Firecreek Coffee Company was a chance discovery when I visited Flagstaff in February 2018. A roaster/coffee shop, Firecreek has a second location in Sedona, and has since opened a third in Cottonwood, as well as today’s Coffee Spot, it’s first venture in Phoenix. Located inside The Marylin, an iconic building that’s home to various offices, you’ll find Firecreek Arcadia on East Thomas Road, roughly equidistant between downtown Phoenix and Oldtown Scottsdale. While a car is advised (The Marilyn has an extensive parking lot), buses also run along East Thomas so it is, in theory, accessible by public transport.
The coffee shop is a beautiful, irregularly-shaped space, with a wide variety of seating both inside and out. The offering is familiar to anyone who has visited the original Firecreek in Flagstaff, the espresso-based menu catering to both the speciality coffee community, with options like the espresso set, and the more mainstream American coffee-drinker and their beloved 16oz lattes. There’s also batch-brew filter and pour-over made with the Clever Dripper or cafetiere using any of the available beans. Talking of which, all the coffee is currently roasted in Flagstaff, but Firecreek is in the process of opening a dedicated Phoenix roastery/coffee shop.
Continuing the theme from last month’s visit to Phoenix of old friends in new places, today’s Coffee Spot is Regroup Coffee + Bicycles, which I first visited five years ago in February 2018. Back then, Regroup was best described as a coffee bar in a bicycle shop in Old Scottsdale and while it had only been open for little more than a year at that point, it had big plans, including roasting its own coffee. In 2021, those plans came to fruition with a move south along Scottsdale Road and across the line separating Scottsdale from Tempe.
These days Regroup occupies a standalone building with a spacious coffee shop on the ground floor, which it shares with the roastery and a bicycle repair shop at the back. Upstairs is the showroom/sales area and offices, which doubles as additional seating, plus there’s outside seating on the terrace at the front. The familiar Mk II Slayer espresso machine has also made the move from Scottsdale, where it anchors a concise menu based around the seasonal house-blend, backed up with a single-origin on both batch-brew and pour-over using the V60. There’s also a limited food menu along with cakes if you’re hungry.
My first visit to Phoenix, in October 2016, saw the chance discovery of Press Coffee in the Scottsdale Quarter development, a short walk from my hotel at the time. Since then, I’ve been a regular visitor on my frequent returns to the area, often calling in on my way to/from the office. However, that was the old Press Coffee in Scottsdale Quarter: in July 2021, Press Coffee moved to a new, much bigger unit on the other side of the development. Naturally on my return at the start of 2023, I had to check it out.
The old location had a slightly awkward layout, but lots of charm, whereas the new location, a corner spot with windows on either side, has a more regular feel to it. There are two ranks of tables in the middle, with the counter at the back, while the windows and high ceiling lead to a bright, airy space. There’s more seating outside, with tables along the front and down the side. The offering is the familiar Press Coffee one, with three options on espresso, and two more on batch-brew filter and pour-over, all roasted in-house, along with limited but very tempting breakfast and lunch menus, backed up with cakes/pastries.
When I last visited Phoenix in January 2020, my first port of call was Mythical Coffee in Gilbert, which had, at that point, been open for just two weeks. It’s therefore fitting that on my return to Phoenix last month after a three-year absence, my first stop was Mythical North, Mythical’ s Scottsdale outpost. Not that Mythical North was entirely new to me, since I’d been a frequent visitor during its previous incarnation as Maverick Coffee. Located in the Paradise Valley Plaza, an old-style outdoor mall in Scottsdale, Mythical is conveniently located just around the corner from my usual hotel, making it a natural place to stop for my morning coffee, particularly on the drive to the office.
The change from Maverick to Mythical occurred in August 2022 and was more merger than takeover, Eric and the team at Mythical buying into the existing business. The changes have also been gradual rather than wholesale, the coffee shop feeling very much as it had been on my previous visits, although the coffee now all comes from Mythical, roasted off-site on a brand-new Loring roaster. The biggest (physical) difference is the expansion into the space next door, very much a work-in-progress.
I made my first visit to Phoenix, a city I’ve since come to know very well, at the end of October, 2016. I’d not long since returned from my first around-the-world trip, travelling west-to-east via Hong Kong, Shanghai and Chicago. As a result, this trip, my last of the year, was rather hastily arranged. A rather concise affair, the whole trip lasted just eight days, in marked contrast to my return to Phoenix a few months later.
