BEST NEIGHBORHOOD COFFEE HOUSE, TEMPE - 2005
Sometimes, the rest of you forget that Tempe actually extends south of University Drive, beyond Arizona State University and into suburbia. It's there that we find Steve's Espresso, across the street from Target, around the corner from Ace Hardware and next door to a pretty good Indian restaurant. We love Steve's because the crowd's a bit calmer than what we see along Mill Avenue, and there's actually a place to park, right in front. Inside on a Sunday morning at the end of summer, electronic music plays in the background, just enough of a beat to keep us going as we wait for a latte. When we order a bagel, expecting full service, we're crushed when the guy behind the counter asks, "One packet of cream cheese or two?" but we perk up when we realize we get to toast our own bagel (the kids at Einstein's never get it dark enough, and don't get us started on Bruegger's), and soon we're bobbing our heads again, soaking in the local art on the walls, the leather chairs, the wireless access. And the latte's not bad at all. Bagel's pretty good, too. And there are even free dog biscuits for the hairy type hanging outside with his owner.
Now this is what we call a neighborhood.