If you're a morning person, great. For the rest of us, a tall cup of coffee and a hearty plate of pancakes can really help get the morning moving. Across metro Phoenix, we are lucky to have a wide selection of wonderful ways to fill the early hours with food and drinks. Make a quick stop at a local coffee shop or enjoy a leisurely brunch at a number of excellent restaurants. We've got doughnuts, old-school diners, coffeehouses and cafes galore. Here are the best places in metro Pheonix to start your day.
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Join the crowd at Joe's Diner for a classic breakfast.
Best Breakfast: Joe’s Diner
4515 N. Seventh Ave.
Located between Camelback and Indian School roads, the Melrose District is getting increasingly full of trendy eateries. But as the shiny new concepts move in, one spot is staying true to the classics. Joe's Diner
, a bright yellow-painted brick building with green awnings and a tight parking lot, is often the scene of a long line of hungry customers waiting for breakfast. And Joe's is worth the wait. Order the pancakes, fluffy buttermilk creations made from a batter that rests overnight, creating bubbles that puff to perfection when they hit the griddle. If savory is more your jam, try the biscuits and gravy. The biscuits are another item that makes the most of the wonders of tangy buttermilk. Wash it all down with a coffee, served true diner-style: hot, black and in mugs that are an inch thick.
SugarJam The Southern Kitchen serves an outstanding brunch menu with items including shrimp or catfish with grits, chicken and waffles and exceptional French toast.
Best Brunch: SugarJam The Southern Kitchen
15111 N. Hayden Rd., #170, Scottsdale SugarJam
has hands down the best French toast in Phoenix. And the rest of the brunch menu is pretty outstanding as well. Chef and owner Dana Dumas moved her small bakery to bigger digs a few years ago and expanded the menu to fit the space. Her famous pies are still available but so are full brunch plates and cocktails. If you, like us, are hard-pressed to decide between chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and that amazing French toast, don't fret — the French toast comes as a side dish that can be paired with other items. We recommend ordering a side for the table so all of your brunch mates can taste the magic. On the weekend, SugarJam knows how to turn up, so come prepared for a party. If you prefer a quieter setting to enjoy your morning meal, we recommend visiting on a weekday.
The huevos rancheros at Presidio Cocina Mexicana are a hearty and flavorful way to start your day.
Best Mexican Brunch: Presidio Cocina Mexicana
519 W. Thomas Road
At the end of a strip mall off Thomas Road, Presidio Cocina Mexicana
churns out some of the best burritos, chilaquiles and breakfast tacos in the city. The small restaurant features a long row of bar stools overlooking the open kitchen and coffee bar. Booths and a few stand-alone tables line the rest of the narrow space, and on weekend mornings, almost every seat is filled. This restaurant serves Michoacán-style fare, which materializes at brunch in the form of spicy salsas, hearty tamales and warming pozoles. Start your day with a steaming bowl of rich, red-tinted soup or opt for the classic huevos rancheros, served with creamy refried beans, fried potatoes and chorizo, and spicy ranchera salsa. Pair it all with a hot caramel latte or a cool and creamy horchata at this upbeat and welcoming spot.
Best Classic Diner: 40th Street Cafe
4022 E. Greenway Road
In a city dominated by dusty ham-and-egg dives of dubious quality and kitschy faux-retro corporate chains, 40th Street Cafe
stands tall as a bastion of quality, no-frills short-order diner fare. This boxy little joint may lack the patina and romance of the Tom Waits aesthetic, but the servers can sass, the kitchen can cook and there's even a tiny counter crammed into the back of its diminutive strip mall footprint. The food isn't artful, just pretty damn good — exactly what you expect, right down the middle of the plate. A Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich with an egg your way comes on bread griddled so perfectly it shatters. Pancakes are thick and fluffy with a gentle, sweet scent. The tuna melt doesn't fuss, filled with tuna salad that's little more than fish and mayonnaise. And local touches shine, like a "taco omelet" that arrives smothered in tender, flavorful chunks of stewed beef.
When the weather is nice, the Welcome Diner patio is where it's at.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Best Trendy Diner: Welcome Diner
929 E. Pierce St.
Should we care if a restaurant is cool or trendy somehow? Yes, if it's done in the way Welcome Diner
has over the last seven years from its place near 10th and Fillmore streets. Because it's not just that Welcome has repurposed and reinvigorated the look of the '50s-style diner for our modern age. Or that it's taken the same approach to its menu, which includes jackfruit french fries, a burger with peanut butter and garlic aioli, chicken biscuits with house beer mustard and the criminally unsung bourbon salted chocolate pecan pie. Not even that it's always crowded with the young and cool flocking for chicken melts and PBR tall cans. No, it's that Welcome does all of this without making a big deal out of it. That truly unassuming approach, and that care for a laid-back but nonetheless tantalizing experience, is why Welcome Diner is undeniably cool across the board. It's why this diner has helped shape and reflect the city's culture around the most important things, like community and slamming down endless poutine.
