Over the course of three days, J. Francis Buse ‘11 and Alysia Vallas ‘10 ventured into the Grinnell community in order to sample beverages from the wide ranging array of coffee houses that Grinnell has to offer. This is their story:
Let’s not lie, throughout the week we drink coffee by the gallons, not because we’re connoisseurs, but because it’s a life source. We drink coffee for all sorts of reasons, to keep awake while writing that term paper, to have a reason to meet that friend you don’t often see, and of course, to cure the occasional, oppressive weekend hangover.
Throughout the last week, we frequented and purchased coffee at the following Grinnell establishments: A&M, Kum & Go, Bob’s Underground Café, Saints Rest, and Grinnell Coffee Company with the hopes of discovering the coffee joint for any occasion. In order to be fair, we sampled the house cup at each joint, one black and one with the works (whatever creative cream and sugar concoction they offered) in order to provide you with the full experience.
Our first stop on the coffee tour was Saints Rest, the coffee establishment generally most familiar to Grinnell students. Determined to convey our reactions to the experience, we tracked our emotions via smiley face drawings and are pleased to announce that our faces, saddened by the rainy weather and the looming Monday before us, turned right side up.
Despite the dreary weather, the environ was filled with cheery staff, local artwork, warm lighting, and the curious conversation from a posse of ten-year-olds sitting at the table nearby. We left the shop with higher spirits. It offers a nice break from campus, an opportunity to mingle with townies, and an excuse to sit at the window and shamelessly people watch. Although, seeing children on leashes is mildly disheartening.
Grinnell Coffee Company, the shop immediately following our stop at Saints Rest, proved a significant departure from the homey and bustling Saints Rest. The coffeehouse was larger and darker than the main room at Saint’s Rest, seeming to purposefully take a more urban, hipper approach. Its subdued lighting and soothing jazz music provides the college student with the right atmosphere for studying for semester finals—that and they offer bottomless cups of coffee, a perk for the perpetually penniless college student. The joint has two blends of coffee available daily, which are roasted on location, as well as the typical selection of specialty drinks and sandwiches.
Kum & Go:
The infamous Kum & Go, a convenience store that shows up on both the food and gas signs along Interstate-80, offered us a chance to satisfy our substance cravings in the simplest and cheapest of ways. A 12 oz. coffee was moderately priced at $1.19, and, with the help of a bevy of creamers, syrups and questionable caffeine additives, all available at no extra charge, the coffee tasted like, well, whatever you put in it. However, with the presence of burritos, nachos and hot dogs, the coffee was a secondary concern. The small shop was filled with conversation and a certain brisk happiness, surprising for a chain gas station. For those who are looking for a quick pick-me-up, or a stomachache, try the Kum & Go Strikeout—a drag of a cigarette, followed by a bite of a steak and cheese burrito, all washed down by scalding “Columbian” coffee.
Bob’s Underground Cafe:
We meandered on over to the ever-accessible and convenient Bob’s Underground Café where students occupied almost every table. Some scribbled notes for their classes, others engaged in lively conversation, a few were even passed out on the sofas. The coffee hit the spot—it was strong, plentiful, and served out of a random coffee mugs, in true Grinnell fashion. You can even pay for it with your p-card, granted you haven’t blown all your campus cash on piles of dirty laundry. Bob’s is the place to go if you want to kill two birds with one stone and knock out that homework while meeting your oh-man-I-need-to-stop-doing-homework-and-start-making-human-conversation quota.
Although it’s customary for students to visit A&M during a rough weekend, after visiting on a Wednesday afternoon, we suggest that you don’t write it off during the week. The seating was instantaneous, the usually slow service was snappy and the portions seemed larger. Also, the coffee, as always, was endless.
Although it tasted like your typical Folger’s drip, the endless refills that were always a waitress away made it worth the taste. The price for coffee was typical, but the food’s still cheap, such as the face-sized $2 cinnamon roll. Look out for the non-dairy powdered creamer—it contains milk—and don’t even think about asking for a latte. This is, of course, A&M.