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”

Kream Coffee

Cream in coffee, disliked by some purists but favored by many consumers, is a sort of accent to a robust beverage. A little splash can make a cup full of brew more palatable and cool it to a drinkable temperature. Likewise, a little bit of coffee culture can add a bit of panache and convenience to a retail environment. Grocery and department stores have discovered that with their ubiquitous in-house chain coffee operations. For a small, independent design shop, however, something a little more stylish is in order. That’s the role played by Kream Coffee.
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Cartel Coffee Lab

If there’s one item thought to go with coffee (or tea), it’s pastry. Cartel Coffee Lab has long excelled with its beverages, but in its early years, the coffee house was so exclusively focused on the quality of its brew that it barely served any food at all. Since then, Cartel has gone through phases of relying on external providers and varying its food offering by location. Now, in the most recent development, Cartel has started offering its own baked goods at its various locations, including both the original shop in Tempe and its smaller site in downtown Phoenix. Continue reading “Cartel Coffee Lab”

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”

Royal Coffee Bar

 

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”

Songbird Coffee & Tea House

As the show “Portlandia” wraps up its final season, fans will inevitably look back on favorite moments during the program’s eight-year run. One top contender is likely to be the “Put a Bird on it” sketch in which characters Bryce and Lisa decorate every item imaginable with an avian theme. In the Evans Churchill neighborhood of Phoenix, Songbird Coffee & Tea House has put a bird on the concept of the local coffee house. Differentiating itself while living up to its full name, Songbird puts as much emphasis on tea as it does on coffee and espresso drinks. Continue reading “Songbird Coffee & Tea House”

Hidden Track Cafe

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. Continue reading “Hidden Track Cafe”

Giant Coffee

There’s some debate these days about the construction of multi-story apartment buildings (more mid-rise than high-rise) in the zone around Hance Park where Downtown meets Midtown. Maybe it was prescient that a coffee house opened back in 2010 adopted the name “Giant Coffee,” foretelling the arrival of taller buildings in a neighborhood that was then full of vacant lots and neglected properties. Although Giant’s own building is only two stories tall, its location seems to be well situated to take advantage of new customers expected as a result of nearby construction. Continue reading “Giant Coffee”

Jobot

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. Continue reading “Jobot”

First Draft Book Bar

Over the past quarter century, independent bookstores have nearly vanished and then begun a gradual recovery. Phoenix used to have plenty of them: Houle, Dushoff, and Shakespeare Beethoven & Company are all names that live only in local readers’ memories. Those stores are long gone, but Tempe-based Changing Hands has not only survived competition from online stores and chains, but also opened a second location in Uptown Phoenix. The Phoenix store is smaller than the one in southern Tempe, but it has a distinguishing feature: First Draft Book Bar. Continue reading “First Draft Book Bar”

Fàme Caffe

In Phoenix, it has never been entirely clear where Midtown ends and Uptown begins. Some might say Indian School Road, where current high-rise development stops, is the boundary. Others could argue the Grand Canal is a more logical divider between the two areas. With both the Midtown and Uptown terms now being stretched beyond historic boundaries, geography buffs can continue to debate the first question. Meanwhile, a restaurant in the gray area between the two zones raises a question of more interest to diners: When does breakfast end and lunch begin? Continue reading “Fàme Caffe”

Lola Coffee

With so much new development occurring along Roosevelt Row, it’s nice to be reminded of the value of long-standing buildings that have somehow survived decades of neglect and the demolition of their neighbors. One of those is the Gold Spot, officially known when it opened in 1925 as the Gold Spot Marketing Center. This building, originally used as a grocery and shopping center in what was then considered a far-flung suburb, now functions as space for neighborhood businesses, including something that nearly every neighborhood needs: a coffee house. Continue reading “Lola Coffee”

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