READERS' PICK: All of the counter help at this tiny coffee shop is perfectly competent, but the family behind this family-owned business is really something else. Daughter Shelby, a graphic designer by trade, is the resident "coffee genius." Twice we've goaded her proud papa into talking about his daughter's aromatic obsession (when she's not around), and as you sip any of Raging Sage's 13 varieties of beans (see Best House Blend; Best Local Roaster) you know it isn't mere chit-chat. The pure love of coffee embodied by the staff at Raging Sage has elevated our own caffeine consumption to the level of sophisticate. Never again will we order a cup of joe without somewhere in the back or fore of our minds considering its acidity, aromatic qualities, soil conditions and socio-economic history. So we apologize in advance if we wind up in front of you in line, heh-heh. (Fortunately, the barristas themselves are quick as whips.)
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Cuppuccino's Coffee House, 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. For those who want to know "What in the hell is a 'barrista?'" let us say this: A barrista is the cute college girl with the Aztec bicep tattoo or the devilish college guy with the little goatee who pulls the levers and taps the coffee grounds and makes your tall, non-fat, vanilla-iced latte. Now we have to admit to a little stereotyping here. Not all barristas are college students. But seriously, folks, a good barrista is serious about good coffee drinks. The barristas at Cuppuccino's Coffee House know a thing or two about good coffee drinks. They never raise a pierced brow at a customer who goes overboard with specific requests (remember the famous coffee ordering scene in Steve Martin's L.A. Story?), and they don't even mind making things half-caff(einated). If you really want to get in good with the barristas at Cuppuccino's, ask them about their boards--most of them are avid skaters. Is there a connection between caffeine and daredevil skateboard champions? We know just the barristas to ask. Want a great coffee drink? We know just the barristas to ask for that, too. Head to Cuppuccinos and order a tall one!