Luci's Healthy Marketplace
Evie Carpenter

Luci's Healthy Marketplace admittedly is much more than just a coffee shop, but it seems as though every cafe is nowadays. Part upscale grocer, part restaurant, part cafe, Luci's offers a lot of scrumptious options for the NoPho crowd. The coffee bar features freshly baked treats from one of our favorite local bakeries, Urban Cookies, giving everyone even more opportunity to try the award-winning sweets. The staff is friendly, the service is quick, and the décor is the perfect mix of nostalgic retro and modern that you'd look for in a local market. The selection of teas and juices also makes Luci's a great place to bring a crowd of not-so-caffeine-obsessed friends. The cafe even offers gluten-free options for the no-wheat eaters in your life and Sunday night cooking classes for the culinarily curious.

Press Coffee Roasters at Scottsdale Quarter

Press Coffee is giving our favorite Tempe coffee roaster a run for its money by roasting its own beans, elevating the standards for craft coffee in the Valley to a new high. The coffee house, which was opened by local newswoman Tram Mai in 2010 in Scottsdale, is a bright, clean, and simple shop, contrasting other local cafes' sometimes cave-like or ultra-kitschy vibes. Press also has two locations in Phoenix (one of which is in Sky Harbor Airport), but we prefer to stop into Press between shopping excursions at the Scottsdale Quarter, giving us that extra push after a long day of spending too much money. Press also is dedicated to teaching Phoenix about coffee roasting, brewing, and tasting through tours and educational events for the aspiring coffee aficionado.

Cartel Coffee Lab

In the world of locally roasted coffee, Cartel Coffee Lab is king, and there's pretty much no dethroning Cartel as it expands its flagship location. Forget about pastries and fancy flavorings, Cartel is all about the coffee, which is so good that other coffee shops in town have no choice but to brew with it as well. Celebrities, hipsters, and coffee snobs all agree, so stop pretending Cartel coffee isn't great, because it is. We don't need perky, obnoxious baristas or a double mocha frappa-whatever with whip, but we will take a beer with our shot of espresso since Cartel's recent expansion means the coffee maker also started brewing beer in-house, giving us pretty much no reason to leave, ever. Cartel coffee in the morning and Cartel beer at night — they can just take our wallet now that we can actually find somewhere to sit in the busy coffee house.

A cupcake from The Coffee Shop
Shannon Armour
A cupcake from The Coffee Shop

Holy tasty cupcakes, Batman! We love dropping into The Coffee Shop after chowing down on a juicy burger and crispy fries at the neighboring Joe's Farm Grill. The Cupcake Wars-winning bakery is not all cake and frosting, though. Grab a foamy, frothy, and nutty cappuccino, which pairs ideally with the homemade whoopie pies, and you'll see what the buzz is about. The vibe of The Coffee Shop is clean, classic, bright, and, like all of the Agritopia area, sweeps you away to a simpler, slower era. The calming surroundings and the great food and drink make for a must-stop spot to hang out for a few hours and chat with friends. The Coffee Shop also offers tasty breakfast options, like a cravable build-it-yourself breakfast sandwich, which is a quick and tasty option for Gilbert folks on the run.

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Jackie+Mercandetti
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We usually like our coffee extra-large, extra-hot, and extra-early in the morning. But at Ethiopian Famous Restaurant and Coffee, the coffee comes pretty much in exactly the opposite fashion. The after-dinner coffee ceremony brings traditional Ethiopian practices to the Valley through restaurant owner Abebech Ejersa. For $12, she'll don traditional coffee ceremony garb and take you through the entire cycle of roasting, boiling, and sipping tiny teacups of strong, black coffee — the way it's supposed to be done. Aside from the alluring scent of roasting green coffee beans, you'll experience baskets of Ethiopian bread and popcorn, perfect for snacking while you watch the beans turn rich and brown. You'll have to make a reservation at least an hour in advance, but that just means you have plenty of time to enjoy one of Ejersa's delicious platters of Ethiopian cuisine. The wait will be well worth it.

