Others prefer an off-the-beaten-path locale where we can get a little work done in our own weird way. In this case, we mean setting up shop (and laptop) in a corner of a popular north Phoenix restaurant that's one part coffee shop, one part health cafe observing the world of pretty people in spandex, business types in suits, young mothers with their little ones, and the occasional big-time athlete hanging out.
The friendly folks who work the spacious room at Soma don't give a hoot if you take up space for hours on end, sipping on an iced tea as you "craft" another masterpiece at the keyboard (or just try to get the damn thing done). In fact, Soma's staffers embrace the restaurant's regulars, both figuratively and (if you're lucky) literally. And here's another thing we've seen for ourselves: We'd bet as many deals of all kinds get brokered at this eatery as anywhere around.
We burned rubber, getting in line. And it was there we learned all about Dutch Bros. Coffee, a chain of coffee shops based in the Pacific Northwest. Sound familiar? Not quite these folks are from Oregon (well, they're actually Dutch, but they started the company in a tiny town called Grants Pass, Oregon) and they own almost a hundred shops, rather than almost a gazillion. The coffee was cheaper than the other guy's (even on a day when you have to pay) and tasted great, with specialty flavors like Almond Joy and Milky Way. We even loved the cute cups, decorated with a windmill and a bunch of tulips.
The D.B.'s motto is "All roads lead to Dutch Bros." Not quite at least, not yet, here in Arizona. But if you're in Tempe, we recommend you stop by; syrups and whipped cream are always free, and even the tall, er, we mean small drink comes with an automatic double shot. Truth be told, it's more of a drive-thru than a house, but such is the way of our coffee culture these days.
They have a piano. Each employee has a business card with e-mail and a phone number. Yeah, they make coffee, too, and you'll appreciate that after you've basically moved in. Apparently, "unlimited" means there's nothing they can't do.
We love the not-too-sweet iced mochas, the perky iced teas and the cappuccinos, which contain the proper ratio of milk foam to espresso. Food offerings are minimal, but we appreciate the more healthful choices they do, like the breakfast of nuts and strawberries.
The ambiance is as good as it gets for a Valley coffee shop. There's free wireless Internet access and plenty of electrical outlets. The place is airy with high ceilings, and natural light falls everywhere but the old bank vault, which is an excellent place to plug in a laptop and get to work. The main area is similar to a nice hotel lobby, and the shop is often crowded, even on weekdays, with groups of people engaged in brainstorming and solitary computer users working on their next unpublishable novel. If Xtreme Bean had beds and cable TV, we'd move in.