You are driving around uptown Phoenix and looking for a place to grab some coffee, or maybe you are looking for a trendy place to grab a bite to eat, maybe you have some people in from out of town and you want them to experience a part of the PHX culinary community or let’s just say you want a cocktail that is less about getting drunk and more about a magical alcohol centered sensory event. Well, if any of those are what you are looking for then Lux Central is the place you need to stop and check out.
Venue: Lux Central
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Okay, the ONLY complaint I have about this place is their location. I live in the East Valley and there is no easy way to get to Lux’s location on Central between Indian School and Camelback from where I live. And if you are headed north on Central you are going to have to wait for the light-rail to go by before you can turn around and make it to the spot. Also, signage makes finding Lux a pain in the ass, I look for the pawn shop next door, personally. Once you are there however, you quickly forget about all of that and your attention is directed toward the place itself.
Inside the nondescript building you will find your senses bombarded from all directions. The sight modern furniture mixed with art deco fixtures, alongside natural bare woods and metals; the scents of coffee and espresso mixing with fresh baked goods and steak; dozens of conversations of varying topics (plenty of college kids studying, hipsters debating the chances of a Sudanese war, business men on blind dates with hippy chicks) blending with the ever present coffee shop music; it is hard to imagine anyone really feeling out of place in a setting that seems to welcome and invite each and every person you can think of. I just wish the typewriters scattered around the shop still worked.
Lux started serving meals a little over a year ago, I do not know the story behind why they decided to offer more than baked goods but I am very glad that they did. The food is all prepared in front of you, the kitchen is basically one corner of the establishment, dry goods stacked along one wall and the refrigerated ingredients in a cold box across the room. The place has a few staples of their dinner menu (I have not had lunch there, so I cannot comment on it, but am willing to bet it is as good as the dinners are): ny strip steak, yorkshire pudding burger, and the spinach arugula salad. The sides served with the entrees vary, seemingly depending on the mood of the head chef. Last night I had “camembert polenta sautéed kale” and “onion cashews feta” with my New York Strip Steak, all of which was absolutely amazing. I actually watch their Facebook page for posting of their menu (they post it earlier in the day, so you never know what is going to be served beforehand) and if I can be in the area on nights they have the New York Strip, I try to make it a point to be there. I strongly recommend going with another person that you are okay sharing food with, one of you get the steak, the other the Yorkshire Pudding Burger (last night’s sides were “bacon cheddar greens tomato” and “roasted herbed red potatoes”) and enjoy both the act of sharing and the incredible food selections. Don’t worry vegetarians, Lux is not the type of place to leave out those of the alternative persuasion, there are often at least two non-animal choices to be found.
Vying for first place on my list of reasons to brave the drive to PHX are the bartenders at Lux, Ben and Jake in particular. I first met Ben almost two years ago when he introduced me to a Tequila Old Fashioned (video here). I am a lover of Old Fashioneds and generally order one every time I try a new bar, just to see what type of bartender I am dealing with. Ben made me a regular Old Fashioned and suggested that next time I try one with tequila. Well, it was next time about thirty minutes later and that is exactly what I ordered, and I kind of fell in love with trying varieties of Old Fashioneds. Ben was missing the next few times I ventured into Lux and I had the pleasure of being served by Jake, another master cocktail craftsman. Ben was good, but Jake really demonstrated the art of making a cocktail and taking it to another level. Plus he introduced me to the Sazerac, an Old Fashioned with an absinthe wash. If you enjoy Old Fashioneds, you MUST try this drink, the way the absinthe and the bitters play with each other brings out a sweetness that you would never expect, truly a treat for fans of the whisky drink.
Additionally, any drink that you are used to having somewhere else, can be improved upon by either of these two gentlemen. If you have had a “White Linen” at the Shady Lady in Sacramento, CA Ben can replicate it just by saying “it is a gin drink, that tastes like cucumbers and fresh laundry” and then he can make it even better by adding a splash of violet extract (I know because it happened). Fan of the classic Appletini? Ask Jake for a “Number 47”, you will not be disappointed. Never mind their huge beer and wine selection, if you want it, chances are they have it.
Of course you get what you pay for, and if you are dining and drinking in uptown PHX, you are going to pay for it. So, don’t expect this to be a cheap date and enjoy it because it isn’t. You will be glad that you spent whatever you spend though, if you have the cash to spend at a “coffee shop”. The steak dinner runs around $20/plate and drinks are reasonably priced around $8/cocktail. I have easily spent over $100 on dinner and drinks for two, not an insane amount for dinner and drinks, just more than you might expect to spend at a hidden coffee shop on Central. Make sure you grab a postcard when you visit, the art they use on them will sum up of experience rather well.