Have you ever sat in your favorite cafe, tossed back a couple of cappuccinos, and thought to yourself, “Wow, I can really feel the scoot creeping back into my boots. Alas! If only there were more two-steppin’ cowboys in this coffee bar.” If so, you are not alone. Cowboy Coffee Blues is a real disorder. It affects dozens of us.
Don’t worry: help is out there. Way out there. In a little town called Cave Creek, Arizona, at a coffee shop by day, cowboy bar by night called Janey’s.
The town of Cave Creek is snuggled up at the base of several large rock formations with names like “Elephant Mountain” and “Sugarloaf Mountain” and the oh-so-creatively named “Black Mountain,” whose deep grey soil stands out against the desert’s dusty greens and browns. This is Saguaro Forest land, where giant cactuses are packed densely throughout the landscape, growing old and ever more arm-ed.
Cave Creek is also situated about 35 miles north (and just a little to the east) of Phoenix. It’s a weird, amazing, little mountain town with a population of about 5,000. Most of the townsfolk fall into one of three categories: hippie, religious zealot, or cowperson. That’s not to say all of Cave Creek’s residents are so easily classified; we encountered a few hippie-religious zealot hybrids on our visits, and a few cowboy-hippies too. A classic Arizona mountain town, this is a community of incredibly kind, welcoming people, who just want to do whatever it is that they want to do, and politely prefer that no one gets in their way. Cave Creekians are also curiously eager to meet strangers with cameras and notepads who ask way too many questions about coffee.
Janey’s is right off the main drag in town, smack dab in the middle of Big Bronco Western General Store and Chef Sara’s Raw Vegan Academy and Cafe. Along the way you’ll pass by Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue and Big Earl’s Greasy Eats, which are both worthy of a visit (we can’t speak for the food at the Raw Vegan place). A slew of hat stores, gem shops, and purveyors of copper horse statues dot the road—copper horse statues seem to be a primary export of Cave Creek. There are a few biker bars and a couple of frybread stands, and a perplexing spot called the Tumbleweed Hotel, which, in addition to providing lodging, retails petrified wood, geodes the size of boulders, and talavera-style ceramics. Their sign features a reclining cartoon cowboy atop a passage from Proverbs. Nearly every establishment has a pony hitch out front; cars and horses share the street. Up the road, you’ll find a conglomeration of stereotypically Old West-style shops called “Frontier Town.” Here you can buy handcrafted soap, turquoise jewelry, and flashy moccasins.
Janey was the mother of one of the cafe’s original owners, and her namesake establishment opened on Mother’s Day 2010. The shop could have been built yesterday, or it could have been built two hundred years ago. Walking in the door feels like stepping into an Old West saloon. Distressed wood, exposed beams, and dim Edison bulbs have become boringly standard at upscale big-city restaurants, but the interior at Janey’s comes across as authentic and natural, rather than fastidiously designed.
Large windows and barn doors stay open throughout the day, which allows cool mountain air and sunlight to spill into the space. Behind the cafe is a rocky hill freckled with desert flora. A huge outdoor patio at Janey’s plays host to musical acts each Thursday (ladies’ night!), Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The performers’ styles may vary, but typically they fall somewhere on the country western, blues, or folk music spectrum. At night, these musicians are set against a background of blooming saguaros, red rocks, and bright, clear starlight.
By day, Janey’s is a typical coffeehouse—not the fancy-pants kind that Sprudge readers might be accustomed to reading about. Their coffee, roasted by Scottsdale-based Passport Coffee & Tea, is absolutely nothing to write home about. This is the kind of place where it’s best to stick with loose-leaf tea, which the baristas brew to order in Clever coffee drippers. Better yet, get a hot chocolate, because hot chocolate always loves you back.
At night, Janey’s fills with Stetson-hatted, spur-booted, dungaree-wearing cowboys. They drink at the bar, and talk, or don’t. We tried to take a picture of one, but the photo did no justice to his humble majesty.
We stayed to see the Chuck Hall Band. Chuck Hall is basically Cave Creek music royalty—legend has it that he once opened for the Rolling Stones, and played on stage with Jimi Hendrix. Chuck seemed to know his audience; as he took the microphone, he said, “We’re going to play ‘til the cows come home, and if we have any ranchers in the audience, you’ll know that they don’t come home on their own. That’s why we have cowboys.” Everyone cheered, and slowly, we all sidled up to the dance floor.
Zaida Dedolph is a Sprudge contributor based in Phoenix, Arizona. Read more Zaida Dedolph on Sprudge.