Old Town Gets A Hip Replacement: A Night on the Town and Cartel’s 5th Avenue Grand Opening

by shelbinator3000

The other night I ended up at Cartel Coffee Lab, which was weird; because I was on 5th Avenue.

You see, Friday I spent a night in Oldtown Scottsdale; a lively area that in it’s bulk is a stretch of just a few miles of Scottsdale road that connect North Scottsdale and Tempe.

Here, the number of bars always seems outweigh the average age of 43 – by a lot.

Here, a 19-year-old college student on a budget is almost completely out of place.

Lamb, potatoes, spinach at Bandera in Oldtown Scottsdale

My meal at Bandera, for example – grilled lamb sirloin sitting on a pillow of mashed potatoes (which I’d been wondering if it contained chunks of parsnip) next to a bed of cooked whole-leaf, parmesan topped spinach – was excellent. The best cooked lamb (on par with Mom’s lamb-chop, mint jelly dish) I’d ever tasted excellent. In a different league than a shepherds pie pasty at Cornish Pasty the week before excellent.

$23 before tax and tip excellent.

Though, it was my friend’s birthday and his Mom, who is always far too generous, did treat.

But, nevertheless, I found myself thinking, “When is it my turn? When does my foodie state-of-mind find a budget to dine and an age to wine?”

The Sugar Bowl, an old ice-cream parlor in Oldtown Scottsdale

I’d really only ended up in Oldtown a handful of times at all – many of which were trips at a young age with my twin sister and my Grandma to The Sugar Bowl, an old school ice cream parlor and diner built from wooden planks painted pink. I’m wishing I could still recommend it but my memory doesn’t serve me right here – I haven’t returned since my adolescent tongue could differentiate something other than: “sugar!”

But after my meal I took to a brisk walk down Scottsdale Road with my friends, fighting my way through hoards of thirty-somethings towards a place that felt like a home in this foreign part of town.

Cartel Coffee Lab, based out of Tempe, was opening it’s fourth location in heart of the 5th Avenue Shops where their previous wholesale client, philanthropic Sola Coffee Bar, ceased to exist.

Now coffee, that was something I understood, and which I would gladly work into my college budget at any expense. It’s tasty in an incredibly diverse amount of ways, served in a multitude of respectful fashions, and it provides all of the depth and sophistication I could ask for in a drink. Best of all? It’s the drink of the masses; it’s still inexpensive, and many shops serve it well under the price tag it deserves – so I tend to drink away.

Did I mention that Friday night it was free?

Cartel was partying in the way only a grand opening could imply, and in the only way Cartel saw fit to grandly open – generously!

Oh, and there was free beer, food, and pastries as well.

The pastries, I might add, were prepared by none other than Rebecca Reeder; Cartel’s staff pastry chef (dare I say best of her trade in the greater Phoenix area) who operates out of their Downtown Phoenix location and puts the term wo-manning the kitchen into work (did that last line make sense?). I drank coffee and enjoyed salted caramel nut bars and walnut espresso brownies which, in the best kind of way, made me thirsty for more coffee. A second round of Cartel’s Guatemala La Perla has never been a bad thing.

But what really made me feel at home was the community integrated into their grand opening. Along with their strong Tempe, Tucson, and Downtown Phoenix following, almost anyone and everyone involved in the specialty coffee community here in Arizona showed their face, drank coffee, applauded Cartel’s new marketing video, and together with their friends or family – brought celebration to a great new coffee shop.

We need coffee community get-togethers more often, with or without all of the free food. Preferably with. Who’s buying? Not the 19-year-old unemployed college student on a budget.

A Cartel 5th Avenue Barista slinging shots of Black Market espresso on a La Marzocco GS3