Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Much like the wide-eyed crew of kiddos who won golden tickets into Willy Wonka's colorful world, shoppers' jaws drop (and there might be some incidental drool) when they walk into Smeeks. And that's for good reason. To the very likely chagrin of Valley dentists, the small Medlock Plaza candy shop offers crave-worthy goodies including lollipops nearly the size of dinner plates, vegan chocolate bars, and such handmade treats as campfire marshmallows and salted caramels. Those really looking to recapture their childhood also can indulge in the novelty toy selection of yo-yos, Shrinky Dinks, and bouncy balls. Document your sugar rush with the old-fashioned photo booth in the shop's back corner — it's owner Georganne Bryant's favorite part of the store.
There are three factors that contribute to a good shot of espresso — beans, machine, and barista. If even one of the pieces of that trifecta is off, your shot of espresso can suffer. Luckily, the boys behind Scottsdale Quarter's Press Coffee Roasters have the process down. Created with their bold house-roasted Twitch Espresso Blend and pulled by their talented baristas off their top-of-the-line Synesso espresso machine, the end result is a perfectly balanced earthy shot of espresso with hints of sweet fruit, notes of chocolate, and a slightly smoky finish.A great way to start the day — or make sure it doesn't start too early.
Great coffee starts with high-quality beans, and the folks at Cartel score only the best from Brazil for their impressive Black Market Espresso. The four-bean blend is sourced from a single high-elevation farm in the Sul de Mina region of Brazil, where it goes through its natural pulping process on-site before it is shipped off the farm. Cartel then roasts these beans to perfection, creating a bold-flavored coffee with citrus and chocolate notes and a dash of sweetness.
We were sold on this quaint and cozy coffee shop the second that designer-turned-barista Pat Flanagan opened the doors of his freshly remodeled spot last spring. The warm interior and interesting artwork begs you to take a few minutes out of your day to stay and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee (beans courtesy of Lux). But Carmel's isn't just a coffee house — it serves a full menu of delicious breakfast and lunch treats. Fresh-baked quiches, scones, and muffins, flaky croissant sandwiches, and even crepes are available. When the weather permits, Carmel's has plenty of patio space to savor your coffee while watching traffic go by on Camelback.
All of the sudden, there's a lot of coffee competition on Roosevelt Row. But for us, there's no contest. Fresh house-roasted beans, an in-house bakery, an omelet bar, and a beautiful selection of rotating artwork are just a few reasons why Lola is our go-to downtown coffee shop. Artisan coffee roaster and latte art fanatic Daniel Wayne has created a laid-back atmosphere with a welcoming demeanor — and some of the best whipped cream in town. The espresso-infused whip gives Lola's coffee drinks a sweet and creamy kick. Try the dark chocolate and orange Café Borgia or the coffee shop's almost famous Matador.
Crepes and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly, David Lee Roth and Van Halen, or vodka and Red Bull. Without one, the other is lonely and incomplete. Thankfully, Cupz N' Crepes is keeping the coffee-and-crepe team together at its Paris-inspired shop in Ahwatukee. Dig into a delicate crepe packed full of sweet Nutella and ripe bananas or the savory Veggie Delight, filled with spinach, tomatoes, and goat cheese. The coffee is always fresh and the bold espresso drinks are expertly crafted. A can't-miss breakfast or lunch stop on the south side of town.
A good West Valley coffee shop isn't easy to come by — so many we've loved have shut their doors and taken their sweet coffee drinks and free Wi-Fi with them. Thank goodness we've been blessed with Elevate Coffee Co. The modern coffee shop is inviting, with lots of cozy nooks in which to relax with a hot latte and a good book or sit at one of the sleek tables with a laptop, a java chip frappe, and a Southwest turkey sandwich during lunch. If you're in a rush, this coffee shop lets you text in your order, and they will even deliver to your car when you arrive. Warning: The coffee shop is owned by a church, but we swear you'd never know unless someone told you; nevertheless, you may want to leave your "F*@# Religion" shirt at home.
On the grounds of Agritopia (home of Joe's Farm Grill) in Gilbert, The Coffee Shop is a sanctuary from run-of-the-mill strip-mall coffee joints. Set in a beautifully repurposed maintenance garage, the spacious modern building has tons of natural light and plenty of seating. The baristas behind the counter whip up fantastic iced lattes and specialty drinks, including the Black and White — a unique blend of espresso, steamed milk, white chocolate, and milk chocolate topped with a healthy dose of fresh whipped cream. And The Coffee Shop has cupcakes — lots and lots of cupcakes. This place can get packed, but there is plenty of seating among the trees outside to escape the crowds. Don't forget your laptop and your puppy; Wi-Fi is free, and furry friends are allowed on the patio.
This strip-mall gem serves hot cups of fresh-brewed coffee from its skillfully roasted beans along with sweet housemade pastries. Matador strives to roast only the best beans daily, giving each and every cup of coffee or shot of espresso an extra kick of flavor to start your caffeinated day on the right foot. Curl up in one of the shop's tucked-away chairs with a book or get out your laptop and take advantage of free Wi-Fi. And if you need something stronger than coffee to get you through that paper you've been working on for a week, Matador serves up a nice selection of beer and wine.
When Cartel Coffee Lab opened its doors in 2007, it changed the game for coffee shops across the state. In Arizona, roasting beans was unheard of, and unless they'd visited Portland or Seattle, most Arizonans didn't really have a clue that coffee could be so good. With its über-hip industrial space and walls adorned with artwork from the Tempe community, Cartel is still top dog in this 'hood. A couple of other shops have tried, but not a single one can come close to the quality beverages made by the expertly trained staff. You may have to wait a minute or two longer for your cup of joe, but you can't rush the best.
The first thing that you'll notice when you walk in the doors of this sleek coffee shop is the giant bean roaster on the south side of the room, and most of our afternoon visits have been accompanied by the aroma of fresh-roasted coffee. The shop's small-batch roasted beans have an exotic flavor achieved by using a patented scientific method employed by only a handful of roasters in the world. The result is a smooth, balanced blend that doesn't need even a dash of cream or sugar. The only thing that rivals the shop's coffee is its handmade fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries and Danishes. Stop by for a delicious afternoon pick-me-up.
Four Peaks seems to have winning down to a science. At the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, the brewery's American IPA, Hop Knot, took home the bronze; at the 2012 World Beer Cup, it claimed the gold, along with its Kolsch, SunBru. Four Peaks was the only Arizona brewery honored in the World Beer Cup's judging competition — actually coming within half a medal of winning Champion Mid-size Brewery and Brewmaster — and was ranked among the top 50 craft brewers in terms of sales volume for 2011. With a new production facility set to open this year, an impending partnership with a nearby distillery, great beer, and the hardware to prove it, Four Peaks' success should only continue.