The East Village Arts District has seen its fair share of coffeeshops come and go. From the days when the Blue Nile Cafe occupied the two-story storefront on the bottom of the Broadlind Hotel building to the subsequent years, when the location and its connected corner unit became the Broadlind Cafe, then Sipology and now The Green House.
Around the corner from this seemingly revolving door of buzz-disseminators, however, is the East Village's most stalwart coffeeshop--The Village Grind. And while it may not be as sleek, trendy or bustling as the others with Broadway frontage, this cozy hideout has everything you need for a free-wifi workday or a quick patio lunch.
I feel bad when I go to the Village Grind because I'm blazing through to get a coffee on my morning walk to downtown or calling in a to-go order for one of their plate-sized soyrizo breakfast burritos. Rarely do I have the time anymore to dine at their modest bistro sidewalk seating--which is separated from the pretentious wine-bar vibe of the neighboring Utopia restaurant by a custom-crafted fence--or get down with utensils at one of the 10-or-so two-top tables that lines its western wall.
What I do get to do during my usual few minutes of waiting inside the makeshift mercado (in addition to the usual coffeeshop stuff, there is a cooler with dozens of ready-to-drink selections and shelves of snacks like Hostess cakes and Odwalla bars) is saddle up at one of the bar stools and have a locals-only conversation with whatever regular is sitting astride and whichever employee is on shift.
That's because in addition to home-style sandwiches, creative wraps and quesadillas made on the panini grill, Village Grind offers a glimpse into the intimate East Village community, a place where city politics and the merits of new business openings are discussed each day over Latin-spiced mochas and cold brew. It's as if you walked into the dining room of a good friend--and the food is built to match. A staple in my lunchtime diet since I moved to Long Beach has been Village Grind's tuna sandwich, which places between two buttery slices of sourdough a fist of tuna salad made with celery, red onions and a modest amount of mayonnaise. Each bite blends flavors of fish and butter with the crunch of lettuce and celery for a satisfying sandwich that can be eaten on the go.
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Other unique finds at the VG include a grilled cheese made on Hawaiian sweet bread, a Mediterranean veggie wrap filled with all the Greek salad fixins, and a creation called the Queen Mary, which pairs bacon and chicken breast with pepperjack cheese and a chipotle aoli.
Because it has a bigger kitchen than most coffeeshops of its tiny size, Village Grind is able to crank out above-average eats that you can order per their suggestions or easily customize to fit your whims. And whether you're sitting around to eat your buffalo chicken wrap, or just popping in for a bottle of Herbert's Lemonade and a piece of zucchini bread on your way to somewhere else, there will always be enough conversation and local flavor to keep you coming back.