Lux Central

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Food Reviews Issue: March 2012

Open 6 a.m. to midnight during the week (later on weekends), Lux is a hipster ecosystem unto itself – a pseudo-Bohemian hangout for coffee fiends where the ambient sounds of Pitchfork-approved indie rock settles over conversations about everything from politics to personal drama. It’s also a tasty lunch and dinner spot if you’re not hung up on formalities like knowing where to sit or how to order.

Clusters of vintage and retro-modern furniture crowd the industrial-chic space between  a communal table punctuated with teal typewriters and a long, low-slung bar. The sole clue that it’s also a restaurant is a sliver of an open kitchen in the back.

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It’s not clear what to do when arriving for dinner. There is no hostess. A short line for coffee usually stretches past a tempting display of pastries (save room for berry crumb pie, $4.50). Grab a seat at the communal table and a server appears with menus, including an eclectic bottled beer and boutique wine list. Or order at the counter and hope for an empty chair with a table; otherwise, you’ll have to balance the incongruous fluted, floral china plate on your lap.

The short dinner menu changes daily, although owner Jeff Fischer says a weekly menu is in the works. The kitchen may be small, but the cooks know how to create big flavors. Expect a steak option, a vegetarian selection, an open-faced burger with spuds, a meal-worthy salad and a seasonal bowl of soup. Thankfully, mac and cheese ($7) is always on the menu. The creamy elbow macaroni – laden with fresh jalapeño and bacon – is superb. 

One evening, we ordered a medium-rare prime-rib with roasted mushrooms and polenta ($19). A few nights later, we had a peppery NY strip with garlicky, oven-roasted crisp potatoes ($19). This isn’t a steakhouse, so don’t expect thick cuts, but do expect the beef to be cooked to order and utterly pleasing.

Salads ($9) are hearty. A romaine “panzanella” overflowed with oversized crunchy croutons tossed in a roasted tomato vinaigrette, but the sheer amount of cinnamon-infused quinoa with apples, cranberries and walnuts overpowered the scant amount of mixed greens.

Despite its identity crisis, Lux is still a happening coffeehouse – and an unconventional dinner destination that dishes out great grub no matter where you sit.

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Lux Central
Cuisine: American
Address: 4400 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Phone: 602-696-9976
Hours: 6 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday-Thursday; 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday. Food/coffee service stops at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and at midnight Friday-Saturday.
Highlights: Mac and cheese ($7). Other menu items change daily.