Why Oro Valley needs the perfect coffee shop

  * Description: Coffee cortado (An latte...
Gorgeous latte art; creative commons license

Due to Internet connection difficulties at my house, I have to remote blog today, which means I need to find a place with free Wi-fi. Back in the day, when I worked just a hop, skip and jump from the university, I could find free Wi-fi and really good coffee at any number of places around the UA. Alas, not so in Oro Valley. This is why Oro Valley needs a perfect coffee shop. It is, as everyone knows, all about me. (Ryn, I know you have the sign that it is all about you, but you’re wrong.)

Let me define my terms: Perfect coffee shop = good espresso; decaf espresso available; local, homemade pastries available; chairs/tables the right height for laptops; free Wi-Fi. Granted, I am both a free Wi-Fi and coffee snob. I readily admit this and don’t apologize for it. If you’re going to pay between $2 and $4 for a cup of coffee and/or espresso drink, it better be worth it. Sadly, in too many places in OV, it isn’t. I’m also a Wi-fi snob… just seems like it should be free if you’re drinking/eating a cafe’s products.

Starbucks – of which there are three within 1.5 miles of my house – is the worst of the bunch. (This is according to me, not my husband, who drinks their coffee everyday.) They somehow burn their coffee, and they only put one shot of espresso in their small espresso drinks (lattes, mochas, Americanos, etc.) Not only that, they call their smalls “tall” and don’t offer free Wi-fi.

There’s a great, great, great coffeeman a bike ride from my house, John of Desert Rain Coffee, but he’s located in the Oro Valley Northwest Hospital lobby, with no free Wi-Fi and no pastries. I use him on the days I’m writing at home and have to have an Americano to jump-start the day instead of the drip I brew in the kitchen. He’s near the gym I use and is open at 6:30 a.m. when I’m done with my workout and can just grab a cup and head home.

Then there’s Down Home Delights, which is where I am right now, frustrated. They offer good pastries – when they have them, which isn’t consistently. They don’t stock decaf espresso, so it’s all or nothing when you go for your latte, and, like Starbucks, they only put one shot of espresso in their small espresso drinks. For this, they charge the same amount that John at Desert Rain charges for a two-shot espresso drink. They, have free Wi-fi and they have one table/chair set up that fits laptop use, so that’s a plus. But the thing that puts me off of DHD mostly is their service. It is horrific, as if customers are a problem rather than their ticket to a profit. (Granted, in this economy, they have few servers and, it appears, high-turnover of who they have. Plus, the guy who got my pastry out of the case didn’t use tongs or plastic gloves. Eww.)

Gyros Cafe offers good coffee and espresso – although no decaf espresso and only one shot in their small drinks. A Greek restaurant that serves up hearty portions of all its Mediterranean foods (and breakfast all day), Gyros offers free Wi-Fi, but seating isn’t suitable for long hours of work. Service is great, and the owners, from Kurdistan, are always friendly (although consistently looking exhausted). But alas, while lots of Greek sweets like baklava, no regular pastries.

There’s Caffe Torino, which is more expensive than Down Home, but has better, Italian-blend coffee, which is worth the price. There’s even a smattering of pastries, although their menu is mostly full-breakfast/lunch fare. The service is inconsistent, depending on when you go there and … there’s no Wi-fi and seating that doesn’t lend itself to laptop work.

That brings us to the best cafe for pastries, the Village Bakehouse, barely inside OV’s borders, but its coffee is unremarkable and they only offer one shot of espresso in small espresso drinks, and those drinks are drastically different depending on who makes them. In addition, no Wi-fi, and the tables are suited for cosy conversations, not remote working.

It’s a Grind, which used to have a site just across the street from Villiage Bakehouse, had the best set-up for remote work as far as seating/tables are concerned, and they had free Wi-fi. They got some pastries from across the way, but their coffee was subpar, and their espresso drinks? You guessed it, one shot in small drinks, although their prices for those drinks are less expensive than all the others combined.

