A recent bout of work travel took me to Phoenix, Arizona, a place where the sun shines and the dry heat is still hot. Glorious conditions for someone who has spent the days in dreary Washington, D.C.
Most of the trip was work, but I carved out morning runs – including a Saturday coffeeneuring crawl/run Phoenix tour that included 6 espressos and an iced matcha latte – to explore the coffee scene in the city. I’ve put together a rundown (!) of my various visits, with a quick review of the space and beverage of choice, which was most often an americano or espresso.
Surprisingly, Phoenix has a number of inviting independent coffee shops in the downtown area, several of which take their coffee seriously.
4400 North Central Avenue
A recommendation from my sister took me to Lux Coffee. Even though Lux didn’t look like much from the street, upon entering from the rear (which seems to be somewhat common for establishments in Phoenix), I saw plenty of table space and seating for the coffee crowd. Sorry no photo.
I ordered an americano, and while waiting for my drink I observed that 7 a.m. is when the weekday coffee crowd shows up to Lux. The americano had a rich flavor, though its texture was somewhat thick.
What’s with the business card note to accompany your drink? A little on the pretentious side, if you ask me. Oh well, their system works and this clearly was my drink. Overall, a thumbs up.
Copper Star Coffee
4220 North 2nd Avenue
Copper Star Coffee, an old gas station that has since been converted into a coffee shop, was also the result of a recommendation, this time from a tweep. Despite being off a busy main road, it has an inviting outdoor space set back from the street, and it has a rather small, but still open, indoor space.
Another americano for me. Overall, the taste of the drink was smooth, and I found the baristas really friendly. Copper Star Coffee struck me as a place that has a lot of regulars.
Unfortunately, they only use paper cups, which I dislike both in terms of paper waste as well as overall drinking experience. I could carry my own cup around, but when I’m out running, I don’t. Only a water bottle.
That said, I’d go back to Copper Star Coffee again. Good people, good drink, and a bright space to slurp your beverage.
3508 North 7th Street
I chose Urban Beans as a destination due to its proximity. I only had time for a short run, and even though the reviews of Urban Beans highlighted its food more than its coffee, I thought I’d give it a try anyway, especially since my understanding was that it had begun as a coffee bar. Urban Beans is the only coffee shop in the city that is open 24 hours. Good for students!
Again, I ordered an americano, and it was served to me in a big latte cup. It was watery and without flavor. Overall, an uninspired experience. Should have tried a scone instead.
Generally, I’ve found that places that try to be a combination of coffee shop, restaurant, and wine bar are not that focused on a quality coffee experience, and that proved true for Urban Beans. I wouldn’t go back to Urban Beans for coffee, unless it was 2 a.m., and I was desperate.
1437 North 1st Street
GIANT Coffee is just off the Phoenix Art Museum in the downtown area. The shop’s space is open and modern. I was also skeptical to try it, simply because of the name – GIANT Coffee. Who names their shop GIANT Coffee?
I needn’t have been so suspect. The barista put my mind and palate at ease with a no-nonsense americano served in a ceramic cup that was just right in flavor and size. This spot is open and airy, unpretentious, and inviting. I didn’t want to leave.
GIANT Coffee was my favorite coffee shop location, and when I’m back in Phoenix, I’m definitely stopping here again.
Coming up: Part 2, the Coffeeneuring on Two Feet/Run Phoenix Tour!