If you can drive just 20 feet past the Starbucks in the Basha's Plaza on the northeast corner of Southern and McClintock in Tempe, you'll find another gem of a coffee house in the same shopping center: Gold Bar Espresso. This cozy little corner shop touts itself as "simply the choice of the connoisseur," and its menu reflects an appeal to coffee snobs: lattes, cappuccinos, granitas, and breves are available alongside steamed hot chocolates, chai teas, and Italian sodas. Not only is every Gold Bar Espresso house coffee made with Allann Bros. beans from Oregon, but the whipped cream is homemade, too, with baristas whipping up a fresh batch from Entner-Stuart syrups every other day.
The ambiance inside Gold Bar Espresso is low-key and comfy. Ruby-red artisan drapes hang over the windows, sheer enough to let the sunshine in, and patrons can seat themselves in iron-backed chairs and pound away at their laptops on the coffee house's free Wi-Fi. Gold Bar Espresso also hosts live music on weekends, with jazz, classical, and acoustic guitar as the predominant styles.
We were already looking lustfully at the ingredients in the Mocha Especiale when the barista told us that it was Gold Bar Espresso's signature drink, so we had to try it.
Gold Bar Espresso (Mocha Especiale)
3141 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
If you've got a caffeine tolerance and a sweet tooth, the Mocha Especiale is the drink for you. This delicious blend of espresso, Ghirardelli chocolate, and half and half creamer (topped with Gold Bar's homemade whipped cream) is sugary, but the deep-roast flavor of the espresso saves it from being sickly sweet. The Mocha Especiale, like all coffees on Gold Bar's menu, is available hot or iced. We went with the iced version, and theorize that the ice cubes also helped offset the drink's sweetness. But hot or iced, sticky-sweet or subtly balanced, the Mocha Especiale tastes so good -- like drinking a fine chocolate candy bar -- that it's impossible to nurse it. We downed ours in five minutes flat, and then found ourselves talking like auctioneers for the next 15 minutes while copious amounts of caffeine coursed through our veins. Gold Bar Espresso has definitely raised the bar on other local coffee shops.