gems will survive in the age of streaming services. Nevertheless, the concept of something unique tucked in a less-traveled location is still an appealing one. For several years, Hidden Track Bottle Shop has offered less heavily marketed wine and beer choices. Its companion, Hidden Track Cafe, now offers a slightly different take on the traditional coffee house in a way that complements the wine shop next door.
111 W. Monroe St., Phoenix AZ 85003
Van Buren / Central (westbound) and Van Buren / 1st Avenue (eastbound) stations