From uptown Phoenix to Mill Ave, here are some of the most unique coffee shops you can take the train to.
On the fast track to finding the Valley’s hidden coffee gems? Here is a list of some of the cool, quirky cafes along the Valley Metro light rail and streetcar.
A trip that starts in Central Phoenix and works its way down to Tempe, The Copper Courier Coffee Crawl is the perfect way to start the caffeine trail that leads you to your next new spot.
4700 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Headed down Central Avenue between the light rail stops at Highland Avenue and Pierson Street is the Fàme Caffe. Fit with a chicken chef depicted on the side of the rustic building and surrounded with cacti and succulents, the Fàme Caffe is a quaint shop that offers a selection of coffee, espresso, lattes, and a handful of delicious food options.
A fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisines, Fàme Caffe’s popular drinks include the Caramelito latte made with caramel sauce, almond milk, and cinnamon, the vegan horchata latte made with Fàme’s house-made horchata and cinnamon, and my new personal favorite, the honey lavender latte made with house honey lavender and added soy milk.
Don’t forget to check out the delicious food options like the famed Breakfast Wrap, made with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, chorizo sausage, flour tortillas, and house-made salsa, or the classic breakfast sandwich, made with an egg over hard, sharp white cheddar, mayo, thick-cut bacon, tomatoes, and a buttermilk bun.
Can’t miss: Ask the bar about the Caffe’s extensive craft beer menu.
4402 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Hours: Daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Just a block South of Fàme Caffe, beside the Campbell Avenue light rail stop, is the acclaimed Phoenix coffee shop Lux Central. As seen in various viral Instagram reels and videos online, Lux Central has sky-rocketed in popularity, and for good reason.
The art, decor, and aura of the coffee shop paired with the delicious smell of baked goods and freshly brewed house coffee make Lux Central the perfect place to stop and study.
With a bar in the back and the bakery making pastries at all hours of the day directly in front of you, Lux offers delectables like fluffy croissants, teacakes, bear claws, sweet and savory scones, or drinks like the Lux Homemade Chai, a Quattro Con Panna, or other roastery classics like the latte macchiato and refillable Americano.
Can’t miss: Ask the baristas about any of the large array of pastries and baked goods beside the register.
909 N. First St., Phoenix
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A little further down Central Avenue around the corner from the Roosevelt Avenue light rail stop is Futuro. Situated inside the Palabra, a communal gathering space for community and creativity, Futuro coffee shop is a futuristic Mexican fusion coffee shop within an art gallery. According to the Palabra website, the space was created as a “collective of artists with similar focuses and ideals.”
The aesthetic from inside is cool, calm, and modern. It’s a quiet place for people to gather and mingle or sequester from the outside world to get some work done or relax.
Drawing teas and coffee bases from various parts of the world, Futuro curated their menu with as much intricate detail as their gallery. Special drinks include: the Café de Olla, made with piloncillo, cinnamon, anise, and citrus; Cajeta, made with goat milk, caramel, and maldon sea salt; and Moca, made with stone ground cacao from Guerrero, Mexico.
And don’t forget to check out their San Francisco-based signature teas like the light oolong Shan Lin, the dark oolong Old Grove Honey Orchid, the botanical Marshmallow, or the green Snow Jasmine tea.
Can’t miss: The 22-hour Cold Brew or the bakery window down the hall, where you can watch the workers preparing fresh ingredients for the cafe.
Songbird Coffee & Tea House
812 N. 3rd St., Phoenix
Hours: Daily 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A popular study spot in the downtown Phoenix area down the street from the Roosevelt and Central Avenues light rail stop is Songbird Coffee & Tea House. Known for being a cozy, refurbished house with their resident celebrity cat Inky Bob, Songbird is a gem among ASU downtown students and Roosevelt Row residents alike.
Beneath the various empty vintage bird cages in the living room are tables people can study and mingle at. Guests can order in the back, then lounge near the window beneath their unique decor.
Their menu offers various classics and new signature drinks like Songbird’s Espresso Spritzer, iced and made with agave; Thai iced tea brewed with spiced tea and made with sweetener and cream; or their fermented tea kombucha. Food options include pastries with vegan and gluten-free options.
Don’t forget to check out Songbird’s expansive tea menu featuring green, oolong, black, white, and herbal teas. Popular selections include flavors like blackberry sage, apricot, pomegranate mojito, jasmine sunset, sweet peach, Madagascar coconut, citrus hibiscus, matcha, and prickly pear.
Can’t miss: Inky Bob the cat.
Café Cortez Co.
