Mortimer Sánchez

Brushes with greatness

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Drip Coffee Lounge on a Saturday morning: Alfredo Gutierrez turns to me, enthusiastic, “Hey! Yeah, definitely! I’ll be waiting for your email. We’ll talk.” His eyes and thoughts were caffeinated, urgent, as he took his debit card from the barista.

The former senator shook my hand and sped off, late to a Saturday meeting. I sipped the last of a rich vanilla latte and felt a little extra cool for hob-knobbing with a local legislative legend.

Now, I don’t know Mr. Gutierrez. I’m just name-dropping. I have hung out with his son twice – briefly, but I guess that doesn’t really count.

It isn’t the first time I’ve bumped into local statesmen at this place. A couple months back I had a surreal moment sitting at Drip’s small coffee bar when Mayor Phil Gordon slid into the chair next to me to eat breakfast with his son. A polite nod was shared between us as I sipped on my drink, thinking “does he ever dress down?”

Something about Drip entices these locally prominent personalities. It could be the owner, Gina Madrid. I’m told she once found it neccessary to reprimand the impatient mayor, making him wait to be served because others were first. So, I think he likes the tough love! He did throw himself out of a tree recently.

Tom Simplot has snuck in for his usual latte. John Kitchell slips away from the construction business for an occasional bite of organic toast. Nobody knows why they come, but it’s not to be seen.

Maybe Gina is too nice? She spoils half her customers with personalized dishes that aren’t on the menu. I think they just like the cool orange silverware, though. How shallow.

Spoons and forks aren’t the only design element that stands out. The downtown locale’s interior is streamlined with angular touches of postmodernism. There are smooth surfaces, the clean lines of custom-made furniture and art gracing the napkin dispensers.

This is a place for Andy Warhol lovers and green-conscious architects. The décor makes my cluttered mind nervous; I like dive bars and smoky street corners.

Gina is always in control of this environment, even on crazy Saturday mornings when all of Coronado neighborhood rides up on restored bicycles or in the latest hybrid car to start their day. With “Rain Man” precision, she remembers nearly all her patron’s names.

The place hums with conversation and the tapping keypads of laptops as patrons surf the Internet on free wi-fi. Viné Saccento, Gina’s business partner, will stop by to talk about music. Sal, the landlord, walks through, a bright friendly face that makes you forget he’s gone grey.

Sam the Chocolate Guy rents a back room where he packages some of the most delicious chocolates this side of the Aztec empire. If you’re lucky, he’ll come out and offer a sample of his latest creation.

But that’s just dessert. Gina hasn’t only perfected the art of an Italian espresso machine; her menu options are bright, crisp flavors that match the décor; breakfast could be granola and the “egg n-a hole” with zuchini. For lunch, choose from all-organic sandwiches, and soups. Keep an eye out for their pastries; sometimes home-made cookies and danishes are slid into the  display container on their coffee bar.

If you don’t want coffee with your meal, there are juices, Italian sodas and a wide variety of Ineeka teas. These are hip enough just for the advanced design of their teabags that cradle the opening of your cup while steeping.  Then again, I’m easily amused.

The portions aren’t huge, but I felt healthier just knowing I was eating organic. Well, that and I wasn’t in a dive bar. With a glance around at the caffeinated crowd buzzing through their breakfast, I realized half these people knew each other.

Drip Coffee Lounge is a non-alcoholic, hipster-Cheers! The theme song’s probably an indie pop song, though. And keep your eye out for furtive politicians sneaking in to eat. And don’t blow their cover, as I just did. That might ruin the charm for Gina’s classy little dining escape.

After shoveling the last bite of my Italian sausage egg scramble, I stuck Mr. Gutierrez’s email address in my pocket, ordered a second latte and jittered my way through the rest of the weekend, happy I could lower myself to name-dropping at the water cooler on Monday morning.

Drip Coffee Lounge
2325 N. 7th Street, Phoenix
(602) 795-9905

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