By Patty Talahongva
Central Phoenix is getting a three-for-one deal with the expansion of Urban Beans Bar and Café, 3508 N. 7th St., Suite 100. The longtime coffee bar recently went 24/7 and began offering community dinners every night. Now you can stop by during the day and get a cup of coffee and breakfast or lunch, or RSVP for dinner and enjoy a glass of beer or Vegan wine. Or pop in at 3 a.m. and enjoy something from the “bites” menu.
Virgina Senior, co-owner of Urban Beans café and wine bar, pours a glass of Australian pinot grigio for Amber Manzer and her husband, Jarrod, during the Aug. 20 five-course wine dinner held at the eatery. The Manzers enjoy the second course of the Asian-inspired meal, a Tom Kha-Gai soup with kafir leaves. Next month’s wine dinner on Sept. 17 has an Italian theme (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
It’s all about serving the community, says Virginia Senior, the owner and driving force behind the wine bar, coffee bar and cafe. In fact, her customers are the ones who suggested she expand to a 24-hour cycle. Workers from nearby hospitals, colleges and even other service workers were looking for a casual place that catered to their late-night schedules.
“It’s more of a European model, good food all the time,” Senior explains. Now people stop in to not only have a cup of coffee but also a relaxing beer. “Business meetings happened, birthdays happen, dates happen,” she smiles.
How Urban Beans came to be is an interesting confluence of things happening as well. Senior is a licensed architect and still works during the day at One Development, creating commercial buildings, multi-family housing and restaurants. In fact the Urban Beans building was one of her and her partners’ developments.
Senior said she always had a love of food, perhaps because her father was a chef. So in 2008 the partners started to develop the space. But when no one rented it, she thought, “How hard can it be?” So she and her business partner, who prefers to stay in the background, decided to open Urban Beans. Now Senior is creating a community space she herself enjoys.
Being open 24 hours a day is what Senior calls the missing link in serving her community. “People come here by themselves and bring their sketch books or write. They like the vibe. That’s a part of our community.”
Urban Beans also serves a specific community that traditionally has limited options: the vegan crowd. Every dish at Urban Beans is vegan or vegetarian. Senior herself has been vegan for almost two years. She’s the executive chef and works with Amanda Langham, the head chef, to create the entrees.
They use jackfruit for dishes like the barbecue sandwich. The Asian fruit has the texture and flavor of pork. But Senior is quick to add, “We’re really not into mock meat, it’s just great food.”
Senior’s vegan apple pie has won numerous awards, and the vegan lasagna would please even a discerning Italian palate. In fact, you wouldn’t even notice the cheese is vegan as it melts perfectly and has a soft, creamy texture. “We strive for using plant-based ingredients to make healthy food,” she explains. “Healthy, nutritious and delicious.”
By only offering one entree each night, Urban Beans saves on food costs plus people have to make a reservation so the chefs know how many servings they need to cook. Entrees include urban pizza melts, jackfruit tacos, Thai inspired noodle dishes, and urban burgers or empanadas.
Lunch is served daily until 6 p.m. The prix-fixe dinner is served from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and you must make a reservation. The cost is $15 and dinner is served with a salad and soup. Add a glass of beer or wine and it’s $20.
Every third Thursday Urban Beans hosts a Wine Dinner, which is a themed five-course meal with wine pairings for $55 (not including tax and tip). The Sept. 17 dinner features a Caprese salad, white bean potato sage soup, margherita flatbread, baked ziti marinara, and Italian lemon olive oil cake. Again, you must make a reservation, as seating is limited.
After 8 p.m. the Bar Bites Menu is available. For $5 to $8 a serving, you can get flatbread pizzas, pretzel chips with dipping sauces, or hummus and pita bread. Specialty drinks include the Pink Diablo, a sort of homage to the desert plants featuring prickly pear juice and habeñero chile. “It’s kind and sweet and then it stings you,” Senior says. You can also get most cocktails alcohol free if you prefer. Local wines and beers are always available.
The house band, Police the Man, plays every Saturday . If you see a piece of art on the wall that you like, you can buy it.