When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, a s the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Hazelrock Coffee + Sweets
Location: 725 South Rural Road, Tempe
Open: About three weeks
Eats: coffee, pastries, shaved ice
Price: less than $10/person
Tempe's newest coffee shop can be found on the northeast corner of Rural Road and University Drive, in the shopping complex most known for housing Sushi 101 and Tempe Improv. Hazelrock Coffee + Sweet occupies a large space on the first floor of the complex, and if you've ever been to this strip mall before, then you already know parking isn't exactly easy to find.
The good news is that Hazelrock — with its bright, airy design, exposed Edison bulbs, and a decorative bike — is hipster-cool and probably worth the trouble. With large tables and plenty of caffeine, the coffee shop seems prepped to be a popular study spot for ASU students. Though we do predict there will be a shortage of outlets for laptop users.
The house specialty drink is cold-brew coffee, which can be ordered in several flavors, including apple cinnamon, coconut, and blackberry lavender on our visit. If you're indecisive or just want to try them all, Hazelrock also offers a cold brew flight that includes four small pours for $6. We started with the basic cold brew, made with Ethiopian beans, and were happy with the coffee's smooth, bright flavors. Our favorite of the infused brews had to be the blackberry lavender, which had delicate berry flavors and just a touch of floral quality. In comparison, the coconut was little too sweet, and the apple cinnamon didn't quite achieve the spicy cinnamon quality we expected.
For hot coffee, customers could choose between Cortez coffee's Ethiopian and Cameroonian beans, or a Brazilian from Chandler's Piexoto. There also was a selection of specialty drinks that included a salted brulée latte, royal tea latte, ice almond mac latte, and iced Vietnamese coffee. We found the shop's take on a Vietnamese coffee a tad too sweet, but it sure looked cute served in a medium-size mason jar.
For an afternoon pick-me-up of the sugary variety, Hazelrock has plenty to offer. The shop makes pasties on-site and even by the late afternoon had a decent selection from which to choose. We loved the dense chocolatey Oreo brownie ($3.25), which included traditional blondie bar (think: a brownie but flavored with vanilla instead of cocoa) sandwiched between two layers of fudge-like chocolate. The rich flavors made a perfect pairing for Hazelrock's Ethiopian cold brew.
We were less impressed with the banana bread ($3.25), walnut-topped mini-loaf that we found crumbly and dry.
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Best of all is the snow-style shaved ice. On our visit available flavors included chocolate, matcha, mango, and mixed berry — with the last two being dairy free. We ordered a bowl of the mango snow ($3.50) and loved the strong fruity flavor. If you've never tried this Taiwanese version of shaved ice, know that this frozen treat comes in thick ribbons and has a texture that's somewhere in between ice cream and shaved ice. It's creamy and cold and literally melts in your mouth. Diners can choose from a selection of toppings or keep it simple with a drizzle of sweet condensed milk.
With school starting back up we won't hold our breath while waiting for find a parking spot or a seat at Hazelrock, though we'd brave the crowds for a bowl of snow.