As old of a city as Long Beach is, it still turns into a typical suburban zone of long, safe streets beyond Pacific Coast Highway and east of Redondo Avenue, lined with boxy houses reminiscent of Lakewood or Huntington Beach or any other nearby neighborhood built out in the decades of post-war boom. Even the shopping centers--placed on every major street corner--are filled with similar businesses and familiar chain brands.
But on Spring and Palo Verde, the family-owned Grounds Bakery and Cafe breaks up the pastel-stucco monotony with house-made bagels, sandwiches and salads more likely to be found in a small downtown joint than an oversized retail space next to Millikin High School.
Grounds opened on the fringes of the LBC's Los Altos neighborhood in 1993 and operates like your neighborhood coffee shop on crack. You can grab a cheap cup of coffee or an iced blended chai on your way to work, but you can also order a protein shake, a specialty pastry or a full meal and hang out in the massive dining room where wifi comes with purchase and the refills are self-serve.
Even more amped up than Grounds' location are their lengthy pastry and bread offerings, a daily devotion of multiple muffins, bagels, spreads, scones, croissants and breads. Sprawled across several tall display cases each morning is an intimidating assortment of nearly 20 kinds of bagels (both sweet and regular, $1 each), 18 types of bread and 10 different muffins, all of which are made on site.
By afternoon, options dwindle, but with 22 different kinds of spread (including 10 cream cheeses), there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the chewy, fluffy, nearly-Brooklyn bagels that for two decades have ranked among the best in town. Luckily, when the bagels begin to run out, Grounds' more traditional lunch menu kicks in and the bread used for morning toast becomes fresh-baked security blankets for their sandwiches and panninis.
The turkey and avocado sandwich is the best seller, but there are nearly 30 others on the board from a Cuban to a Reuben to a plain old BLT, each of which can be customized with breads as standard as nine grain and sourdough and as uncommon as Sunflower, cranberry walnut and potato. Grounds sandwiches might arrive looking like the ones you make at home, but loaded with sprouts and dabbled with dijon, they stray ever so slightly from the sandwich norm.
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And bakery blasphemy aside, try Grounds' salads for an Atkins-friendly feast; most of them fill an entire plate with a kitchen sink's worth of veggies and some meat for less than $7.
It's hard to find a family operated coffeeshop in Long Beach suburbia, especially when an It's A Grind seemingly sits on every corner. But with a bakery that churns out more original content than most corporate pastry cases see stocked in their entire existences, Grounds is a place towards which locals can't help but gravitate.
Grounds, 6277 E. Spring St., Long Beach, (562) 429-5661