The Cajeta Flapjack at Otro Cafe is a destination pancake.
Best Pancakes: Otro Cafe
6035 N. Seventh St.
Remember that saying about eating dessert first? Well, the pancakes at Otro Cafe
make a strong argument for eating dessert for breakfast. These flapjacks come single or in a short stack and topped with fresh berries or chocolate chips. But the real winner is the Cajeta Flapjacks. This decadent breakfast starts with fluffy pancakes topped with fresh sliced bananas and creme fraiche. The whole thing is then drizzled with a dizzying, salty-sweet cajeta caramel and sprinkled with candied peanuts. It's rich, sweet, salty and over the top in the best way possible. Otro starts service at 8 a.m., meaning this dessert can be a very good way to start your day.
Coconut Cream is a dream at Dutch Donut Factory.
Best Doughnuts: Dutch Donut Factory
1152 N. Power Road, Mesa
In our current age of wild, over-the-top doughnuts laden with toppings, there's something to be said for a doughnut shop that keeps it simple. At Dutch Donut Factory
in east Mesa, some of the doughnuts have sprinkles. That's about it as far as bells and whistles go, but when the basic element is this good, you don't have to slap a bunch of stuff on it. All the classic varieties of doughnuts are represented here — plain, glazed, frosted — as well as other mainstays like cinnamon rolls, bear claws and apple fritters. They're excellent warm if you get there in early in the morning or later in the day, with just the right texture and sweetness.
Trans Am Cafe is a quirky space filled with local art.
Best Coffee House: Trans Am Cafe
1506 Grand Ave.
The lovely, quirky, laid-back Trans Am Cafe
, tucked in the intersection of Roosevelt Street, 15th Avenue and Grand Avenue, has everything you could want in a coffeehouse. Big windows. Mismatched vintage tables of various sizes. Art covering the walls from floor to ceiling. A chess set. Kind staff. Soft-spoken patrons lounging and doodling in sketchbooks. Craft beer at night. And of course, good, strong coffee. That part is key. Not only does Trans Am Cafe provide Phoenix artists a gallery space and support other local creative endeavors, it also provides us the ideal space in which to drink a nice espresso, have a bagel sandwich and stare wistfully out a big window. What more can we ask for from a coffeehouse?
Peixoto Coffee Roasters is a true crop to cup experience.
Best Coffee Roasters: Peixoto
11 W. Boston St., #6, Chandler
It's often second nature in Phoenix to order iced coffee. But when visiting Peixoto
, you need to order a hot drink. Something about the hot offerings at this East Valley coffee shop instantly brings a wash of calm over you as you take a sip and inspires you to close your eyes and smile. This is the kind of place to spend a slow weekend morning enjoying every flavor and nuance of the coffee grown on the Peixoto family's Brazilian farm rather than grabbing a quick caffeine fix. With two East Valley locations, it's a destination worth driving for. For those who can't make the trip to Chandler or Gilbert as often as you'd like, bring the rich flavor of Peixoto coffee home with a bag of beans roasted in-house.
Vegan cookies galore at Dark Hall Coffee.
Best Vegan Coffeehouse: Dark Hall
2243 N. 12th St.
Dark floral wallpaper, drawings of skulls and a mobile made of disco balls set the tone at this vegan coffeehouse. And while the disco balls shine, the real gems at Dark Hall
are inside the pastry case. Gorgeous cakes, colorful macarons and precise tarts are as delicious as they are a feast for the eyes. Out of context, no one would ever guess they were skillfully made without any butter, milk or eggs. Pair a treat with a perfectly poured espresso and pick your choice of dairy-free milks. If your breakfast coffee session blends into lunch, The Coronado is conveniently located right next door with a full vegan menu.
Clara Sánchez owns Mis Raíces Café on Grand Avenue in Phoenix.
Best Mexican Coffee Shop: Mis Raices
1325 Grand Ave, #3
Hipster coffee boutiques with their industrial vibe, serious baristas and sea of laptops are multiplying faster than you can say "locally roasted." The antidote to all that sleek, chic coffee geekdom is Mis Raíces,
which translates to "my roots." Here, old-fashioned conversations happen in Spanish or English or both, everyone is all smiles and the atmosphere is full of colorful decor and delectable drinks based on Mexican dessert flavors. And oh, those flavors: traditional sweets like cajeta, flan, horchata and mazapán are always available, and specials such as pistachio cold foam are spectacular as well. Owner Clara Sánchez named the place after her upbringing in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and treats every customer like a guest in her home. She eagerly asks if guests like their drink and beams when they express appreciation. Smoothies, shaken espressos, tea, lemonade, bagels and pastries also are available, so it's a perfect place to settle in for a bit, put away that laptop and indulge in her hospitality.