STAFF PICK: Seemingly everywhere but Tucson, the drive-through espresso joint is at the cutting edge of café trends. On the Upper Left Coast, a town with a 10th of our population can easily sustain 20 of them. Think about it: how many times have you parked, gotten out and stood in line for a double latte to go? It's not exactly fuel-efficient, let alone a good use of your time. If you want it on the road, you should be able to get it on the road. That's the American Way.
Built from the foundations up by Tom Mannell, whose caffeine credentials include owning and operating downtown's Café Quebec for eight years, Coffee Times is planted neatly where it ought to be, on the inbound side of Speedway at something like the exact geometric center of Tucson. And while a drive-through sounds impersonal and ambiance-free, he makes up for it with more than a mere nod to style: the strikingly deco neon clock, the Airstream detailing, the bauhaus and futura typeset on the chain-defying blue signs -- all details that bespeak an attention to design that puts the artless jumble of your average sit-down java joint to shame.
Not that you'll have much time to think about it if you're on the go: the wait is short to nonexistent, as the four industrial-strength espresso machines simultaneously deliver the goods. A full selection of hot and cold coffee beverages are rapidly delivered from two independent windows by cheerful and experienced barristas.
It's a potent brew, from beginning to end: just think of riding home on a perfect Venti Americano, a quadruple shot of hot espresso in a tall one. If you fancy something more substantial, grilled Italian sandwiches, pastries, scones and energy bars stand at the ready.
Getting good coffee to go has been a clumsy experience up until now; apart from smoothing it out, Coffee Times has made the endeavor downright snazzy.