So, like I said, what is needed in OV is the perfect coffee caffe. It would feature locally roasted beans from either Desert Rain or Cafe Luce, baristas trained on how to correctly – and consistently – pull an espresso shot, standard two-shot small espresso drinks for under three bucks (as is done at Luce), pastries from Village Bakehouse, decaf espresso available, free Wi-fi and a few low-set tables and chairs for laptop work.

Not that I’m particular or anything. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Why Oro Valley needs the perfect coffee shop

  1. I so agree with you…we do need an awesome coffee house…and the perfect location would be at LaCanada and Lambert (the location where Torino’s is located)…they have empty pads perfect for a stand alone building—offer drive-thru, outdoor seating to enjoy the views with your coffee as well as plenty of indoor seating…and great pastries are a must.  I know that whoever opens a coffee shop will do great business with all the traffic that they would get (lots folks live in the area now). Been to Down Home once–haven’t been back–found the service slow and prices are too high for what you get –and it sure isn’t for the ambiance.
    However, in the meantime…for a good cup of coffee, latte, etc…go see the folks at Tully’s inside of Fry’s at LaCanada/Lambert location. They don’t burn their coffee! And, I do believe they offer free wi-fi (don’t hold me to the free part)—as I’ve seen folks there w/their computers hooked up!  Tully’s are you listening?? Build a stand-alone coffee shop across the street!!

  2. Renee,
    Lovely post. Where coffee is concerned the Romans had some words for it: de gustibus non est disputandum.
    Nonetheless, let me dispute. There are some of us Starbucks fans who believe that most of the coffees offered by the other guys are under-roasted. Raging Sage on Campbell does a great espresso, however. Not very convenient for you I know.
    And for what it’s worth, if you are already an ATT customer Starbuck’s WiFi is free.

    1. Yes, but I’m not an ATT customer :-). Really, you really really like Starbucks? I love Raging Sage, but they are so far away. Epic cafe is also good. Alas ….

  3. Renee, I’m the owner of Down Home Delights (DHD) and read your blog this morning. We’re sorry for your bad experience.Like so many retail operations, the economy has forced us to reduce our staffing levels. Unfortunately the day that you came in to our café, there were multiple problems. We value our customers and take customer feedback very seriously. You mentioned that your server did not use tongs. Our customer service training procedure is to use tongs or gloves when serving food, per health code standards. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, we have written up that server.Here are a few things for clarification. We do offer decaf espresso, sorry that we didn’t mention that during your visit. We always use 2 shots of espresso in our barista drinks. We provide free WiFi to our customers as a convenience. There are several different outlets available for laptop use in the dining room.We hope that you’ll try us again. I’d like to invite you to come back in and give us a shot (or two!)…see if we’ve worked out some of the cogs. After your visit, you are welcome to call me and let us know how we did.

  4. When it existed, I gave It’s A Grind a fair shake, but you & I agree to disagree on opinion about It’s A Grind’s good prices – I found it to be in the range of Starbucks. Also, I was not surprised when they closed because there were always people with lots of laptops sitting around with dry, empty drink cups, while paying customers balanced food and hot drinks to consume while standing – Not a pleasant environment at all. Three strikes and they were out – no more money from my pocket.
    We’ll agree to disagree further, in that my pallet enjoys all the rest of these locally owned establishments’ quality products offered at a fair price. (Except for Desert Rain as I have not been there yet.) I am a regular at Down Home Delights, Caffe’ Torino’s, Tully’s in Fry’s at Lambert & LaCanada, Gyro’s, and Village Bakehouse. Free wi-fi is slowly becoming more available around Oro Valley and there are other restaurants in Oro Valley offering free wi-fi, but you might not find espresso at all of them. Additionally, if a product is not what you expected, or obviously not to health code, send it back and talk to a manager at the moment of sale to give both you and the establishment an opportunity to part happily.
    Gyro’s, Down Home Delights, and Tully’s are all good choices for a hot cuppa joe and wi-fi access. Caffe Torino’s and Village Bakehouse offer a quiet spot to use the laptop as a word processor, or just read a good book while enjoying a hot java.  All are good, clean places, with friendly staff and owners welcoming me to settle in however I feel I need to at each visit.
    Let us raise our coffee and espresso cups in joy, as we stimulate the local Oro Valley cafe economy 😉

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