Vovomeena

For the past decade, the intersection of Seventh Avenue and McDowell in central Phoenix has become a busy restaurant corner with a steady pace of new arrivals. The only problem, aside from the inevitable complaints about parking, is that so many of the newcomers are outposts of national chains, a trait that makes them somewhat unwelcome in the indie-leaning historic districts. One local dining critic even went so far as to describe the scene as a “fast food dump.” Among the franchised burgers and burritos, there is one local player for breakfast: Vovomeena.

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Ingo’s Tasty Food

A decade later than originally planned, an outpost of LGO Hospitality has finally arrived in downtown Phoenix. LGO stands for La Grande Orange, which originated on the east side of Phoenix with its gourmet grocery and pizzeria. A similar operation was planned for the CityScape development when it opened in 2011 but was abandoned at the last minute, ostensibly due to ventilation issues. More than 10 years later, another LGO brand, Ingo’s Tasty Food  has opened across the street from CityScape in the same developer’s Block 23 project.

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JL Patisserie

Bread and pastry, long-established in the food traditions of so many cultures and nations, have recently become less desirable for some diners. Whether it’s paleo this, keto that, or gluten-free everything, it sometimes seems like cauliflower and chickpeas rule the day. As wonderful as vegetables and legumes are, they’re not the same as grains, making it a refreshing change to find an unabashedly traditional French pastry shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Phoenix. JL Patisserie is a second location building upon the success of an original store in Scottsdale.

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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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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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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”

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”

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