I flew in on the Monday, landing late in the evening, then spent the next four days in a meeting. However, I was determined to see something of the area and, knowing nothing about Phoenix itself, I decided that I would skip exploring the city and instead head north to the Grand Canyon, somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. I drove up on the Friday night, spent the weekend there, and then drove back to Phoenix on Monday afternoon to catch the evening flight home.
As regular readers of Brian’s Travel Spot will know, while I was travelling extensively for work, I stopped trying to write up my Travel Spots as I went, leaving me with various unfinished journeys, so to speak. Today’s post is one of those, a throwback to 2018 and the very end of my five-week long trip across America, which started in Boston at the end of February. I took the train from Providence, Rhode Island, down the northeast corridor to Manassas, catching the Crescent to New Orleans before taking the Sunset Limited all the way across to Tucson, Arizona. From there, I drove to Phoenix for work, before catching my flight home, which is the subject of today’ post.
This post was prompted by last week’s news of the final flights of British Airways’ remaining two Boeing 747s. Although my return from Phoenix wasn’t the last time I flew on a 747 (that was in January 2019, when I was unexpectedly upgraded to First Class on my way out to Phoenix of all places!), it’s the last of my 747 flights that remained without a write-up, so it seemed a fitting way to mark the retirement of British Airways 747 fleet.
Welcome to the third instalment of the first Travel Spot of the new year, documenting my first trip of 2020. Part I saw me flying from London Heathrow to San Jose on 3rd January, while Part II saw me take the relatively short hop from San Francisco to Phoenix. Now, after two weeks in Arizona (one for work, in Phoenix, and one travelling in Northern Arizona), Part III sees me flying all the way from Phoenix to Portland (Maine), my final stop before making my way home with British Airways.
Although I’d have loved to have done the trip by train, it would have taken a minimum of three days and cost an awful lot more than flying. I did a similar journey in reverse in 2018, when I went from Providence to Tucson by train, but that time I allowed myself a leisurely two weeks for the journey with plenty of stops along the way. With time against me on this trip, I ruled that out and decided to fly. Since you can’t fly directly from Phoenix to Portland, I was faced with various combinations of airlines/routes, eventually settling on going via Atlanta with Delta (my favourite US airline).
Although I have a soft spot for Press, I would be hard-pressed to describe its locations as anything other than utilitarian. Not The Roastery, however, which is magnificent, occupying a standalone building with a large outdoor seating area, a mezzanine level above the counter/kitchen and the roastery at the back.
The coffee offering is very familiar: the Twitch blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, two options on batch brew and up to six single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. Add to that a selection of tea, beer, wine and spirits, plus a concise all-day food menu and a range of cakes, and you have something for (almost) everyone.
Good airport coffee is still, sadly, a rarity. It therefore seems unfair that, given its scarcity, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport should have not one, but two speciality coffee shops. The first is Cartel Coffee Lab in Terminal 4., which is very handy for me, since I typically fly British Airways/American, both of whom use the terminal.
However, this time, I was flying Delta, which uses the newly-refurbished Terminal 3. I was just kicking myself for my choice of airline and hence terminal, rueing missing out on a decent pre-flight coffee, when I walked past Giant Coffee, a small coffee bar tucked in with a larger convenience store/newsagent.
Although there’s not much to Giant, it offers a concise espresso-based menu using the house-blend and decaf, plus there’s pour-over (V60 or cafetiere) and batch brew, each sporting a different single-origin. There’s also Rishi Tea and a range of cakes, sandwiches and salads.
After five previous visits to Phoenix, where I’ve visited coffee shops in the surrounding cities of Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler, this trip has seen me add Gilbert, Peoria and now Mesa to the list. Mesa, which is east of Tempe and north of Gilbert, is somewhere I’ve only previously driven through on my way to the Superstition Mountains. What caused me to stop on this occasion was Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea, which I was urged to visit by several people, including Fionn of The Pourover and Eric, at Mythical Coffee.
Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea started as a pop-up inside the tap room at Cider Corps, although it’s now migrated to a more permanent set up at the back of the main bar with plans to expand the opening hours in the next month or two. Pair roasts all its own coffee, with five single-origins on pour-over, two of which are also on espresso. These are backed up by five loose-leaf teas pus matcha, with all the coffee/tea available to buy in retail bags.