A recent road trip in the Southwest yielded stops in a few coffee shops. Sometimes for fun, sometimes out of necessity. I visited places that offered good coffee and others that provided merely a vehicle for caffiene.
Sunrise Coffee, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunrise is located in a small strip mall across from a sunny park in Southeast Las Vegas. As I was walking in with my dad, a guy rode up on his bike and met with people who looked to be his parents. I watched him lock his bike to a sigh in the parking lot – there’s no bike parking by the store front, but that is okay.
Other people sat inside with their laptops – a not too atypical coffee shop crowd.
Sunrise is an independently-owned shop that serves organic coffee and offers some vegan foods.
I had their Espresso Blend from Mothership Roastworks. I had low expectations for coffee Las Vegas. I was pleasantly surprised by the coffee shop, which felt out of place at the strip mall. The coffee was brewed well but I found it lacking some of the acidity that I was craving. I like my espressos bright!
I finished the last sip, put the dishes into the bus bin, and then we got on the road.
Beans Gourmet Coffee House, Page, Arizona
Sometimes when I am in a new place, I wonder if I am seeing the same things that a local would see. In every new place, am I getting the equivalent of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience in San Francisco? But, maybe Page really is a pretty small town, and there wasn’t too much that we missed.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the local experience in Page. We were there to see Antelope Canyon, and the fact that others were as well is probably part of the reason for the row of hotels on the block where we spent the night. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much foot traffic on such a wide road that was South Lake Powell Boulevard. There were probably a lot of other tourists who needed to get food or stop by a drugstore, and I was happy that they were able to do so on foot, despite what appeared to be a lack of pedestrian-focused planning.
I had even lower expectations for coffee in Page than I did in Las Vegas. Blue Coffee & Wine Bar had nice reviews on Yelp, but we could not go as they did not open early enough for us that Sunday morning.
Instead, we went to Beans Gourmet Coffee House. There were two guys who looked like regulars sitting at the bar, and then three pairs of tourists sitting at their tables, working on or waiting for their breakfasts. The regulars eyed my dad and I and gave a friendly nod. The tourists minded their own business.
The interior was small – bright red walls with painted references to Italy on one side, and hurried staff behind the counter. Not unfriendly, but definitely looking sort of stressed.
My espresso was served in a nice little Lake Powell demitasse, and I got a mango smoothie to tide me over until we could get a bite later. The coffee was as expected – not horrible but not too pleasant to drink either. Maybe not too different than a shot at Starbucks or Peet’s?
Bluff, Utah and Farmington, New Mexico
Comb Ridge Coffee – I was looking forward to checking this place out in Bluff. Not necessarily for the coffee, but for to the fact that they were pretty much the only coffee shop in town. I imagined they’d supply a unique, local vibe. They’d be the curators or arbiters of the local scene in tiny Bluff. And I was curious what their coffee offering would have been like. But.. they weren’t open on Monday. So we looked for another place. And despite stopping in the parking lot, I didn’t feel like sitting down at Twin Rocks Cafe. We decided to start driving and see what we could find along the way.
Nothing was on the way until we reached Farmington, New Mexico, two hours later. At this point, I just wanted something – so I stopped into the local McDonald’s.
Sadly, it tasted like burny flavored water. Worse than I expected. I wanted to believe that despite all of the negative feelings directed at McDonald’s for their food, their practices, and so on, that maybe their coffee would be okay. But it wasn’t. It was watered down enough to be somewhat drinkable, though. So I suppose that’s a good thing? I drank half of it and had to dump the rest out.
My dad wanted to visit the KFC nearby, so I paired my coffee with salty chicken tenders and a salty, buttery biscuit. I did not use their “Honey Sauce”, which claimed “7% real honey”
Betterday Coffee, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Betterday is situated in a strip mall not too far from downtown Santa Fe – a strip mall with some pretty cool shops. It’s next to La Montanita food co-op and a fancy (and expensive) looking butcher, The Real Butcher Shop, who boasts “We are Santa Fe’s first Whole Carcass, Farm Direct, Producer-owned butcher shop.” The three make a pretty nice combo. If I lived in Santa Fe, I think I’d spend a good amount of time at that strip mall.
The cafe is pretty open, a mix of wood and concrete with a few Cinelli frames hanging on one wall and some old road signs at the other end.
I only had time for one coffee stop in Santa Fe, and had to decide between Iconik and Betterday. I’d been told about Iconik’s beautiful space and I knew they roasted their own beans.. but I ultimately chose Betterday because I’d been craving a good espresso and I knew that I wouldn’t be let down by Stumptown’s beans. Interestingly, the baristas were not nearly as hipstered out as I would have expected. What does it mean if I’ve come to expect a certain type of barista with a certain type of coffee?
And I wasn’t let down.. the coffee was great!
Late for the Train Coffee, Flagstaff, AZ
I had lower expectations for coffee in Flagstaff after browsing yelp reviews. At least for coffee quality – the spaces could still be awesome. It was interesting that a lot of the shops also were performance venues – places that would have been cool to check out some music or so if we had more time to spend.
The Late for the Train location I went to was sort of small and fairly crowded with a mix of people working on their laptops and others just sipping coffee outside in the sun. They did not appear to have space for any types of musical performance. The counter staff were young, female, and quite busy taking orders. As was the case with the rest of Flagstaff, a number of mountain bikes were locked up outside. I wonder why so many people get around with mountain bikes there?
The coffee was.. as expected. Kind of thin, darkly roasted, but with enough caffeine content to get me going.
That was the last stop for our trip. We hung around town for a bit and then drove back to Las Vegas, for we had planes to catch to take us back home.