Tag: #caffeine
Palio Coffee Shop

I love Las Vegas, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the action. In the city that never sleeps, sometimes it’s hard to find a place to chill unless you go back to your hotel room. Since Las Vegas is a tourist attraction, of course my expectations for coffee shops is different than say in my hometown of Phoenix. However, seeing how Las Vegas is a hub for extravagant shows and one-of-a-kind shops and galleries, I could see someone establishing a coffee shop that had a cool twist or a novel idea. I think this would definitely appeal to visitors because at some point you want to sit down and relax and escape the incessant crowds.

 

But while we wait for that coffee shop to appear, there’s a cozy and delicious coffee shop called Palio, which is tucked away in the Bellagio Hotel. I actually stumbled on this establishment by accident because I made a wrong turn and found myself wandering through the shops and small eateries. Styled in the fashion of a Tudor-like cafe, Palio offers amazing coffee drinks and tasty treats, such as muffins, pastries, and sandwiches. My friend and I enjoyed huge mugs of some of the most incredible lattes and chilled for a couple of hours. The coffee shop offers beautiful views of the pool area, so it’s a also nice spot to people watch. Considering the fact that most things are more expensive in Vegas, I thought the prices on the menu were reasonable. The portions are generous, so you don’t feel cheated, and the customer service is more than satisfactory.

 

I was very impressed with Palio, and it was so nice to be able to sit down and not worry about watching the clock or navigating crowds. To be honest, I think most people are unaware of this gem, but if you ever find yourself near the Bellagio and you want a place to sit and relax check out Palio. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. 

Coffee Bar at The Henry

First, I have to go off topic here and say that the hamburger at The Henry is one of the best I have ever had in my life. This is not a hyperbole. I love hamburgers and, at some point, I order one at every restaurant I try. The reason the hamburger at The Henry is so amazing to me is that their meat is flavorful and not too dry (even when ordered well done) and their special sauce serves as a the perfect complement. The French Fries are great as well.

Now, back to the coffee. One of the first things you notice about The Henry is the beautiful European aesthetic of the restaurant and coffee bar. Located in the heart of Arcadia, just east of 44th street on Camelback Road, The Henry stands out as a happening hangout for people of all ages. The inside of the building feels European with its dark wood floors, various shades of blue walls and tapestries, and heavy wood tables accompanied with the traditional green bankers lamps. Since this place is almost always busy the tables near the front are usually taken, but there is an additional room off to the side with long rectangular tables and chairs for people to work or reserve for meetings. On a nice day, patrons can relax with a cup of coffee on their front porch area where there’s plenty of seating.

The food and pastries at the coffee bar are very tasty. The selection of breakfast sandwiches and cakes is pretty extensive. They also offer a variety specialty coffee drinks, such as mochas, cappuccinos, and espressos. I typically get their plain coffee or a café au lait. The coffee is pretty decent. It’s nothing to write home about, but at least their brew is not too heavy or too bland. Their customer service is also satisfactory, but my one complaint about this place is their layout. The line for ordering is right by the door, so, as soon as you walk in, you hit a wall of people. There’s not whole lot of room for people to stand in line, which, during peak hours, feels awkward. If it weren’t for that additional room, it would be next to impossible to guarantee an indoor place to sit. The parking seems plentiful, but come lunchtime or the weekends, this lot gets full pretty quickly. Fortunately, they do have a complimentary valet service for their patrons.

Since starting this coffee blog, I have found that the popular coffee spots don’t do a lot to promote community because they don’t have to. People bring their friends and family or their laptops. While I do enjoy having a cup of coffee at The Henry, it’s not exactly my “go-to.” I tend to prefer the less trendy places that have a more neighborhood feel.

Bikini Beans Coffee Review

I’ve only been to Bikini Beans once and that’s because I was so uncomfortable, I’ve never had any desire to go back. The location I went to was in the heart of central Phoenix, off 7th street, just south of Indian School. The coffee shop is mostly a drive thru operation, with a few tables on their small outdoor patio. What apparently makes this coffee shop “unique” and apparently an attraction is that their baristas are all young women scantily clad in bikinis. The menu of specialty coffee drinks looks a lot like what you would see at other places.

I ordered a plain cup of joe, so I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary. Ironically, though I was uncomfortable being the only female patron amidst a long line of guys cruising by to get their morning caffeine fix, I was surprised to find that the barista was the friendliest person behind the counter I’ve so far experienced in my voyage of trying out different cafes. Even though there was a line developing at the drive thru, the woman took the time to say hello and ask me how my day was going. Most of the time when I go to these shops, the baristas are not really present. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a long line of customers or if I’m the only one in the shop. I respect the fact that baristas, or anyone working in a coffee shop, has a tough job. Customers take their coffee very seriously. However, with the number of coffee shops out there, good customer service goes a very long way. It doesn’t take much to make people feel welcomed, but it can truly make a difference in someone’s day. In a world where most of our connections are virtual, something as small as even a smile will make a lasting impression on someone.

Bikini is obviously not the type of coffee shop you go to if you want to meet up with a friend or work on your laptop. It’s mainly for people who need to quickly grab coffee on their way to work, with the perk of seeing an attractive woman in a bikini.

On the company’s website, part of their mission statement reads:

“As the first bikini barista shop in Arizona, we want to positively

inspire our local community by empowering others to do what they

want and love what they do. You [sic] Our brand is founded

upon providing exceptional customer service and delivering a quality

product. We achieve this by creating a personable experience on

every visit by making sure your drink is made just the way you like it.”

