Whether it’s Sunday, and you’d like to relax with a book and a nice cup of coffee, or a workday and you need an ambiance that gets your creative juices flowing, Café Mollie in Uptown Phoenix is the place to go. The recently opened coffeehouse is tucked away at the end of a parking space near Artichoke Basille’s Pizza. (You’ll see the sign.)
According to husband-and-wife owners James and Victoria Hyunh, the inspiration for the plant-themed coffeehouse came from James’ home country of Vietnam. There, coffee shops come in a variety of themes: modern, minimalist, tropical, and even a 1990s barbershop. They also stay open later. In keeping with that tradition, Café Mollie doesn’t close until 8 or 9 p.m.
In front of the coffeehouse, you may notice a basket of blankets resting on the lawn. This is where you sit during open mic events, or you can bring a board game to enjoy while sipping your favorite beverage.
When you step inside, two things stand out: open well-lit space, and plants in every corner. It’s serene. Wicker and wood chairs are paired with round marble-top tables. One corner boasts a large rattan chair with an golden balloon arch with a sign that reads, “Serial Plant Killer.” (It’s perfect for Instagram.) Friendly staff behind the counter eagerly welcome you. Place your order then claim your favorite corner seat. If you can’t decide, follow your favorite plant.
Aside from the typical lattes and mochas, the menu is peppered with items from Southeast Asia: bubble waffles (including pandan waffles), calamansi ade, and boba tea. The bubble waffles look like a larger version of bubble wrap. There are the delectable sweets from Süss Pastries, regular and gluten-free, which, according to one customer, is the best girlfriend she’s ever had.
You should order the Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa đá) with a pandan waffle at least once. You’ll fall in love with both. It’s the perfect taste of James’s native culture.
When you order the Vietnamese coffee, you receive a tall glass of ice, a small glass cup with a metal filter, and two or three tablespoons of condensed milk. The coffee drips through the filter into your cup. Once the coffee brews, mix it well with the condensed milk and pour it into your tall glass. You’ll be surprised at the silky-smooth flavor.
As one patron put it: “This is an amazing outing. I’m so excited we found this place.”
The Hyunhs use Café du Monde coffee from New Orleans, which includes chicory. James says it is the most popular choice of coffee for cà phê sữa đá in the United States, and for a specific reason. According to Country Roads Magazine, there was a large influx of Vietnamese immigrants to the United States in 1975, attracted by the fishing industries of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Café du Monde hired a number of Vietnamese immigrants, who used the brand for their drip drinks. It quickly became the popular choice for Vietnamese coffee.
A pandan waffle (bánh kẹp lá dứa), a Vietnamese street food, is made by brewing aromatic pandan leaves and adding coconut flakes. Pandan imparts a sweet flavor and green hue to the waffle. In fact, if you want an authentic experience, eat the waffle plain. It pairs well with the coffee.
Throughout your experience at Café Mollie, James is there to answer any questions you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s about coffee or plants. He has a green thumb and is a collector of rare vegetation.
“I wanted to open a café that is not Starbucks, where people rush in and out,” says Hyunh. “I want people to come and stay for a while whether it’s to work or catch up with friends. Plus, our coffee tastes better.”
Café Mollie hosts open mic events and art nights on occasion. Find additional details on its Instagram page.
6031 North 16th Street Suite 5
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday