I recently left behind the big city, moving to a small mountain community in Southern California.
That has no Starbucks.
As a freelance writer, Starbucks is my alter-office. So, now what was I going to do?
The answer: make a run for Higher Grounds.
Yes, yet another independent coffee shop with a pun for a title. But this one is forgivable, since the town of Idyllwild – population 3,500 – is indeed quite high – about 5,300’ elevation.
And “grounds” – well, that part of the pun is self-explanatory. Leastways, I’m not going to explain it.
Frankly, this mile-high coffee shop has Starbucks beat cold. For starters, it’s got a cozy, eclectic feel to the place, beginning with it’s artsy exterior and its high-mountain backdrop…
…and continuing that theme to its lofty (that’s art-speak for high, open-timbered ceiling) interior…
…and lots of comfortable seating:
Also nice: the flavor of the place is consistent with the rustic, woodsy atmosphere of the entire town.
The clientele is a fascinating mix of tourists – especially on weekends – and locals, who are a bizarre mix unto themselves. Idyllwild is home (or second home) to many of Southern California’s rich and famous, but it’s also an artists’ community and a magnet for hippies and hikers. Not to mention a few homeless and crazies, which will no doubt provide excellent fodder for future posts.
Most important – the coffee rocks. Even the drip coffees, since they roast their own. And the barista’s do it up right, giving the frothy espresso drinks the right strength and the right kind of artistry in the frothing and pouring.
Not much to eat here though. And no shades for the big picture windows, which makes the easy chairs hard to enjoy with a laptop from noon on, if it’s a sunny day.
But considering how small a town this is, I’m pleased as punch to find good coffee and good atmosphere.
To quote Annie from the musical of the same name, “I think I’m gonna like it here.”