A Coffee Shop Away From the Grind

The Dish: A Chocolate Chip Cookie
The Drinks: Prickly Pear Iced Tea
The Place: Cartel Coffee Lab, Downtown Phoenix
The Location: 1 N. 1st Phoenix, AZ 85004

By: Clayton Russell Porter

A midday coffee run at work means one of two things; you’re legitimately tired and need a hit of caffeine to push you through the afternoon or you are bored and simply need a break from the office. Because of popularity and convenience Starbucks tends to be the go to option. There are three within a one block radius of my work. But sometimes you have to get away from the norm and spend a little extra time absent from the office-even if it’s over 100 degrees out.

It may not be just a block away, but Cartel Coffee Lab is worth the walk. Cartel fits right in with downtown Phoenix’s vibe and aesthetic of modern comfort. The shop has several couches surrounded by tables and metal chairs or bar stools. A makeshift wall of bicycle wheels welded together acts as a see through barrier in the middle of the floor. Its wood panel bar and unfinished cement floor make for an industrial feel, fit for an establishment in view of downtown’s warehouse district just south of the sports stadiums.

Cartel’s menu is simple; coffee, espresso drinks and tea. All options hot or iced. This afternoon I went with an iced tea of the prickly pear flavor (#Arizona) and a chocolate chip cookie as a nosh. It is over 100 degrees outside, the sun high in the sky and the tea is sweet and cold to the touch. The chocolate chip cookie is a perfect post lunch snack. I’m not going to pretend to be a cookie snob and say something in-depth about it, the cookie was tasty and junky-just what I needed.

The coffee lab is a snapshot of the type of people you will find midweek in downtown Phoenix. A man with dreadlocks, sitting on a bar stool next to the window, sipping black coffee next to his bike that he’s rolled into the shop. A couple office workers in dress shirts and ties wander in and order to-go iced coffees. A family sits and talks at a table close by and a couple more office workers spread about all looking at their phones or reading quietly.

Finishing my cookie I sit back and enjoy the relaxed and unique vibe of the place. Have I never gone to Starbucks and done this? Could have I have done the same at Starbucks? Do I have something against Starbucks? No. Yep. Nope.

But there is something to be said for a little extra time away from the office grind. Hearing background music that isn’t typical coffee house music and being offered as a free download on iTunes. Or tasting coffee and ice tea that you can’t get just about anywhere in the county.

If you work in downtown Phoenix and need a break from the same, try Cartel Coffee Lab the next time a coworker asks if you want to go on a coffee run.

There are four Cartel locations in the Phoenix area, including one at Sky Harbor Airport and then two in Tucson. Cartel roasts its own coffee and in some of those locations offers its own microbrew beer. For the downtown Phoenix location Cartel has partnered with Kaleidoscope Juice (http://www.kaleidoscopejuice.com) that offers juice and healthy eating options.

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