It has been a long time since the Luhrs Building and its sibling the Luhrs Tower were the tallest buildings in Phoenix. Nonetheless, the two art deco structures remain icons of the city’s growth and development nearly a century ago. They’ve suffered the indignity of facing the loading docks and garage entrances of CityScape’s ugly backside, but recent renovations have allowed the buildings, now known jointly as Luhrs City Center, to realize their potential with a refreshed look and new tenants, among them Serafina, a coffee house and roaster.
Serafina is one of what seems like too many coffee houses to count that have emerged in Downtown Phoenix; however, it’s location along Jefferson Street situates the establishment farther south than most of its peers. The shop is half a block from the Jefferson / First Avenue platform for eastbound trains and a block-and-a-half from the Washington / Central platform for westbound trains. One item overlooked so far in the Luhrs renovations has been bike racks. Go around the corner on First Avenue to find some built into the parking meters there.
The refurbished interior recalls the building’s history with an exposed wall of original brick. The actual roasting machine used for preparing coffee beans on site sits near the entrance, and plenty of natural light makes it way in through the windows facing Jefferson. There’s ample seating at tables and a sofa for lounging. The counter lies halfway towards the back of the shop with the full menu on a chalkboard overhead and baked goods, mostly from Picket Fence Pastries, on display right up front to tempt customers as they place their drink orders.
The beans roasted in the store are used to produce coffee via drip, pour-over, or French press methods. Of course, there’s a full spectrum of espresso drinks available with some less common offerings such as cafe miele, a latte seasoned with honey, cinnamon, and vanilla. The selection of tea is also varied with both hot and cold choices. Among the iced teas, the red mango is a tart, fruity blend. For a bit of spice, a golden milk latte is made with steamed milk and a tea flavored with turmeric, giving the finished product is distinctive vibrant color.
The pastry selection includes plenty of expected sweets such chocolate cookies and blueberry scones, as well as European-influenced treats from Picket Fence like a cherry galette with a flaky crust and tart filling or a chocolate mini-bundt cake with mulberry glaze. Croissants filled with almond paste are another item that benefit from the presence of just enough sugar to be sweet not so much as to be overpowering. Another croissant accessorized with prosciutto, brie, and apricot takes the buttery pastry in a savory direction.
If looking for something approaching a light meal, Serafina offers bagels with cream cheese or a salmon spread, along with a straightforward grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough. The shop’s approach to toast is equally substantial but perhaps more interesting. Ricotta with strawberry jam contrasts tart and sweet flavors, especially when made with brioche, and Serafina’s interpretation of the increasingly ubiquitous avocado toast is livelier than many versions due to the addition of pico de gallo, sliced tomato, and coarsely ground pepper.
With its quality pastry offerings, on-site roasting, substantial snacks, and impressive beverage selection, Serafina has quickly claimed its place among the ever-growing spectrum of coffee houses in the city’s central business and government district. The Luhrs Building and the Luhrs Tower may have suffered from years of neglect, and they are still faced with an unflattering streetscape outside, but after much-needed renovations to the structures, tenants like Serafina are helping to enliven the historic high-rises from the inside.
45 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix AZ 85003