The 5 Best Coffee Shops for Freelancers: Phoenix EditionBy Yael Grauer October 14th, 2015
I moved to Phoenix in August, and finding coffeeshops to write in was one of my first and foremost considerations. Luckily, the Valley of the Sun did not disappoint.
Like previous coffee shop listers, I took a critical eye to some key factors, such as Wi-Fi availability, outlet availability, coffee quality, and just how long you can set up shop before an apathetic barista is forced to kick you out.
Here are the five Phoenix coffee shops that’ll help you meet all of your deadlines.
1. Songbird Coffee & Tea House (812 N. 3rd St.)
Walking into Songbird is like walking into someone’s home, with a fireplace, paintings, furniture, and knick-knacks which create a soothing and comfortable vibe. It’s tastefully decorated with local artwork, the music selection is calming and never too loud, and the menu sign is comprised of Scrabble letters. Writers and freelancers of all stripes will feel right at home.
Make sure to snag one of the two available outlets if you’re planning on staying for a while. Order pour-over coffee, loose leaf tea, or even Thai tea. Songbird also makes its own whipped cream as well as freshly baked pastries. A rewards program offers a 10 percent discount as well as a 5 percent reward for a friend—just don’t tell too many people about it.
2. Cartel Coffee Lab (1 N. 1st St.)
(Additional locations at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, as well as Tempe, Scottsdale, and Tucson)
In a world of cookie-cutter cafés, Cartel is unique. First, there’s the delicious coffee, which is sourced from all over the world with an emphasis on obscure varieties, unconventional processing, and extraordinary taste. Cartel does its roasting at its flagship location in Tempe, where there is even a tasting room for Cartel’s microbrewery. (Yes, there’s beer, too).
And don’t worry: Though the drinks aren’t dolled up with lots of whipped cream or syrup, Cartel offers chai and an assortment of pastries, including brownies and a hand-baked take on Oreos and Pop-Tarts for your sugar fix.
But you’re here to work, too. Each of Cartel’s six locations has a bohemian (if Spartan) vibe with hipster industrial-style décor consisting of a few couches plus wooden stools, benches, and metal chairs. For me, the vibe is conducive to getting things done, but others might find it uninspiring.
Added bonus: Rumor has it that Adrian Grenier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have been known to stop by when in town.
3. Giant Coffee (1437 N. 1st St.)
Giant Coffee is the type of coffee shop that’ll help you finish that one piece that seems like it just doesn’t want to end. It’s bright, spacious, and has nice decorative flourishes—huge glass windows, rustic wooden tables, and single roses on the tables—so you’ll want to hang out afterwards to soak in the ambience, too. Plus, it has its signature drink: the honey vanilla latte, which is as good as it sounds.
Stick around until 3 p.m. and all the pastries are half off, but if you’ve just gotten paid you can treat yourself to artisanal chocolate. Bring some headphones if spacey ambient music is distracting, or if you’ll be hanging out at the same time as the local art program, between 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.—otherwise, Giant will provide just the soundscape you need to wrap things up.
4. Lola Coffee (1001 N. 3rd Ave.)
Lola is calm, quiet, and decorated with beautiful local artwork, and all of the locally roasted coffee is fair trade. The mellow, intimate vibe and the spread-out seating layout make it ideal for one-on-one meetings, too—the music’s quiet enough that you can hear each other talk, but loud enough that you don’t feel like everyone else is listening to every word you say.
Lola is good for frou-frou drinks (espresso whip, anyone?) and if you’re someone who bribes themselves with baked goods to finish a post, you’ll appreciate the delectable pastry selection. Lola also offers a breakfast bar and to-go coffee boxes, so you can get a dozen pastries or drinks for your next meeting.
One downside: the parking isn’t the best, but the café more than makes up for it. Plus, there’s outdoor seating.
5. Royal Coffee Bar and Roasting Company (113 N. 6th St.)
(Additional locations at Biltmore Fashion Park, and in Tempe and Scottsdale)
If you’re looking for a quiet, cozy café with fantastic espresso, look no further than Royal.
It’s tiny: Think five two-person tables and three stools in each of its locations. But Royal, which is owned by architect Hayes McNeil, is immaculately designed with wooden tables, rustic lights, and unique accents in each location. Beans are roasted at the historic Heritage Square location, which is a sleek brick carriage house with wide-open doors to let in the fresh air.
Royal isn’t the place for your late-night last minute deadline crunch. Several locations open as early as 7 a.m., and closing times range from 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. and the latest open until 5 (or 6 during the school year). Still, for daytime work, it’s one of Phoenix’s best-kept secrets.
Lux (4402 N. Central)
Lux may be my favorite hipster café in Phoenix, with amazing food, coffee, and craft cocktails, but it isn’t the best for writers to work in.
It’s always crowded, parking spots are scarce, the house music gets louder as the day goes on. The unconventional and sometimes disturbing selection of artwork also makes client meetings less than ideal. I do recommend it for working with friends—just make sure to bring your headphones.
Jobot Cofee (918 N. 5th St.)
Jobot is a great place to go to chat with interesting strangers. It’s open all night on weekends and until midnight on weekends, has great crepes and breakfast food, and beans are roasted locally at Cartel. Unfortunately, the shaky Wi-Fi connection leaves a lot to be desired and the space is better suited for casual hangouts than for meeting deadlines.Image by Tivery Lucky