"Veni, vidi, venti."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Grind

4613 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625

When I was home for the holiday last weekend, I saw the first flakes of snow for the season—enough to signal that winter was really going to happen again this year, but not enough to persist through the night. Back on campus now, I saw a few snowflakes drifting down when I was walking home last night. But this morning, when I woke up, I looked out the window to see we had been graced by at least an inch of the stuff. Not to be deterred by a measly environmental obstacle such as this, I resolved to get my morning coffee just the same. Weather be damned—The Coffee Tyrant will not be denied!

For this week's coffeehouse, I decided to wade my way through the snow dunes to The Grind (quite cleverly named, in my opinion). A hop, skip, and a jump away from the Brown Line's Western stop and you'll be standing in front of The Grind, although you probably wouldn't notice unless it jumped out and bit you. This coffee shop is squeezed into a little space among other boutiques and has little more than a neon sign to announce its presence.

Once inside, The Grind seems only marginally larger; however, this manages to add to the appeal in a way. Tables are crammed close together, which probably helps me warm up a bit faster from the elements. In contrast to what I was expecting, the customers do not hesitate to sit down across from strangers. Pleasantries are candidly exchanged and beverages are kindly shared. Because of the cold air outside, the tall windows have fogged up, further adding to the intimacy of the atmosphere.

The menu includes the usual pastry suspects as well as a nice selection of sandwiches and quiches. I also see many gluten-free options and some cupcakes that look downright dangerous. Intelligentsia coffee sits bagged up on their counter. I order a sixteen ounce mug of their house blend of coffee, and I’m coaxed into getting what is called a spinach and feta cheese pie. The latter resembles a scone from the outside and contains a warmed-up concoction of veggies and crumbly cheese on the inside. The coffee comes with one complementary refill.

After plopping myself down in one of the few empty seats across from a jovial middle aged woman doodling in answers to today’s crossword and nibbling on what appears to be an egg sandwich, my food is brought to me by a waitress. I notice a few strands of complexity layered throughout the brew, while it still manages to bring some intensity. Although the coffee doesn’t astound, it is certainly not average. The slight bitterness of the brew also pairs well with the savory flavors of my pastry creation.

Although I’d like to stick around and drink my free refill before venturing back out into the snowy miasma, several people have accumulated with nowhere to sit and my friendly Midwestern conscience gets the best of me. In my opinion, such a structurally small shop shouldn’t give out free refills, as it gives customers an incentive to stick around, thereby depriving later patrons a place to sit. However, such criticism is minor compared to the overall comfort provided by this cozy enclave in the face of a snowy morning. Even Mother Nature holds little sway when compared to the omnipotent powers of coffee.
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