Chow Bella

Espresso, Peanut Butter, and Nutella Together at Last at the Refuge in Phoenix

Central Phoenix's Melrose District just got a lot more cozy and roast-y with the addition of The Refuge, a combination coffee shop, restaurant, and wine bar that manages to balance and blend all three components nicely -- no identity crisis here. What's extra nice about this homey spot on Seventh Avenue just south of Camelback is that, at its core, it's one big charitable heart.

See also: 8 Best Coffee Houses in Metro Phoenix

As we reported in September, The Refuge is a product of Catholic Charities Community Services, a social services agency devoted to helping in-need persons -- including refugees -- by offering them a warm welcome in addition to practical types of support. Not only is Catholic Charities using profits to broaden its assistance to refugees, it is also giving proceeds to other area nonprofits. If that isn't enough, The Refuge is serving and selling Café Esperanza, a Central and South American blend that features Arabica beans. Profits from the sale of Café Esperanza help support AZ LeaderForce, an organization that helps strengthen and guide nonprofit agencies and its collaborating charities.

The coffee, we found out at a recent tasting event, is deep and hearty. The strong and earthy blend left us without tinges of acidity, maintaining a smoothness. The Refuge's cold brew was pretty refreshing, too.

One fun way to get a caffeine fix was via a drink that isn't yet featured on the menu but that our server referred to as The Jam, a shot of espresso that hosted a combination of a softened frozen mix of peanut butter and Nutella in its demure cup. Sinful enough to make you want more but also satisfying by offering a brief moment of coffee-meets-sweets ecstasy. A blueberry and lavender hot tea was light and warm, inspiring thoughts of return visits as the colder evenings become more frequent.

The Refuge's menu includes breakfast items, soup and salads, sandwiches, appetizers, a couple entrée-size options and desserts. What Chef Eddie and his crew excel at is creating some dishes that really honor lightness and freshness. The hummus plate, for one, is a joy. Hummus is beloved, but let's face it, it's tough to find it the same at any two restaurants. While that can make it exciting, it can also be a little daunting. The Refuge's variety is delicate and creamy; it tastes like it has been made for you as you uttered the selection to a server. The herbs stay a bit lifted from the mix, allowing a good taste of all the flavors. It's good with all its accompanying dippers -- pillowy pita bread, crispy red peppers, and cucumbers. Olives and feta join in for some tang.

Assorted pastries may be subject to change, but we hope the ginger cupcakes become regulars. A little pan-crispy around the edges, these warm and spongy treats let the ginger do some tongue dancing as your senses get delighted.

Refugee-made items fill the retail shelves and feature some pretty neat things from jewelry to tote bags, offering yet another way to raise funds and build community. Lastly, but hardly least, the selection of beer and wine should get a thumbs up from those who fancy themselves knowledgeable about interesting brews and wine varietals, while making for interesting options for newbies.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young