Breakfast Beat

Breakfast Beat: Tea, Toast, and Vibes in an Underrated Phoenix Enclave

Bacon-on-bacon action
Bacon-on-bacon action Chris Malloy
Each week, we review a different breakfast spot in town, highlighting culinary offerings, brunchability, and the overall vibe as you sip your morning joe. Whether the restaurant in question is grab-and-go or stay-and-play, each offers a unique breakfast buzz that might be just what you need for the most important meal of the day.

The Spot: Tea & Toast (Desoto Central Market)
Grand Avenue 602-252-8283

click to enlarge CHRIS MALLOY
Chris Malloy
The Scene: Tea & Toast operates to the right of the broad staircase to the second level of DeSoto Market, the under-appreciated food hall at North Central and Roosevelt in Phoenix.

Desoto has high ceilings and ample seating. Scrappy steel, scuffy wood, and worn concrete dominate the airy space, creating a charming industrial atmosphere. Melodious tunes ranging from tasteful top 40 to Paul Simon play. When you open a door to the market from the street, its vibe hits you like a wave.

After ordering, you take your number to a table or bar, and wait. Not many people come in before lunch during the week. During the brunch hour on the weekend, the market gets more bustle and noise. Then, more of the food hall's eateries are open. The main bar even serves a monster Bloody Mary with, immersed in the murky depths and teetering over the rim, a whopping three courses of greasy food.

On weekday mornings, things are quiet. Coffee grinders whir at long intervals. Cars swoosh past, visible through plate-glass windows facing east onto North Central. Carlos Santana's guitar wails, recasting your attention and your mood. Scattered eaters linger, a few out on the patio.

click to enlarge CHRIS MALLOY
Chris Malloy
The Goods: At Tea & Toast, tea comes loose leaf, and toast uses Noble bread. There are hot-tea options that may or may not appeal to you as daily highs rise into the 90s. Tea & Toast offers a handful of iced teas that are infused with flavors by way of adding them and giving the mixture a hard shake. The other morning, a barista shook raspberry and mint into an iced tea made from Indian black leaves. The raspberry's flavor spread through the cold drink, making things pretty nice.

Tea options shift with the months. This one, you'll also find an Oolong Arnold Palmer mixed with strawberry and mint, green tea with peach, and a chamomile Arnold Palmer.

Hot-tea options include more than your plain loose-leaf teas. Tea & Toast can make all kinds of frothy tea-based creations that usually belong to coffee's domain. A green tea latte. A black tea cappuccino.

Toast options are good for a quick breakfast. Yes, there's standard avocado toast. But a handful of more interesting toasts are built on the same crisp, chewy base of inch-thick Noble bread. One toast features mashed banana, chocolate, and toasted hazelnut. Another, ricotta and melon. The most decadent toast is the slice spread with bacon jam and mounded with chopped bacon, a lacy fried egg quivering on top. This one is direct journey to the heart of umami and will bludgeon your appetite in a single piece. It's not a bad way to start a big day.

The Bottom Line: Tea & Toast in Desoto Market is a solid place to get high on caffeine and vibes, and then linger to crank out work, read, or chill before busy life begins again.
Hours: Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price: $
Wifi: Yes
Coffee Options: Xanadu, right down the road in Evans Churchill, provides the beans. Tea & Toast uses these beans to make all of your standard coffees and espresso-based specialties.
Juice: It's all about the tea and coffee here.
Drinking Before Noon: The neighboring bar should have what you need.
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy