For such a small space, the Coffee Groundz has a United Nations-like ability to bring together a crowd of people who normally operate in different layers of the social stratosphere. The front of the bar is sparsely populated by midnight, with a few solo guys working on the laptops and a gay couple cuddling across from two girls discussing their relationships. Boston Legal plays silently on a flat screen above their heads. The second TV screen has attracted a crowd of bystanders who are watching the end of the Texas Tech-University of Houston game, occasionally erupting in spontaneous cheers. It's apparently a good night to be a UH fan.
Outside on the patio, every table is packed full of people listening to the last of a line-up of local bands. It's not a scene: It's a scene of scenes, including even sparkly, scantily dressed clubbers wandering in from the nearby Midtown haunts for a quick jolt or a bite. It's a verifiable parade of people-watching, right up until the doors close.
Unfortunately, the coffee kinda sucks. The toffee mocha "freezee" is enormous but has almost no trace of toffee or mocha - it's just your basic bland iced coffee. The cappuccino is, if not ruined, certainly undermined by its sheer size and Starbucks-like disposable cup. Call me a purist, but when I'm relaxing in a coffee shop, I need real drinkware.
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The food is more promising. The panini bread and toaster are the real deal; a grilled cheese with cheddar, provolone and Monterey jack on sourdough is to die for. The cheddar chipotle chicken panini isn't quite as good, with both the chicken and the roasted red pepper tasting runny and canned. But the gelato, at least, is universally yummy.