Sunday, August 16, 2015

What Is It About Hip Coffee Shops? Lux Central in Phoenix, Arizona

I've just moved Phoenix, and I'm in love with Lux Central--the city's impossibly cool coffee shop. Every city has one. You know it. That hip spot where the hipsters hang, teenagers go to chill after school and the 20-something crowd hits up after work. Maybe you're in one right now. Regardless, each city needs one.

I wish I was drinking this. Right. Now.

It's hard to see this shop that's just off Central, but if you've past the light rail station, you're close. Turn down W Turney Avenue, park and enter through the back. Once you're inside, you'll be greeted by a buzzing crowd in a dark space. I totally dug the work-from-home vibe I got from this place. Walk up the counter on the left, read the chalkboard menu and drool over the pastries behind the glass counter. I had a decadent, moist espresso bundt cake in January that I'm still thinking about. It will cost you at $8 or $9 a slice, but it's worth every penny if you've got the extra cash.

While you wait for your coffee and food, you'll find a seat at a intentionally worn wooden table or impossibly plush chairs. Enjoy the people watching. School kids will be working on their homework. One woman I saw had this impossibly cool black heels with this ruffled, flower center that almost made it look like the shoes were bleeding.

I ordered a hummus and vegetable plate that was fresh, but forgettable. The latte was smooth, even if it was a bit pricey. But what you'll really want to seek out here is the atmosphere. It's the kind of place you imagine the next big thing is being cooked up. Or maybe just that great piece of gossip.

Regardless of why you go to Lux, you'll enjoy the exclusive, but not snobby environment and awesome drinks. Here's to hip coffee shops across the land. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hidden, Charming Gems: Ellicott City, Maryland

I grew up in Northern Virginia, returned after college for five years, and it still amazes me that I can find a neighborhood I've never heard of. Case in point: Ellicott City, Maryland. This tiny town's Main Street is absolutely worth your time. Get ready for cobble stone buildings, quirky shops and a quaint setting that's straight out of a storybook.

Looks like a scene out of the 50s, doesn't it? But it's just historical and charming Ellicott City. 
Photo courtesy of Flickr user: Scott Saghirian
The most convenient time to visit would be if you're ever in the area seeing a show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, since E.C. is in the next town over. I paid a visit to Ellicott City right before seeing Florence and the Machine live (if you haven't seen this band, go. Do it. Like right now. And if you haven't heard of the artist, pull up a YouTube video immediately. Stat.), and was instantly taken. It really is like stepping back in time.

 Be sure to find the clock when you're in town.

Stroll down Main street. Check out a few funky boutiques, all with brick exteriors. A hallowed out department store houses vintage-inspired Sweet Elizabeth Jane, a store you're sure to love. The dresses are beautiful. You'll also find artisanal bath products, accessories and maybe even a book or two. I even enjoyed a meal on the rooftop of the Pure Wine Cafe

 My view from the restaurant.

The food was OK and a tad overpriced, but the view was unbeatable. If wine isn't you thing, you could try the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. They were closed when I visited, but it looked good. No matter what, put this town on your must-see list. Even if you just do a driving tour.

Here's to small (town) surprises.