Oh for eff's sake, another burger: sure, why not
Potato: skins

The Fine Grind: Little Falls, NJ


There was an article in the NY Times a while back about a local coffee shop in Little Falls, NJ, that took out a big billboard ad right across from a Starbucks. “We may not be BIG…but we’re not BITTER,” the billboard proclaims. It goes on in a separate font, "We ARE your neighborhood coffee spot!". I dunno, I guess Starbucks serves bitter coffee? Isn’t coffee generally a bitter drink by nature?  Maybe that's why people put sugar and flavored syrups and "mocha" in it?

A bunch of blogs and other publications picked up on the David and Goliath angle (is that the right usage?), and ran with it. I'm a bit late to the party.

The place is called The Fine Grind.

A couple of points, a bullet pointed rant, if you will, not about The Fine Grind:

  • I happen to like the coffee at Starbucks. I’m no connoisseur of coffee, but I prefer bold flavors, and Starbucks sure delivers in that department. I hear people refer to it as “Charbucks”, I think because they tend to roast their beans more than some people prefer. I don’t know that that’s an inherent flaw, however.
  • I have no issue with Starbucks being a chain, or a big company. Big companies aren’t evil just by nature of being big companies. Their products aren’t horrible just because they’re big companies. Oftentimes the evil chain is owned/operated by a local who put his/her life savings into buying the place, with visions the American dream of business ownership. Chains also, obviously, employee locals, and contribute to the local economy just by existing. These are not bad things people. Really, they’re not.   If you think otherwise it's probably time for personal re-evaulation.
  • The people working at the Starbucks that I frequent are quite nice. They seem to be able to attract a higher caliber employee than most chains, and hell, most retailers.
  • Starbucks is efficient. It has become the de facto model for coffee shops (not to mention kitchen lighting) all over the country. It has given musicians a viable outlet for their music, when no record label would have them, or when a major label would just screw them anyway.
  • Starbucks gives away little pieces of cake sometimes.
  • They managed to take something that used to sell for 50 cents, with unlimited refills mind you, and turn it into something that people buy for 2 to 5 dollars, all over the country. 
  • Starkbucks Starbucks has turned a whole generation on to coffee.
  • Starbucks paved the way for places like The Fine Grind.

I submit, can Starbucks be that horrible? Can’t you save your hate for something worthwhile? Or perhaps we’re dealing with a bottomless well of hate.  Me, I only have so much hate, and I save it for ingrown toenails and noisy radiators.

Oh, back the The Fine Grind, and a couple of points:

My first visit to The Fine Grind was pleasant enough.

  • I ordered a large coffee (about $2, the same as Starbucks). It took a little longer to get than it should have, given there was only one other customer in the store at that time. The coffee was put into a medium-sized cup. I noticed this and mentioned to the server that I ordered a “large”. She quickly changed to a large cup. Maybe I mumbled. It’s been known to happen. This type of thing happens at Starbucks too.
  • The handwritten sign suggested one type of coffee, but they didn’t have that kind, as someone forgot to update it. 
  • The coffee was some sort of free-trade organic business.  I’ll take free-trade and organic over not-free-trade and inorganic any day I suppose.  The coffee was pretty good.  Better than Dunkin' Donuts, but not exceptional.
  • The coffee came in a what appeared to be a Styrofoam cup, which got me thinking about how Starbucks’ coffee cups and sleeves are made from some percentage of post-consumer materials. I’ll take post-consumer materials over Styrofoam any day. I should call the owners and confirm the material, but I'm not a reporter. I'm just a guy with opinions, some informed, others not.
  • There was a guy alone in the corner with a laptop.

On another trip my coffee was bland and watery.

  • I didn't bother finishing it.
  • There was a guy alone in the corner with a laptop.

I’ve read that people dig the laid back, cool, friendly vibe. I dunno. I have enough friends and I rather enjoy not spending time in coffee shops, alone, or with them, or on a computer. I have a cool friendly home for that.  In fact there's something weird to my mind about a guy sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of the day on a laptop.   Guy in the corner, I just want my coffee to go and I’ll be out of your hair, so please don't look up at me like I just caught you masturbating.

In general I’m all for supporting locally-owned businesses.  You should try the Fine Grind.  If your taste goes beyond take-out drip, and you like to hang out in coffee shops, there might be something wonderful here for you. Me, though, I prefer take-out and I don’t like people, so you’ll only see me run in and run out.  I promise not to look at your screen.

The Fine Grind : 480 Main Street : Little Falls, NJ