When my daughter and I were shopping downtown recently and needed sustenance and refuge, I immediately thought of the newer Daily Grind Uptown. Climbing the winding staircase in the historic Paulsen Building, the corner shop is visible from the expansive landing. The cozy spot is quite contemporary -- with a large, rounded counter and open display case as well as modern lighting, tables and chairs -- sporting cityscape views from the oversized windows.
What caught our attention was how the Daily Grind staff knew just about everyone who came into the busy shop -- exchanging greetings and wanting to know if customers wanted their usual lunch item or if it would be the daily special.
As for us, the special tuna melt on grilled sourdough bread ($5.50) sounded inviting, but we perused the menu and deli case to see what else was offered. My daughter couldn't resist the comforting aroma of roasted Yukon Gold potato soup ($3 a cup; $4 a bowl). It was a creamy, rich bowl of goodness with a slight smoky flavor. Accompanied by a freshly baked cheddar and corn biscuit, it was most satisfying. Owner Lauren Izenberg rotates her featured soups, with choices like chicken basil chili and crab red-pepper bisque.
I could have made a meal of the Hopped-Up salad with its turkey, salami, garbanzo beans, hard-boiled egg, cheeses, tomato and mixed greens ($5.25), but decided instead to go with the Greek ($5). Little rows of colorful tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions, spinach, feta and cucumbers were visually appealing, crispy fresh and tasty.
Of course, we needed sandwiches to ward off the cold. My daughter chose the BLT ($4.75), a classic combo of bacon, lettuce and tomato on sourdough that was perfectly executed with just the right amount of mayo. I was in a Mediterranean mood and focused on the panini selections. The Paulsen's roast beef, caramelized onions and horseradish aioli ($5.50), sounded tempting, but I was swayed by the comfort factor of the Riverside -- a wonderful m & eacute;lange of flavors and textures including turkey, homemade cranberry sauce and Swiss cheese on focaccia -- for the same price. Specials run the gamut from chicken pesto panini or chicken salad on a croissant to a house wrap with meat, bleu cheese and caramelized pecans, or a meatball sandwich on a French roll.
Even though we were full, we couldn't pass up dessert. Izenberg, who was formerly a pastry chef at the Winged Lion Restaurant, makes all her sweet creations from scratch with high-quality ingredients. We left with a bag filled with goodies to share later with my husband. (Besides, he never would have let us forget it if we hadn't brought him one of Izenberg's scones.) The pumpkin bread was crumb-licking good -- moist but not dense, as many pumpkin breads can be, and full of chocolate chunks and walnuts. I'm partial to anything with lemon, so I had to taste the lemon bar. It had a perfect crumb, wasn't too dry or overly sweet, with plenty of creamy lemon curd. My husband was more than happy with the strawberry-covered scone. He pronounced it light, cake-like and not the least bit dry.
My husband isn't the only one who's a Daily Grind scone fan. Many downtown customers line up for their morning fix of fresh scones in flavors like raspberry, cranberry-orange and apple-cinnamon. A breakfast sandwich (scrambled eggs, ham and cheese on a croissant) or bagel nosh with lox and cream cheese, both for $4.25, fill out the morning menu, along with a parfait made with homemade crunchy granola ($3), and fresh-brewed Craven's Coffee and espresso.
By the time we finished our lunch at the Daily Grind, Izenberg knew our food preferences, which sports my daughter played and where we were headed next on our shopping spree. Just as with all her loyal customers, I knew she'd remember us next time we came in.
The Daily Grind Uptown, 421 W. Riverside, second floor
(Skywalk level), is open Mon-Fri 7 am-3 pm. Call 448-1281.