E-Joy Cafe
Nicole Hoffman
It's three days until that thesis is due, and a virus from a pop-up promoting Lonely Housewives Begging for More has just eaten up the hard drive of an outdated computer you found on Craigslist. Access to the magic of the information superhighway has been lost, but luckily all the hours of work were saved on a faithful floppy. But how will this project make its deadline? Go where all the ASU students flock in search of an Internet fix. E-Joy Cafe, a 'Net cafe off ultra-hip Mill Avenue, offers Internet access for a mere 5 cents a minute, along with a variety of food and beverages priced between $3 and $5 to fit a college budget. Scan pictures, burn CDs, make copies, and print out that thesis, all while sucking down one of E-Joy's tasty smoothies. Whether work or pleasure draws you to the Web, EJ is open 'til 2 a.m. to cure that need for high-speed.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Coffee Bean is to Southern California what Starbucks is to Seattle -- on every corner, ready to turn the unsuspecting into $4-a-day latte addicts. There are far fewer Coffee Beans than there are Starbucks, but chances are you've seen a Coffee Bean or two in your day -- in a sitcom or a reality show, or, even more likely, the background on a star shot in People magazine. It's always, "Jennifer forgets Brad over a non-fat, sugar-free Moroccan mint latte" or "Cameron beats the Santa Monica heat with a Malibu Dream Ice Blend."

We'll show you some heat, Cameron -- as well as several Coffee Beans popping up on the streets of Phoenix -- er, make that Scottsdale -- you see most of them in Scottsdale. That's not surprising; it's all about the lifestyle, baby. Our favorite Coffee Bean is a roomy affair with plenty of parking (take that, L.A.), right next door to the FORD/Robert Black Agency. So who knows, maybe we'll see a star or two ourselves, over our Iced Chai Tea Latte.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD COFFEE HOUSE, CENTRAL PHOENIX

Lux Coffeebar

Desert at Lux
Dominique Chatterjee
Desert at Lux
In a city where we have to drive everywhere anyway, we're happy to extend our definition of "neighborhood" by a few miles to include Lux in our locality. While plenty of folks really do come here on foot, many more are willing to cruise past their corner Starbucks -- or even a few of them -- just to lounge on Lux's comfy white seats with a magazine or a friend. Both the art (paintings and photography from local talent) and the regulars (a lively cross section of Phoenix artists, musicians, writers and architects) are fun to look at, but the real draw, of course, is the coffee. Roasted in-house and served up by expert baristas, it's a treat unto itself (although it goes down even better with a piece of Paloma's Pastries' fruit tart).
Espresso Garden
This quaint coffee commissary located in downtown Glendale wants a piece of the caffeinated action. Steel your wiry nerves, business-minded baristas, 'cause instead of wi-fi access or Joni Mitchell CDs, the smallish Espresso Garden offers a kinder, gentler java junction built into the converted garage of a Victorian-era home and teahouse. Within the country-store-like setting -- complete with checkerboards painted onto tabletops, and abundant antiques -- traditional coffee-house fare is served up to commuters bound for downtown Phoenix and pedestrians strolling among the doll shops and other kitsch klatsches of the Caitlin Court Historic District. Get your drink on with an assortment of steaming cappuccinos, iced lattes, aromatic teas, spiced ciders, and refreshing Italian sodas. If the hunger bug is biting, try a fresh deli sandwich (such as the veggie bagel with cream cheese, carrots, tomatoes and avocado) or choose from a selection of homemade biscotti, muffins, turnovers and other baked goods. It might seem too homespun for the hipsters, but a greeting card taped to the front counter sums up this demitasse domain's contribution to Glendale's cultural landscape: "She ain't much, but she's all we've got."

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD COFFEE HOUSE, NORTH PHOENIX

Soma Cafe

This spacious, welcoming room is a regular hangout for all manner of North Tatum habitués, from tat-covered crypto-hipsters to moms, business types and retirees just passing the time. Creature comforts predominate, including soft couches and chairs, a big flat-screen television, computer hookups, and a staff of kind young women (and an obligatory man or two) who try to remember everyone's name and what they like in the way of food and drink. The coffee is fine, and the eats are even finer, the latter with a distinct accent on the healthful stuff. We especially love the oatmeal/granola mix with the sugar glaze, topped by fresh fruit. A wall with news of local goings-on adds to the community feel of the joint. We could use Soma-More.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD COFFEE HOUSE, SOUTHEAST VALLEY

Coffee Rush

We get a rush from anything open past 10 that doesn't serve fries. How about some homemade baklava instead? Lakefront property, a nearby Pita Jungle and wireless Internet access means Coffee Rush is always packed. Sans laptop? There's even a computer for customers, gratis. Pick up a giant iced mocha and make everyone jealous because you have the stamina to be "chatting online with babes all day." Last call's at 11:30 p.m. -- plenty of time to slurp the rest of the mocha and go.
Steve's Espresso
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.

Orange Table
Jamie Peachey
If you care to sip a latte in Scottsdale, we recommend the Orange Table, tucked into a hard-to-find cranny on the Scottsdale Mall near the Center for the Performing Arts. If you're seeking a frou-frou coffee drink or just a plain old cup of coffee in a plain old cup, try the Table. The small coffee-house-cum-eatery will satisfy your caffeine jones while making you puff up with pride for supporting a locally owned and operated biz.

We highly recommend the Table's Mexican chocolate latte -- a sweet, aromatic jolt made with cinnamon and other spices. Willing to take a chance? Try the Mojo, an iced chai with a shot of espresso. Sounds gross, but trust us. But if you don't, try the frozen white chocolate mocha -- a perfect and not-too-sweet icy treat for a torrid summer afternoon. We're also fond of the Table's baristas, who are always friendly and often creative; you might just find the shape of a leaf or a heart skillfully traced into the foam of your latte.

Monique and Andres Yuhnke opened Counter Culture Café with hopes of becoming the late-night hangout spot, and we have to say they seem to have pulled it off. At the very least, the hip coffee shop that moonlights as a perennial First Friday haunt and a popular dance club oasis has definitely put Denny's and IHOP on the alert. During the week, the cafe is a cozy spot to grab a pick-me-up while surfing on the free wi-fi service. Caffeine-starved patrons can enjoy a range of high-octane beverages on comfy couches, a large outdoor patio, or via a 24/7 drive-through window. Wednesday nights a crowd gathers for the "anything goes" Speak Up! spoken-word series. And on Saturdays until 5 a.m., a rotating cast of house DJs, including Sonique des Fleurs and Joe Bear, transforms the cafe into an after-hours disco paradise. Dance on over.
Say you've just spent countless weekends trying to rid your residence of unwanted objects and other oddities, or rushed out to shop, after reading our "Goods and Services" section of Best of Phoenix. After six carport sales, though, no one wants that huge concrete fountain of a cherub pissing in a pool or the soiled patio furniture. There's no way you can sell it on eBay, and the thrift store won't touch it. Someone should put it to good use instead of letting it linger in a landfill, but nobody in his or her right mind will beg, borrow or steal it from you . . . except for the folks on Freecycle, that is. Conceived by an environmentally conscious Tucson resident in 2003, this vast network of separate community-specific e-mail Listservs around the world -- including 18 devoted to Valley regions -- is made up of locals who'll come pick up your outcasts on a first come, first served basis. It's one freaky flea market, as users can either announce their weird wares -- like killer fish or broken screen doors -- or make specific requests for items another Netizen might have. Think of it as the most bizarre bazaar of all.

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