Arizona State Fairgrounds

Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 15, and Sunday, February 16, 2014. It's going to be a weekend heyday for bookworms and literary fanatics who travel from far and wide to see what's been deemed worthy and interesting by the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association (VNSA).

Members of the local nonprofit spend all year, every year, sorting through thousands of book donations dropped in parking lot bins and carted in by book-recycling programs. The best (around half a million) hardbacks, paperbacks, children's books, and rare items make it to the sales tables at the Arizona State Fairgrounds every year to be snapped up by avid readers at a fraction of the price you'd find on Amazon or big-box bookstores.

This year's 57th annual event was billed as one of the largest book sales in the country and the "Valley's Greatest Treasure Hunt," which all began in the 1950s as the fundraising arm of what's now the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association, with a logo drawn by local comic hero Bil Keane. The organization since has held an annual book sale to raise money for the community. In its first year, VNSA raised $900, and since, the organization has traded used books for more than $6 million. We can't wait to see what's sifted out of this year's loot.

From the outside, Gilbert Convenient Mart doesn't look like much at all — just your standard corner store, intriguing only in that it doesn't have a steeple, like the 30 or so Mormon churches that surround it. But walk inside and you may be struck with a religious experience. It's not the size of the selection so much as the variety — few other shops in the Valley offer such a well-curated list of bottled craft beers. One-time releases from small breweries, seasonal rarities, and seldom-seen imports often can be found here, and the guys who buy them are great about posting online and letting you know exactly when they're available. If you can't make it right away, let them know and they'll hold some bottles for you, protecting your booze from the plague of beer geeks who may descend upon it. A bottle shop for a lover on a mission, to be sure.

In case you haven't noticed, the industrial trend has taken over. From restaurants and retailers to posh bars and personal spaces, everyone is shifting gears with their décor, opting for a style of mechanical statement pieces and streamlined steel furniture. Unfortunately, like most things trendy, it's hard to stay modern without looking mass-produced. Though it's easy enough find some refurbished replica at retail giants like CB2 and Restoration Hardware, if you want your industrial home to truly stand on its own, your best bet is to go custom. Vintage Industrial offers brand new industrial pieces made to look vintage with the added bonus of being customized. Their motto, "Built by hand to outlast us all," attests to the quality of the company's made-to-order products and grants them such high-end clients as MGM Grand, Four Seasons, and Guy Fieri. Located in a nondescript warehouse in downtown Phoenix, Industrial Vintage is not zoned for a public showroom, and thus visits must be made by appointment only.

Let's face it: Given the state of journalism these days, any reporter worth his or her salt has a plan B. And ours follows our raging thirst, all the way to one of the nine Total Wine megastores in the Valley. After all, we already spend an inordinate amount of our copious free time trolling the aisles, perusing the 8,000 wines, 2,500 beers and 3,000 liquors from all over the world. And though the prices are lower than just about any retail shop, dropping wads of cash on a push-cart full of booze can get habit-forming, not to mention drinking the stuff. Then there are the wine classes, the tastings, the on-tap beer bar, the variety of noshes on sale, and a humidor with a fine selection of cigars. Imagine waking up every day and getting to spend eight hours in such a place. And they pay you. Which is a good thing, because we'd almost work there for free.

Top's Liquor

Locally run liquor stores are usually known for poor service and a small Bud Light-dominant stock housed in a sketchy, possibly drive-thru atmosphere. However, downtown Tempe's Tops Liquor fights every small liquor store stereotype. It took us years of satisfied drinking to taste-test the regular roster of hundreds of beers at Tops. From stouts to hefes and even mead from all over the world, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll find at least one beer that you like. Best of all, the knowledgeable and friendly staff is always quick with a great recommendation if you can't pick, or you can just meander through the east wall to Taste of Tops to try one out before you buy a pack. We recommend snagging any case of craft brew from their sale section for the best deal. The liquor department is equally well stocked.

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