I remember the very first coffee house in Phoenix.
OK, maybe it wasn't the first. I'm sure it wasn't the first. But it was my first. It was 1991(ish) and I'd just moved home to the Valley -- and no one around here was into coffee. Yet. It would be years before Starbucks arrived, but one day I noticed something unusual at the Town and Country shopping center at 24th Street and Camelback. A real coffee house.
It was called Dos Estrellas -- run by a mother and daughter (two stars, get it?) -- and it rocked. Not only did Dos Estrellas sell good espresso drinks and fresh-made muffins and pastries, there was a wonderful assortment of Mexican imports for sale. I pretty much lived there. (This was so long ago you actually brought books to a coffee house, instead of laptops and Kindles.)
Later, Dos Estrellas left the coffee business and abandoned T&C for that cute little strip mall on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and Thomas, across from Phoenix College. (It's still there, in the form of a boutique called The Purple Lizard, with a nice new owner.) By then the local coffee business was beginning to thrive, and today there are too many coffee houses in metro Phoenix to name.
So we'll just give you five favorites. Be sure to tell us yours.
1. Jobot. This relative newbie to the Phoenix coffee scene is a fast friend -- with a cozy bar, outdoor seating, tasty toddies and to-die-for crepes. Friend them on Facebook; the description of Jobot's daily special is the hottest food porn in town.
(Don't believe us? Here's yesterday's FB update: ...Lemon buttermilk pancakes /w fresh blueberries and vanilla bean cream. OR. Chocolate belgium waffles w/ strawberries and vanilla bean cream. Kinda like Neapolitan ice cream.)
2. Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe. The newer Phoenix location is cool and all, but we're partial to Cartel's first home, just west of the Scary Circle K, behind Wet Paint in downtown Tempe. We've got a weakness for the hand-lettered signs and super-strong drinks. And we mean super-strong. Don't say we didn't warn you about the four-shot latte. A recent, welcome addition: baked goods.
3. Orange Table, Scottsdale. Sadly, this south Scottsdale fave has cut back on its hours, so you won't find us here at night any more. But a morning cup of tea (or the chai with a shot of espresso!) and the best artsy people watching in town (the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's a couple doors down) make this place a must. The full menu's a draw, too.
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4. LUX Coffee Bar. Adjacent to Chris Bianco's Pane Bianco (and about to move a door down to make way for more Pane), LUX is home away from home for much of Phoenix's creative class. Want to catch up with someone? Find them here, hunched over a light table or slouching on a leather couch. The pastry chef is a wonder and we're madly in love with whomever illustrates the LUX labels and postcards.
5. Lola Coffee on Roosevelt. Squint and you're in another city -- an urban stronghold, all funky metal and glass with a chandelier thrown in, and lots of hustle and bustle. Not to mention a rotating scone collection (we do recommend the chocolate cinnamon over the potato radish).