Observers of coffee culture often speak in terms of waves. The current wave, one that has been crashing over our cities since the ‘90s, is the third one, although there has been talk of an emerging fourth wave. Regardless of what trends dominate worldwide, one local coffee house has been making its own waves for over a decade via steady expansion throughout Arizona and even a few points beyond. Now with ten locations, Tempe-based Cartel Coffee Lab has grown a great deal since its founding in 2007, both in terms of its beverage and food to accompany it.Continue reading “Cartel Coffee Lab”
At first glance, Slices on Mill seems like a typical New York pizza place. It’s location three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station is cramped and casual. There are a few high-top tables and two counters, most of them adorned with shaker jars of crushed red pepper. A small patio provides additional dining space. The front counter usually has multiple types of pizza on display. In ordinary times when nearby Arizona State University is at its full population, the restaurant caters to the bar crowd by maintaining late hours until 3 AM on weekends.Continue reading “Slices on Mill”
Sometimes, it’s hard to define exactly when a local business grows to the point that it can be considered a chain. Since its beginnings at an old post office with a quasi-Arcadia address in 2001, Postino has expanded to half a dozen locations situated throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, as well as sites in Denver, Houston, and Tucson. With all that growth and a private equity deal helping to finance potential nationwide expansion, fans of earlier versions of the popular wine bar may wonder what to make of the brand’s rapidly enlarging footprint. Continue reading “Postino”
The three-block distance between the Tempe Transportation Center and the campus of Arizona State University has become a zone for intensive vertical development in just the past few years. New residential towers and hotels are occupying formerly vacant lots or, if a few cases, replacing existing buildings. Amid that high-rise development, one existing structure that seems likely to persist is the Islamic Community Center on Forest Avenue. The center is not only a mosque, but also houses a market and a Middle Eastern restaurant, Phoenicia Cafe. Continue reading “Phoenicia Cafe”
Tempe’s Mill Avenue sometimes seems awash in sandwich shops and taco joints, some of them more bars than restaurants. It’s worth remembering that Downtown Tempe’s most walkable corridor is also home to lesser known restaurants that carve out their own niches based on the uniqueness of their food. Med Fresh Grill not only has the distinction of being one of the more stable restaurants in the ever-changing Mill Avenue landscape, but also stands out as one of the few local places to serve the cuisine of Turkey, often under-appreciated in the United States. Continue reading “Med Fresh Grill”
On Mill Avenue, so many businesses have come and gone in recent years that an Irish pub nearly two decades old now seems like a veteran of that street’s fast-changing landscape of dining and nightlife. Of course, 20 years or so is nothing compared to the age of many pubs actually located in Ireland, and it’s also a short time compared to the age of the historic Andre building, where the pub in question, Rula Bula, occupies two side-by-side storefronts just a block south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station in the heart of Downtown Tempe. Continue reading “Rula Bula”
With medical marijuana dispensaries continuing to proliferate, a restaurant called “the Munchies” might sound like a place dedicated to a certain “herb.” Actually, the name is more a reference to a late closing time (3:00 AM every day) than any controlled substance, and the Munchies Cafe is a straightforward Middle Eastern and Greek quick service restaurant in the heart of Downtown Tempe. Look for the Munchies on the short cul-de-sac of Sixth Street that extends east from Mill Avenue, three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “The Munchies Cafe”
Desert plants are often known for having shallow roots, which are better for quickly absorbing water during brief storms followed by quick evaporation. In Downtown Tempe, a restaurant aptly named Desert Roots Kitchen has displayed some unexpectedly deep roots, operating with essentially the same approach for over six years and building upon the traditions of an even longer lasting restaurant, In Season Deli, that came before it at the same location. These roots continue to grow just a block-and-a-half south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station. Continue reading “Desert Roots Kitchen”
It seems every college campus has to have a burger joint. Ideally, this place should be inexpensive, unpretentious, independently owned, and decades old. The Chuckbox, which serves hamburgers in a location just across University Drive from the ASU Main Campus, meets all of these criteria. The restaurant, which is three blocks from the Veterans Way / College Avenue light rail station, stands nearly alone in a sea of new high-density construction as a throwback to another era when most Tempe restaurants occupied freestanding structures and Western kitsch was still fashionable decor.
Whenever a sweet spring turns into scorching summer, residents of the Sonoran Desert always begin to appreciate just how precious shade can be. Local communities have decidedly mixed records in cultivating shade, sometimes leaving master plans unfulfilled for years and relying on engineered shade structures that may be artistic but also less effective than planting more trees. When a place offers genuine shade, then, it’s worth celebrating. Shady Park, a combination of a restaurant and a nightclub in Tempe, calls out its two abundantly shaded patios in its name.
There’s long been a connection between coffee and architecture. Architects are stereotyped as drinking a lot of the brew, some of the best coffee houses are found in interesting spaces. Royal Coffee Bar benefits from being founded by an architect, and a sense of good design pervades the shop’s locations, including its sites at Heritage Square in Downtown Phoenix and on College Avenue in Downtown Tempe. Both locations serve Royal’s own coffee, roasted in house at Heritage Square, along with teas and a daily selection of pastries from local purveyors. Continue reading “Royal Coffee Bar”
For a society supposedly obsessed with brevity and starved for time, we seem to have an unexpected and enduring fascination with word games. Scrabble, the classic, now exists in digital formats for smartphones, tablets, and Facebook. The newer alternative, Words with Friends, provides a similar game with a social component added. Given the widespread enthusiasm for arranging letter tiles on game boards or touch screens, it should not be surprising to see a restaurant, NCounter, using the alphabet as part of its logo and decor. Continue reading “Daily Jam (formerly NCounter)”