2245 E. Washington St., Phoenix
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Along Washington Street heading toward Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and close to the 24th Street light rail stop is Café Cortez. The second half of a local family-owned business, Café Cortez Co. is a homey hole-in-the-wall filled with vibrant art, soothing tunes, and the rich smell of freshly roasted coffee.
Home to Midge’s chocolate, Café Cortez crafts their cocoa with fresh cacao beans from their Costa Rican farm. Having been perfecting their craft for years, Cortez Co. has opened up their café to fellow coffee lovers and chocolate enthusiasts to learn more about the way each is made from scratch at their store.
Specialty coffees include their Primo espresso shots, Argon cold brew, or the mocha made with 80% Midge’s vegan chocolate over milk. Guests should also ask about any of the specialty empanadas Cortez Co. offers. I got the crispy, delicious shredded chicken empanada with a glass of Cortez’s Primo blend espresso latte with agave sweetener.
Can’t miss: Judith’s dark and sweet cocoa, in either treat or drink form.
Snakes & Lattes
20 W. Sixth St. Tempe
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. | Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. | Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. | Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Near the popular Mill Ave. strip beside the Sixth Street Tempe streetcar stop is the downtown Tempe gem, Snakes & Lattes. Known as the go-to gaming spot for friend groups coming together for a coffee or beer over a board game and some nachos, S&L is a great place to mingle and socialize.
Nearly every corner of the restaurant holds a shelf of board and card games alike. There are even designated staff there to help people find which games they want to play. There’s plenty of space for groups to gather and drink—whether it be from their selection of coffees or alcoholic beverages.
Specialty cafe drinks include: the s’mores cold brew made with Cartel Coffee cold brew, mocha, toasted marshmallow, and cold foam; the Nutella hot chocolate; or the salted caramel chai made with salt, caramel sauce, chai tea, and cinnamon (and I ordered mine with almond milk).
While this list is mainly about coffee, the food options at Snakes & Lattes can’t be ignored. Specialty shareable dishes include their delectable fried elote bites served with chipotle ranch, Bavarian-style soft pretzel bites, or their bruschetta board with salami pesto, goat cheese, honey, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Find all the options overwhelming? Try a little bit of everything with one of the many flights Snakes & Lattes offer, like their mimosa flight, cold brew flight, or their draft beer flight.
Can’t miss: Ask servers about their board game wall.
Cartel Roasting Co.
810 S. Ash Ave., Tempe
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Around the corner from the University and Ash Streets Tempe streetcar stop is one of the popular college town hot spot cafes, Cartel Roasting Co.
With a wide open space and a small hidden study corner, the rustic cafe has plenty of room for socializing in the evening with friends or packing in study sessions during early hours of the morning.
With a menu that pulls influences from around the world, Cartel’s offerings add a flourish of character to classic drinks like cold brew, flavored teas, espressos, and more.
Specialties include: the iced quad shot CCL, made with vegan Nami caramel and coconut almond cream; the prickly pear herbal tea, made with hibiscus, rose hips, and chamomile; and their featured daily filter drip, which is always sure to uplift the soul.
Pair any hot or iced coffee with one of Cartel’s fresh baked goods featuring muffins, scones, donuts, and more. Their vegan and vegetarian-friendly menu offers a variety of different flavors and meals like their delicious oatmeal, poblano and potato burrito, or the potato and egg burrito.
Can’t miss: Ask baristas about the Slow Bar options, flavors, and recommendations.
1020 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. | Saturday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Across the street from and the 11th Street and Mill Avenue Tempe streetcar stop is King Coffee. Nestled beside the ASU Art Museum and a bookstore, King Coffee is a quiet cafe perfect for meeting up before or after class, as it’s directly next to ASU’s main campus.
Known for their freshly brewed coffee, King Coffee’s caffeine selection is made up of a variety of classics— cortados, cappuccinos, and chai lattes—mixed in with a handful of welcome specialties. Patrons will also be pleased to find an abundance of teas, like their popular sweet matcha latte, lavender earl gray, or peppermint. Customers can add several flavors offered at King Coffee like toasted marshmallow, honey, caramel, or vanilla.
Craving hearty breakfast food? Look no further than the King Coffee Eats menu, which is vegan-friendly and features delicious baked and pressed foods. Guests can enjoy classics, like their breakfast burrito made with egg, cheese, hashbrowns, and bacon on a flour tortilla, or try something unique, like King’s PB&B—made with peanut butter, banana, and agave on ciabatta. Need something on-the-go? Snag one of their baked fresh bagels: plain, everything, or jalapeno.
Can’t miss: The barista-recommended white mocha and lavender latte. Iced or hot, it is delicious.
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