Exploring Back to the Grind

Alas, as a writer what can I do but write about coffee shops! Since moving downtown from Orange crest I’ve happened upon Back to the Grind. Well, not quite. I knew it was there before, but I had yet to try it. In desperation to find a coffee alternative to what seems the only remaining coffee shop in Riverside-Starbucks- I visited Back to the Grind, and quickly left. I believe I  stopped by at night, and it night it can get weird here. But on to a more formal introduction.

Back to the Grind is owned by the ever pleasant Darren. I have yet to enter the establishment when he is at the counter without being greeted by a hello lovely, or an equally flowery greeting. If Darren was at the counter everyday, there would be no complaints. Most often, and especially if you come at night you will be greeted by a much more stern and stocky female, whose name evades me.

I have read endless complaints on review websites specifically directed at this woman and her lackluster customer service skills, so when I entered the establishment, I tried a different approach. I greeted her first, with my best smile and a how are you, and to my surprise she was equally friendly and happy to offer a beverage recommendation. However, based on personal experience if you don’t offer that greeting, be prepared for her to stare you up and down until you ask if you can order.

Other characters serving the establishment include a couple friendly college kids and a handsome bald, tattooed guy who I can’t yet read.

Back to the Grind has created such a unique community that if you are not a misfit, you probably won’t feel welcome here. Tattooed, indie, hipster, bald, homeless, you will feel especially welcome here. But the even more unusual thing is that the occasional business man and loads of student groups come in here seemingly unfazed by the dim lighting, new age decor or absence of that sleek coffee shop flair.

Back to the grind serves up coffee, a bevy of food including BBQ Chicken Pizza and Gelato and also unique drinks like the Thai Iced Tea, my current addiction.

Back to the Grind is an eclectic mix that’s hard to describe. I somehow enjoy it. It’s a great place for people watching, which I often find myself doing instead of writing. Visit at your own risk-at night the characters get a bit more sketchy.

Inside Inland Empire Food: Daily Brew

According to this Inside Inland Empire blogger, a bright light has emerged from the dim IE coffee scene. IErs, Meet Daily Brew Coffee House.  One of very few independent coffee shops left in the Inland Empire, the Daily Brew has already become a local favorite.

I initially had mixed feelings about the establishment that replaced my beloved Sips Coffeehouse, but I can say its come to grow on me and a variety of others in the area, as witnessed by its 4.5 star rating on yelp.

For the summer, Daily Brew is open from 6-8 daily (6-6 Sundays). The shop usually opens an hour earlier and closes two hours later in the fall. You’ll find an eclectic mix from full-time writers such as myself, to students and other business professionals just passing through. Many patrons walk over from the ever-popular Sushi Asahi next door while waiting for a table.

Pastries, muffins, and sandwiches are offered-enough food and variety to get you through several meals if you want to spend all day here. The menu features your standard coffee and tea fare and a few signature drinks. My absolute favorite is the Neapolitan Frappuccino, which really does taste just like Neapolitan ice cream. They add chocolate syrup in the cup and top it off with whipped cream and more chocolate syrup. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve finished the “large” several times within mere minutes of receiving the drink.

Perhaps what seems to bring people back so often to Daily Brew is the kindhearted people behind the operation. Most of the time you will be greeted by the owner or his son who make sure to say “hi” and “bye”  to everyone who walks in and out of their doors. Their
“Brew It Forward” program allows you to purchase coffee for a friend or family member to surprise them on their next visit. And of course every 12th drink is free :D !

Keep up with all that’s going in with the Daily Brew on their twitter. They are located in Riverside and renting out their facility for the summer to private parties and host a range of events.

What local eateries have you visited in the IE? Leave a reply below.

Inside Inland Empire Food: A la Minute Redlands

Hello, I’m Alex, a freelance writer in the Inland Empire, and each week I’ll bring you information on my favorite food discoveries in the IE. Having grown up here all my life, my eyes were opened when I discovered a whole new world of food traveling to England, France, Hungary and other European destinations! I love the moms and pops, hole-in-the-walls, and anywhere with good food.

Since 2008, the Inland Empire economy has been one of the hardest hit areas in the USA.  I’ve watched every independent coffee shop in my neighborhood close down, some of which were open for years.

But, Lo and Behold, there is a remnant! I’ve made it a point to support local, independently-owned businesses which add a bit of culture and flavor to the Inland Empire, and I hope you do too!

I am always delighted to discover new places to eat in the Inland Empire. One of my most recent discoveries is A-La Minute in Redlands.

A-la minute makes ice cream using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ingredients in your ice cream. Each ice-cream is a la minute (or “made to order”) personally for you. The whole thing is quite cool to watch as it looks like they are creating dry ice in the mixing bowl.

Each week, they feature a selection of flavors made from locally sourced and/or organic ingredients. Past featured flavors include Strawberry Balsamic, Espresso Chip and Salted Caramel. My favorite is the Death by Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich, featuring Espresso Chip Ice Cream and Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies. Prices start at $4 for a small ice cream. Read more about A La Minute and take time to visit the new establishment located in beautiful downtown Redlands!

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