First, someone should have proofread their website content. Second, baristas wearing bikinis is a novelty, but there’s nothing about showing skin that empowers a woman. A woman is empowered when she loves herself. How many women do you know dislike their bodies because of the pressure to look a certain way? If Bikini wanted to empower women in addition to appealing to men, they should put a belly dancer behind the counter because they understand and teach the beauty of each woman’s femininity, no matter what size she is.

The customer service was the strongest quality of this coffee stop. I appreciated the barista’s warm personality because I really don’t see that in a lot of places anymore. However, due to my reasons stated above, I probably will not go back anytime soon. But then again, I’m a woman.

Annex Cocktail Lounge Review

In June, my friend and I drove up to Flagstaff to get a reprieve from the heat. It had been many years since I got to spend much time up north, and Flagstaff is a great city to check out if you haven’t done so already. It’s a college town, home to Northern Arizona University. I’ve always loved the vibe of this city because it’s a cool mixture of old and new architecture with a ton of greenery and nature to admire. Living in the desert for as long as I have, you really do appreciate the smell of pine trees. Lush greenery of any sort is a novelty in Phoenix.

One of the things that I did notice, however, was that there weren’t many coffee shops near the university. In fact, I was a little surprised at the number of stores that were closed or going out of business. The area is still worth checking out, but I was sad to see some of my favorite boutiques go out of business. Getting back to the coffee however, there was Starbucks, but I was looking for a coffee shop unique to the area. At one point, my friend and I decided to cross the train tracks. I was determined to find a coffee shop to review. One of the first places we stumbled upon was Annex. Technically, this place is a cocktail lounge and eatery, but it did have a full coffee bar and so I’m making an exception here.

The inside of the building was spacious, with clean lines, minimalist style furniture, and an industrial feel that still felt inviting. The layout was also intelligent. There was plenty of seating without feeling crowded. The only comment I could add about the seating is that if you sit at the stainless steel tables with the attached metal stools, your bum is probably going to hurt after a while. Mine did. Fortunately, there are other places to sit, so if you intend to hang out, choose something with some padding. My friend and I both ordered lattes and chocolate peanut butter cups. The lattes, which were served in oversized white saucers, were exceptional and the peanut butter cups were good as well. Just before I left, I bought my mother a raspberry pastry, which she said was very good even though she’s not the biggest fan of fruity pastries. The prices were reasonable and pretty typical of most coffee shops. The portion sizes were more than generous.

Every one who worked there was very kind and professional. My friend and I felt extremely relaxed spending time in the cafe. Since it was late in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner, there weren’t a lot of people, but I’m curious to know what it’s like during the afternoon and evening rush. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to check out their lunch/dinner menu, I think I can say with some confidence that they probably serve a good meal. Though there are more coffee shops in the area, Annex is a good place to visit. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to check out this part of Downtown Flagstaff (also referred to as the Railroad District) that’s on the other side of the train tracks. I’ve always either went hiking or hung out near the university. In addition to finding Annex, however, I saw that this was the place where people hang out. There were coffee shops, boutiques, and thrift stores. The feel of this area was completely laid back, and in some ways reminded me of Tempe, with its combination of industrial and bungalow style construction.

I love Flagstaff because there is so much to do there and the weather is considerably nicer than in Phoenix. I highly recommend Annex as a place to stop for coffee, drinks, or food. It was so good, that if I weren’t running a blog about coffee shops, I would return to this café in a heart beat. However, considering all the cool places to try, I will hopefully return with another review of a cool coffee shop from Flagstaff. Cheers, Annex. You deserve it. Bean count: 8/10

Echo Coffee Shop Review
Echo Coffee Shop Review

My first impression of Echo Coffee Shop was a library, except instead of librarians you had skilled baristas and a vast array of coffee selections. I walked into the shop and the first thing I noticed were the rows of laptops partially covering pensive expressions. The room was so heavily pregnant with everyone’s thoughts that I felt compelled to whisper my order to the barista: Café Americano with a peanut butter cookie. The cookie was delicious and the coffee was strong, but I tasted a slight bitterness, which is usually associated with burned coffee beans. Even though there were places to sit, I was cramped at my little table by the window. After 30 minutes of drinking my coffee and reading a copy of Java, I left to go home.

I can’t say there’s anything particularly wrong with Echo. The coffee is better than most places and the selection of pastries is more than decent and they even offer some gluten free options. The baristas are pleasant and there are plenty of tables and a few sofas for people to sit and work. The way it’s decorated reminds me of a Starbucks. It’s clean, with light colored walls, and full of natural light from the large windows. However, my experiences at Echo have always left me feeling emotionally sterilized. The energy of the space colors how I feel about this particular coffee shop. I’ve been to Echo about a half dozen times and the energy is always the same. There’s never much conversation going on and in fact, when I met one of my friends for coffee, she and I both felt uncomfortable talking because it was so quiet that we felt like we would get into trouble if our voices were above a whisper.

My visit to Echo made me think more about how the definitions of community and connection have changed. Social media and smart phones have made the virtual seem more real than the physical world. It’s more natural to be connected to your lap top computer than it is the people sitting next to you. If the power grid were to ever go out, humanity would have to relearn what it means to be part of a community. And yet, I would argue that our lack of physical community is creating an epidemic of detachment, self-absorption, and bullying. Empathy is not created over the Internet.

It’s challenging pinpointing why the energy feels the way it does at a place. However, sometimes places are just not good matches for people, and for me, I prefer places with more hustle and bustle. I want to feel a part of something, even if it’s just drinking coffee and reading a book. If I want quiet, I’ll go to a proper library. Due to Echo Coffee Shop’s menu, coffee, and hospitality, I give them 8 out of 10 beans.