Luana’s Coffee and Beer

There’s a whole genre of children’s books that encourage readers to look for small details within a much larger picture, often reiterated over many pages dealing with the same theme. There’s one from author and illustrator Walter Wick that shows details of treasure in a sunken ship only to zoom out to show that the entire tableau is actually a ship in a bottle. At the south end of Midtown in Phoenix, Luana’s Coffee feels sort of like that scene. With a vaguely tropical look, a bit of a pirate theme, and a vibe of cluttered eclecticism, Launa’s is itself a ship in a bottle.

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Cartel Coffee Lab

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.

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Spoonz

For many years, the downtown Phoenix menu seemed to be weekday lunches with a side of breakfast. So many establishments catered to employees of nearby office towers but saw little reason to stay open nights and weekends. Of course, that has all changed with new apartments and entertainment options in the city, and many of those lunch-only establishments have closed. The pandemic has added another challenge with so many people working from home, so it’s fascinating to see Spoonz, a sandwich and salad shop still operating on the office lunch model.

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Azukar Coffee

There are many changes in a neighborhood that can be seen as a sign of gentrification. The arrival of coffee houses is sometimes among them. The worst case scenario is that patrons of a specialty espresso shop will displace long standing residents of the surrounding area. The better outcome is a coffee house that reflects its neighborhood’s culture and heritage, promoting community among existing populations while welcoming new customers. As South Phoenix anticipates the changes to come with light rail, Azukar Coffee clearly fits in the second category. Continue reading “Azukar Coffee”

Lux Central

The boundaries between coffee houses, bars, and restaurants have never been rigid. Many places that specialize in coffee and espresso offer at least a few sandwiches or breakfast items. A few serve wine and beer. Starbucks tried a few years ago to cross the border into evening alcohol and dinner service only to retreat back to its classic model after a short time. While the massive chain may have failed in its attempt to become a bar and restaurant, one local coffee house, Lux Central, has successfully mixed elements of all three identities for nearly a decade. Continue reading “Lux Central”

Dapper & Stout

With over 100 days with high temperatures over 100 degrees, Phoenix is not the most obvious place for a coffee house with only outdoor seating — unless of course, the establishment is based primarily on a grab-and-go business model. That’s the case with Dapper & Stout, a coffee “house” that is really a counter and patio at the Collier Center in downtown Phoenix. If that setup sounds Spartan, it’s actually somewhat stylish. A long metal table in the shade of the office tower overhead hides just behind the escalators on the development’s northeastern corner. Continue reading “Dapper & Stout”

Churn

The word “churn” doesn’t always have the best connotation. In contemporary usage, it’s  often associated with the rate at which a business loses customers or a workplace sheds employees, with resulting impacts on profitability. There’s a more classic meaning of churn, though, and it’s far more favorable. The classic churn is the device used to agitate milk or cream in creating butter, and a slightly more recent derivative is the process of continuous stirring used to make ice cream. In this spirit, an ice cream shop in Uptown Phoenix proudly bears the name Churn. Continue reading “Churn”

Serafina

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. Continue reading “Serafina”

Birdhaus Coffeebar

Phoenix has plenty of drive-thrus. Even though adding them has proven controversial in areas within the footprint of the ReinventPHX initiative, preservationists have sometimes fought to save existing ones. With plenty of chains offering coffee to those in cars, it’s refreshing to see a walk-up coffee house. Birdhaus Coffeebar, located on Vernon Street where Midtown meets the Willo historic district, is a business that serves coffee and waffles from a tiny building easily reached on foot, via bicycle, or by taking light rail to Encanto / Central station a half block away. Continue reading “Birdhaus Coffeebar”

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