A love affair with coffee

Coffee, for me, is a complete experience, best enjoyed out of the home, in the company of good friends or a good book. That, and people-watching is a pastime that never gets old.

So, for the benefit of all the closet coffeeshoppers out there, or those looking to find a sweet spot to sugar up on mochas, here's a rundown on some of my favorite hangouts:

Downtown Grounds

38 N. Central Ave., Medford; Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday

This nondescript purveyor of 'Coffe,' according to a recently repaired typo-ridden sign, serves tasty drip coffee, both dark-roast and light, and offers a surprisingly large array of beverages and food options for being so freakishly small.

Sometimes referred to as "The Rebel Base" by the guy who turned me on to the place, it's easy to see why it's often overlooked. I once saw someone wander in and ask, "Is this... is there supposed to be a coffee shop here?"

But once you're inside, the drinks are divine, the service is swift and friendly, and there's a hidden seating area upstairs with really neat windows. Plus, you can sit outside at the wicker tables and watch passersby watch you.

Bad Ass Coffee

143 S. Riverside Ave., Medford; open 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday - Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Once I got over the silly name, I got hooked on their Kona coffee. As far as I know, this is the only place in Medford that serves 100 percent Kona — considered by many to be one of the world's best coffees — all the time. It's worth the hefty $2.50 price tag for a 16-oz. cup.

The service here, on the other hand, is on the sketchy side. On good days, I get ignored or sneered at. On bad days, I can't tell if the help is flirting with me, making fun of me or just harboring a strong desire to go back to whatever they were doing before I interrupted.

The décor is cheesy, but the seating and parking are ample, and the selection of burritos, wraps and bagels is sufficient if not superb.

The Vault Coffee House

600 E. Jackson St., Medford; Coffee shop open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday, Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; deli open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday - Saturday, closed Sunday

The Vault is so named since it was once a bank, and the vault has since been converted to an expansive walk-in refrigerator. Here you'll find two separate counters, one where a barista staffs the espresso bar and coffee pumps, and the other where sandwiches, salads and things called omelette "stackers" are prepared and served.

It's a bit of a pain if you're there for both coffee and food, since you have to pay and wait separately, but it's worth it in the end.

The service is some of the best you'll find in the Rogue Valley — every staff member I've encountered has been genuinely friendly and helpful, and the coffee's not bad, either. The food selection rivals that of a full-service deli, and boasts health-conscious options as well as sugary treats.

What really makes the Vault stand out, though, is the atmosphere. Here, you can take your cup of joe and sink into an overstuffed leather chair or couch and watch cars go by through the floor-to-ceiling windows facing Jackson Street. Glass-topped coffee tables, marble-topped booths and free wireless Internet complete the scene.

Evo's Coffee Lounge

376 E. Main St., Ashland; open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Despite my torrid affairs with other coffee shops, I always come home to Evo's. With customers that run the gamut from dreadlocked hippies and underage punks to uptight tourists in pastel polo shirts, a trip to Evo's never fails to entertain.

The staff is equal parts capable service and friendly banter, with just enough attitude to let you know your place as the lowly, caffeine-addicted worm that you are. The back wall once featured a beautiful mural, and now features a neutral background to display equally beautiful paintings.

The staffers are allowed to pick their own music, so clientele get to listen to The Cure, Tori Amos and other musicians that go beyond your standard approved-for-all-audiences background muzak.

The coffee and espresso is all organic, and there's something for everyone: They offer a dark, medium and light roast daily, as well as a standard range of mochas, lattes and the like, with a few extras thrown in, like matte lattes, iced coffee with coffee ice, strawberry lemonade and smoothies that taste like they might actually have some fruit in them.

Oh, and be sure to try their vegan biscuits and gravy. Even hard-core meat-eaters will appreciate the sauce's mysterious deliciousness.

— Sarah Brown

Share This Story