ECC: Empty of Cold Coffee

Few options for students wanting icy caffeine.

Hot coffee isn’t a problem — anybody can grab some powder, beans, a coffee machine or even a microwave and make a decent cup in the morning.

Making a good cup of iced coffee, mocha, cappuccino, you name it? Now that takes some skill, and time isn’t on your side when you’re between classes.

Sadly, cold coffee isn’t plentiful at El Camino College anymore, since the Caffeine coffee shop closed in 2008 and remains an abandoned shell across from Del Taco.

So what options do students and faculty have for cold brews? Not a lot. Here’s a few of the options available, ranked from best overall to worst. I’ve left Starbucks off the list as the nearest locations require a set of wheels, and I consider the following as alternatives for those who snub the omnipresent mermaid and her expensive (but usually tasty, in my opinion) drinks.

 

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McSurprising is the McCafe mocha frappe.

McDonald’s

The best overall option for cold coffee is the McDonald’s on Crenshaw Boulevard, just across the street from the campus.

Non-blended cold coffees at McDonald’s can often be bought for around $2 or so. A large mocha frappe is $3.79, and its reasonable size and taste makes it worth the trip off campus. Calories are another question.

The chocolate syrup isn’t half bad either, but you can save on calories by opting that out of the drink along with the whipped cream.

McDonald’s is located at 15810 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena. It is open from 4 a.m. to midnight daily, and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

Costco

The hell is a place where you buy a month’s supply of toilet paper doing on this list?

Well, the blended latte/mocha sold outside the warehouse costs $1.45, and you don’t need to be a member to buy one. It’s actually better than McDonald’s in taste as well and it’s actually better to skip on the chocolate syrup for calories and flavor.

The minus is this: time and distance. The nearest Costco, the Hawthorne one, is just a simple, short jaunt up the 405 to Rosecrans Avenue. With no traffic and a short line, it could take 20 minutes on a round trip. But, if there’s traffic and the place is busy, well, 45 -minutes to an hour might be needed.

Still, $1.45 mochas and $2.99 smoothies (now more of a strawberry yogurt blend after a price hike from the former amount) are hard to beat in the area.

Not to mention the prices of Costco’s other food court fare are well within the reach of a student’s budget. And if you’ve got plenty of time to kill and a card to get in the warehouse, you can try out samples of various vittles for a free lunch.

The nearest Costco to El Camino College is located at 14501 Hindry Ave. in Hawthorne. Food court hours are from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. No membership card needed for the food court.

 

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Small and pricey is the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s tasty mocha.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

I will admit I prefer the flavor of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to Starbucks, but there’s two major problems.

One, it’s just as hideously expensive on the wallet as Starbucks. The largest blended mocha they have costs more than $5. A small will put you back $4.55. Not cheap.

Second, no matter how blended or stirred it gets, the taste and texture of powder used to make the drinks doesn’t seem to go away. The grit is present at the start of the drink and especially as you come to the bottom.

I honestly thought this problem was from me adding vanilla or cinnamon powder to drinks in my visits to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but I stopped doing that and still detected the distracting solids on my tongue.

Having suffered two kidney stones, I wonder if this powder won’t accumulate down there.

Oh well, it is a good cup of iced coffee.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s nearest location to El Camino College is at 18201 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance. It is open from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

 

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Smelly coffee, but decent taste.

Jack in the Box

No blended coffees here, but this establishment has iced coffee in a few different flavors.

The caramel iced coffee however, had a real funky smell about it. The syrup used smells like feet.

Picturing sweaty socks doesn’t make a good impression, even if the coffee is OK in taste and decently priced in the $2 range.

The Jack in the Box near El Camino College is located at 3940 Redondo Beach Blvd. in Torrance. It is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday thru Thursday, 6 a.m. to midnight on Friday and open 24 hours on weekends.

 

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The iced mocha offered on campus has its flavor like the ice chunks – all over the place.

Cafe Camino

The on-campus option at Cafe Camino has a number of problems — the McDonald’s nearby is cheaper and the composition of the $3.99 drink leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of being a consistent liquid slush, it’s more like a collection of oxygen spaces with coffee-flavored ice, with extraction of mocha nutrients taking considerable effort through an under-powered big straw.

As with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, there’s the problem of using powder in the drink as well; the grit is detectable on the tongue.

There’s pockets of decent flavor, but the blended mocha was for the most part too sweet in some chunks, too watery in others, and actually too much effort to finish in time between classes.

Cafe Camino is located on campus between the Humanities building and the Schauerman Library. Its hours are 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and 6:30 a.m. to on 2 p.m. Fridays. Closed on the weekends.

 

Del Taco

While not having the weird smell of Jack in the Box, the bitter cup of iced coffee at Del Taco isn’t worth it, even if it is priced less than Costco’s blended latte/mocha.

None of the previous entries required sugar to be added to counter the default taste. There’s cream in there, but it almost tastes black.

And if that’s your thing, you’d be better off brewing your own cup of coffee at home in a travel mug and just tossing ice cubes in it before leaving the house.

Del Taco is located at 16216 Crenshaw Blvd in Gardena. It is open 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday thru Thursday and open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

French Toast and Joe: The Pancake Factory

A diner within walking distance of the campus.

With the background radio playing songs that would fit in an episode of “Miami Vice” and set next to a shady motel, eating at The Pancake Factory made me think Harvey Keitel would be my dining partner in a movie stakeout scene.

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♫ I can feel it, coming in the air tonight, oh Lord ♫ — the assurance from seeing an “A” grade.

Sadly, I was eating alone and for the most part, Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” was stuck in my head as I ordered French toast at the Pancake Factory.

Breakfast wasn’t groundbreaking as a Tarantino film (maybe the Nutella French toast would have been), it didn’t “Take My Breath Away” which came on the radio a bit later, but the combo of thick French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and coffee for $12 and change after taxes hit the right spot for its price.

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All the caffeine you want for just over $2.

The best part of the combo was what comes extra: the scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon. The hash browns weren’t overcooked and had a nice flavor and happy medium of being crisp, but still potato in nature. The bacon wasn’t too soggy or burnt, too.

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The stars of today’s breakfast. The mood really changed when hash browns left the scene after a surprising performance.

The French toast itself was thick, but was a bit heavy on the “eggy” taste; it soaked a bit too much in. I had to add “old fashioned” syrup — one of four offered on the table, which included strawberry, blueberry and butter pecan — as the butter wasn’t enough to overcome that taste.

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Powdered sugar and butter not enough to overcome the overdose of egg on bread.

As mentioned, the prices seem reasonable and if you have a student ID, you can get more off the bill. The place is quite packed for lunch, so don’t expect a quiet time dining.

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I wonder how many El Camino students or faculty try to say they’re still kids to the server.

On the way out I noticed the huge hoagies and enormous amount of fries piled on the plates the lunch crowd was enjoying, so it might be worth a jaunt to try something more than pancakes or French toast.

While The Pancake Factory may not measure up to Coco’s and might be slightly more in cost than Denny’s, it is closer to El Camino College than those two locations. If coffee and flapjacks are your jones, it’s worth a look.

IMG_0243The Pancake Factory is located at 15619 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Wi-Fi available on premises. Phone: (310) 349-0325. A menu with prices and online ordering is available at doordash.com.