Jumpin’ Java Joints

By Dean Blinkhorn • Photos By John Jernigan

OK, I’ll admit it — I’m a wimp when it comes to coffee. My favorite tastes usually involve a really strong brew balanced by lots of milk. And if it’s topped with whipped cream and maybe a pinch of cinnamon, I’d call that a pretty good start to the day.

Now, just for the record, I can make a pretty mean cup o’ joe at home with my well-used Krups, but when I was telling a co-worker over lunch about my newest acquisition, a French coffee press, the idea for this article was born. I was describing how easy the press was to use and how good the resulting coffee was when the conversation drifted to the emergence of several new coffeehouses in the area over the last year.

I blurted out something like, “How about a round-up piece called Jumpin’ Java Joints?” and before I knew what was happening, I had just agreed to pen the article.

Knowing that the January issue would have a short lead time due to the holidays and armed with a laptop full of stories to edit, I decided to do my “research” for the java piece while getting an early jump on those files.

The result was an extremely pleasant — and productive — week, and while Ocala has a long way to go to catch up to Seattle for the title of Coffee Capital, we now have some really cool places to get a caffeine boost that are all quite different from each other.

The Daily Grind Café
Wednesday, 7:45am

My first stop was The Daily Grind Café, a charming detour amidst busy 17th Street. I pulled my car into the tiny parking lot and was amazed to find an empty spot right near the door.

I ordered a large latte and a blueberry muffin and took a table toward the back near the magazine rack. I booted up my laptop, and before it displayed the start menu, my order was ready.

As I enjoyed the warmth of the large mug on this chilly December morning, I couldn’t help but notice the steady stream of regulars that poured through the doors. Each placed their orders, chatted with the employees behind the counter, and left to go about their day.

Thirty minutes and two files later, my latte had been drained and all but one bite of the muffin had been consumed. It was time to get to the office, but I knew I’d definitely be back!

Best Features: charming atmosphere, quick service, and prime location

Panera Bread
Thursday, 9:00am

For the next day, I decided to continue my “research” by scheduling a business appointment for Panera Bread on SR200. While reviewing the new plans for Downtown Ocala and very much feeling the morning hunger pangs, I opted for the Cinn-ful Crunch Trio, a bagel with cinnamon and vanilla chips throughout and a rich hazelnut spread on top. It was accompanied by a large coffee.

I filled my cup with one of the flavors of the day — hazelnut, appropriately enough — and added a touch of half-and-half and a shake of cinnamon. As I chatted and reviewed the plans, again I noticed that Panera had its obvious regulars, folks who made a beeline for the cashier, ordered their coffees, and left to initiate the day.

The bagel was delicious and, after three cups of coffee, I was more than wired enough to get to the office for some “real” work. The day, literally, flew by and I wished I lived a little closer to SR200 to make a more-than-occasional detour there a realistic possibility.

Best Features: spacious interior with three distinct seating areas (intimate tables ringing the fireplace, private booths in the main area, and alfresco dining on the patio), an open coffee bar, and accessibility to busy SR200

Cyber Grind
Friday, 8:25am

After completing my monthly promo spot with Bill Barr (see profile on p. 158) on 92.9, I detoured downtown to Cyber Grind. I ordered a café mocha and a scone and flopped into the oversized couch in the back to scan the morning newspaper.

Between headlines, I would look up to see who had the same idea as me this morning. Being downtown, this coffeehouse has a customer base that seems to double as a VIP list. Employees from the Chamber of Commerce, local attorneys, and city officials all made quick appearances for a caffeine jolt.

Once done with the paper, I got my laptop out of my car and took a seat on the patio. It was a little too cold to be outside, but I feel like I have to take advantage of cool-weather opportunities while living in Florida, so I shivered through a file, finished my mocha, and packed everything in my case.

Best Features: location on the square, Internet stations, and elegant décor

Friday, 10:16pm

After a busy evening at the mall doing some Christmas shopping with the family, Starbucks proved too tempting not to visit, despite my coffee fix earlier in the day.

It was very crowded, but the cashier took our order and less than a minute passed before they called our names. Considering that these were not your typical pour-and-serve beverages, this was notable. We opted to get out of the traffic area and sit outside on the small patio. Although the view was less than ideal (it overlooks the adjacent Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken), another cool-weather opportunity beckoned.

I enjoyed my caramel macchiato — foamed milk marked with espresso, vanilla and real caramel — lingered for a leisurely conversation, and jumped back in the car for one more shopping pit stop on the way home.

By the way, the macchiato was decaf.

Best Features: quick and friendly service (as a nice touch, they mark your name on your cup and call you by name when it’s ready), ultra-convenient location, and bragging rights (Yes, Ocala has a Starbucks!)

Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company Inc.
Tuesday, 8:40pm

When I used to work in the mall while going to school, I loved Barnie’s so much that I considered it to be one of the best perks of the job. (OK, all the free CDs were nice, too!) It had been a while since my last visit, though, and in that time they totally remodeled the store.

Out shopping again for Christmas, this time with a friend, we decided a pick-me-up was definitely justified. I ordered the coffee-of-the-day, a holiday blend that had a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon. It was a bright, full-bodied roast and tasted perfect after having spent the last couple of hours browsing through department stores.

I wished we’d had a little more time to leisurely sip our selections in the upstairs loft, but we both still had long lists, so we chose to drink on the run instead.

Best Features: upstairs loft, nice retail selection, and large coffee variety

B.D. Beans Coffee Company
Wednesday, 8:25am

My last stop was the one farthest away from my normal activities. I’d remembered B.D. Beans from a lunch appointment more than two years ago, but to keep the spirit of this article I knew more “research” was needed. Easily located in Belleview on busy 441, B.D. Beans rests just behind Salon 101 and, like Cyber Grind, also features on-site Internet access.

Once inside, I immediately appreciated the whimsical charm of the wall murals and framed art drawn or hung in every conceivable nook and cranny. I eased into a comfortable armchair in front of a toasty fireplace and enjoyed a large mug of Java Jazz, a shot of espresso blended with steamed milk, caramel, and vanilla syrup. Having completed my editing chores, I caught up with the latest issue of Newsweek and flipped through a copy of The Daily Sun, a paper I don’t often get to read.

Best Features: whimsical atmosphere and a family-like vibe

Conclusion At B.D. Beans, as my sips kept getting smaller and smaller and I reached the end of the sports page, a hint of melancholy suggested itself. A week had passed since my first bit of “research” began and I realized how much I had altered my morning routine to get this article done. And how much I’d enjoyed doing so.

I ordered a refill to take in the car on the return trip to the office, hoping to stretch this week’s experiences just a few moments longer. But I know now that with so many interesting coffeehouses nearby, it will be easier than ever to add a distinctive start to an otherwise average day.

And that the Krups on my countertop might be in the next yard sale.

Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company Inc
3100 SW College Road, Ocala

B.D. Beans Coffee Company
5148 SE Abshier Boulevard, Belleview

Cyber Grind
36 S Magnolia Avenue, Ocala

The Daily Grind Café
907 SE 17th Street, Ocala

Panera Bread
2370 SW College Road, Ocala

2708 SW College Road

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