5 out of 5 Stars
If you’re in the mood to explore downtown Riverside, Main Street has just welcomed a new establishment right next door to The Salted Pig. This establishment comes to Riverside by way of Redlands, Calif., where the original Augie’s Coffee House first opened five years ago.
I stepped into Augie’s just a few days after their soft opening and was pleasantly surprised at the simple layout they had going on. The first thing I noticed was the black and white checkered tile floor and plastic black chairs similar to school cafeteria chairs. They were paired up with a mix of wooden and plastic tables. The tiled floor and plastic chairs made part of me feel like I was in a diner — all while the fine wooden bar and black and silver espresso machines gave off the vibe of a hip new eatery. The smell of coffee drifted around me throughout my visit, but didn’t overwhelm me. Electric guitars from both classic and contemporary rock could be softly overheard above the chatter of the customers and plaid-wearing roasters.
When glancing at the menu, you have your lattes and espressos varying from chai to vanilla. I decided to give the vanilla latte a try. My drink came in a latte mug, complete with a rosetta swirl on top — a feather with a little heart at the top. Thankfully, the taste was just as great, if not better than presentation. The vanilla latte tasted like vanilla — no surprise there — but it also had an earthy taste, with just the right balance between vanilla and coffee, a benefit of Augie’s using real vanilla beans. It wasn’t like the coffee mixed with overpoweringly sweet and fake vanilla syrup you might find at some more mainstream coffee houses.
If you’re hungry, Augie’s also offers a variety of pastries such as Danish pastries and croissants, as well as oatmeal. I decided to go with the cheese Danish pastry, and it was larger than any Danish pastry I had ever seen — as huge as a coffee cup saucer. It was soft and full of buttery flavor and the cheese was moist. It can be eaten as a full meal when paired with coffee because of how large and filling it was. The pastries are currently supplied by a local bakery in Redlands, but Augie’s hopes to find a more local bakery for the new Riverside location.
I told Augie’s’ owner and roaster, Austin Amento, how much I enjoyed my drink, and he proudly stated that they pride themselves with quality and authenticity not just with their vanilla, but also with the coffee beans themselves. They only use the finest beans that they have discovered during their travels to various countries in the search for the best roasts, the most recent being Columbia. Amento then told me how they decided to open their second location in Riverside because of their ties to the city. Before opening the first Augie’s in Redlands, Amento was a UCR student himself. Amento then discovered throughout their five years of business that several customers were actually Riverside residents who were willing to make the commute to get their coffee.
Not only does Augie’s care about the quality of their beverages, but they also strive to keep customers satisfied with a consistency in such quality. Amento explained to me that consistency was the reason that there is a sparse amount of offerings on their menu; Amento would rather have a few choice drinks that are made at the highest caliber every time rather than have a huge selection of mediocre choices, like one might find at a chain with thousands of locations. Making sure every drink comes out just right every time is quite an ambitious thing to set out to do, but Augie’s is determined to achieve that goal.
With high quality coffee there is a steeper price to pay, but you truly do get your money’s worth. The folks at Augie’s are still working on the final touches in their new venue, but so far, they seem to have everything right. If you need a place to study or hang out with friends, or if you are just a coffee nut (or all of the above), you will not be disappointed with Augie’s Coffee House.