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.

A clone of its own: Tilly’s Tacos

There’s plenty of similarities to Tito’s Tacos, but Tilly’s manages to stand out in some areas.

It’s not hard to see similarities between Tilly’s Tacos and the more famous Tito’s Tacos in Culver City.

Take a look for yourself.

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Is it me …
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or is there something in common here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tilly’s Tacos and …
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Tito’s Tacos offerings, along with the white paper and box, as shown from its website.

Tilly’s may look like a clone of Tito’s, and it some ways it tastes like a good imitator, but it does a few things different that stand out.

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Speaking of standing out — hey Tilly’s, if you don’t want to be called a Tito’s clone, use this logo around the place.

Within walking distance of the campus, north of it along the west side of Crenshaw Boulevard, Tilly’s isn’t grandiose. It’s a small part of a strip mall. The metal tables are few and the place can get a bit too warm.

But it’s the food that makes up for it.

Eight bucks and change for a pair of tacos — one beef, one chicken — and a regular drink, with complimentary chips and salsa.

Now the frugal types might say Del Taco down the street is cheaper, or the Taco Bell by their house, or even those tasty blasphemes that are Jack in the Box tacos.

True, but here you’re getting a larger, tastier taco that fills you up with less.

It is a bit on the greasier side than a hard shell from Del Taco or Taco Bell; you might want to pocket heartburn pills or antacids. Which is something similar to Tito’s, as well.

While the beef tasted very similar to Tito’s — not a bad thing — the chicken, which Tito’s does not offer, has a very good taste and is easier on the stomach.

Orders come with a side of chips and salsa. Now here’s another Tito’s comparison: first impression of the salsa. Tito’s odd, pink-colored salsa looks like melted bubblegum.

Tilly’s salsa isn’t the typical red stuff either. It’s not even red. It looks like it is made from apricots.

Despite the weird look, the mild stuff had a nice bite. Better than Tito’s.

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No, the salsa doesn’t have an apricot taste. But it’s good stuff.

One of the biggest similarities between the two taco joints is charging for cheese. Tito’s charges 70 cents; Tilly’s 50 cents for shredded cheese. Unless you’re observing religious dietary laws, lactose intolerant or something like that, there should be no such thing — cheese should be an automatic fixture on a taco, and posting the amount gives a negative vibe. You could just order cheese-less tacos, take them home and shred some cheddar or Monterey Jack at the house, saving a few bucks.

Tilly’s strikeout was the burrito. It was a compartmentalized creation; most of the meat at one part of the burrito, the rice in another, and the onions that were asked to be held out at the end.

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It looks like a few sections of sauce, beef, bean and cheese got squeezed together here, but most of the burrito tasted like everything was assigned to its own section.

At under $10 for a pair of tacos or burrito, a drink with chips and salsa, Tilly’s is worth the walk. There might be some heartburn concerns or “heavy” feeling, but it’s quality stuff for the price. And it’s a hell of a lot closer and less traffic to deal with than making a trip up the 405 Freeway to Tito’s Tacos.

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Tilly’s Tacos is located at 15717 Crenshaw Blvd., Unit A in Gardena. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. Tilly’s Tacos offers a number of specials, such as checking in on Yelp for a free churro. Website, which includes online ordering: http://tillystacos.com/.