As mentioned in Part 1 of Phoenix Coffeeneuring on Two Pheet (ha ha!), after a week of daily coffee runs, I filled my Saturday morning with a six espresso, one iced matcha coffeeneuring/run Phoenix tour. This is the most coffee I believe I’ve had in one go since I was in undergrad.
I headed out early enough to begin my tasting tour at the 7 a.m. hour, as that is when most of the locations downtown open. I slathered on the sunblock, filled my water bottle, and stuffed the planned coffee shop stop addresses in my pocket.
1. Lola Coffee
1001 North 3rd Avenue
I kicked off my weekend coffee crawl/run Phoenix tour with a visit to Lola Coffee. Staff were friendly, but the space was very crowded on the weekend. There was really no good area to wait for your coffee drink without being in the way.
My americano was inoffensive, though not that savory. On the up side, I did receive it in a ceramic cup. Maybe they were having an off day, but I wouldn’t rush to try Lola’s again.
2. Phoenix Public Market Café
14 East Pierce Street
After Lola’s, I headed to the open air farmers market for a breakfast treat from one of the vendors. I also ordered a soy latte from the Phoenix Public Market Café. I’ve been here before, and have had reliable espresso in the past. Not today.
My drink was bitter and there was way too much foam on my latte, which almost never happens to me. The café itself was lively and a good people-watching space. Probably should have just had breakfast.
3. Songbird Coffee and Tea House
812 North 3rd Street
I wasn’t planning on stopping at Songbird, but when my run took me right past it, I had to go inside. A charming establishment, Songbird is a house that has been converted to a coffee and tea house.
My coffeeneuring sense indicated that Songbird’s strength was not coffee so I asked for a recommended drink. In response, I received an iced matcha. By this point in the morning, I welcomed a cool iced drink.
Songbird’s matcha was pretty good (though I’m no matcha expert). No harshness, and it did not wire me too much.
4. Bicycle Nomad Café
828 North 2nd Street
I was really hoping for a solid espresso by this time so I headed off to the Bicycle Nomad Café in hopes that it could deliver. The café is colocated with Velo, a local bike shop that focused on high end road and some mountain bikes. There were a few transportation bikes, but very few.
I moved from the shop to the café. I was struck by the familiarity of the logo, but I couldn’t quite place it. As I talked with Austin, the barista, I realized that the shop’s owner was THE Bicycle Nomad, Erick Cedeno, a well-known touring cyclist who has dropped anchor for the moment in Phoenix.
Erick was leading a casual ride around town when I stopped, so I passed by a little while later to say hello to him. I like that he is building community around transportation cycling (and good coffee).
As for the espresso, it was solid and smooth. I also had a delicious glass of kombucha, which the café sources from a place in Sonoma, and combined well with the late-morning heat.
Austin also taught me the technique for eating a banana to help curb the caffeine high. I think he might have been worried about me when I told him about my coffee run plans.
5. Cartel Coffee Lab
1 North 1st Street
Pleased with my espresso experience at Bicycle Nomad Café, I eagerly headed down the street to Cartel. I’ve been to other Cartel locations around Phoenix and they are reliably good. The downtown space was no exception.
Cartel baristas are generally friendly, but have a little bit of attitude about the quality of their coffee. While that is a little annoying, the quality of the end result earns the swagger.
I wanted an americano, but chose the espresso instead, given the amount of coffee I was consuming that morning. Espresso four on the day.
The downtown Cartel location is combined with another business. I think it offers more food and other beverages, which might complement Cartel’s coffee-only focus.
Cartel – always worth a stop.
909 North 1st Street
Austin at Bicycle Nomad had said that a recently opened place, Futuro, might be worth checking out. I followed his suggestion, and also ate a banana before heading there. I was starting to feel the caffeine in my veins.
It’s a little weird that Futuro is colocated with a hair salon, but it’s in the back of the building and somehow it works. Futuro also shares space with an art gallery. You have to go yourself to understand the layout.
There was not a lot of seating at Futuro, but that did not present any issues when I was there. My modern chair was made more for presentation than function, but since my drink was an espresso and I did not stay long, I could deal with the chair’s impractical fit.
I loved my coffee experience at Futuro! It was definitely the best tasting espresso I had while in Phoenix. I believe the soda water served alongside it also had a sliver of panela in it as well, to sweeten it ever-so-slightly.
The espresso glided down my throat, smooth and delicious. Futuro uses 49th Parallel coffee out of Vancouver, and the owner really loved his espresso machine. Sorry I can’t tell you what type it was but he felt it pulled a reliable shot every time.
I appreciated how personable Futuro’s owner was and how passionate he was about coffee. 49th Parallel plus whatever the machine equals plus a commitment to coffee equals perfect espresso for you! If you’re in downtown Phoenix, definitely check out Futuro.
7. Be: Coffee + Food + Stuff
220 East Roosevelt Street
In converation with Futuro’s owner and another patron, I learned about Be. My caffeination level was mostly saturated by, and I’d just had one of the best espresso’s ever, but I convinced myself there was room for one more espresso. Off to Be I went.
Be is located in a quirky spot next to a park with murals, and the shop itself is colocated with a gallery. The space dedicated to coffee is small compared to the rest of the building, but it still had a decent amount of seating. I say that as a person who is used to D.C. locations, where space is often at a premium.
I ordered an espresso and a banana. The person taking my order introduced herself, asked for my name, and told me who would be making my espresso. The process was rather sweet.
When my espresso arrived, the server brought me only the espresso cup, no saucer. In addition, it appeared that the espresso had run over and that they had wiped the cup down. I could see the residual espresso around the edges of the cup.
That isn’t ideally how I like my espresso presented, but it did not affect the taste, which I found to be pretty good. However, after a couple of sips, my tastebuds and stomach told me it was time to end my coffee tour. I drank as much of the espresso as I could and set the rest aside.
Be was not my favorite, but like several of the other locales, I was happy about the friendliness of the staff. And most important, I found my espresso at Be to be more than decent, despite the presentation.
I departed Be and made my way back to pack for my flight. My coffee crawl/run Phoenix tour had been quite fun and revealing. After visiting 7 places over 8.5 miles, in addition to my daily coffee runs, I found that Phoenix has a lively independent coffee shop scene, with many of the establishments dedicated to providing their patrons with a quality cup of coffee.
My Top-Ranked Coffeeneuring Spots
The top three favorites from my Phoenix coffeeneuring/run Phoenix tour were (in order of preference):
Cartel comes in at number 4, but barely. It is definitely up there with the aforementioned three in terms of coffee quality and retail space.