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Table Scraps

The new Grind kingdom

Ever run into the clash of wanting to satisfy that chai tea craving at Behind the Grind after a day on the mountain, but the want of your company for a beer leaves you on another patio instead?

Well never shall the beer drinking and coffee/tea swillers conflict again. Whistler’s cheekiest coffee shop is now fully licensed and launches a new modest dinner menu this week at its new hangout, kiddy corner to the Westin and across from the Whistler Gondola building. Behind the Grind moved from its behind the Village Stroll location one month ago.

Hanging out with the only man in town who introduces himself over the phone as the best looking man in a dress (if you’ve been to any of the Short Skirt Theatre Pantomimes, you know who I am talking about), the beer drinking and chai sipping worlds melded as one on a patio so large, I’ve dubbed it the Grind Kingdom.

Many knights dismount their mountain bike steeds to unwind in this tucked away part of Whistler Village. Step off the buzz of the Village Stroll and settle into a space with plenty of room to breathe. The sun shines down on the patio into the early evening with an afternoon breeze; this is the stuff fairytales are made of. Or at least I thought I was whooshed away to Never Never Land when asked whether I wanted a regular chai, a frozen blended chai or a milkshake chai.

I thought the milkshake chai a summer myth. Not so at Behind the Grind, which touts the best Indian-inspired elixirs in town.

But if you are seeking a cold brew to wash away the grime of a riding day, Behind the Grind can now set you up with an assortment of bottled beers, including Kokannee, Keith’s, Kootenay, Coors Light, Sleemans and Coronas. Granville Island on draft is coming soon.

The modest wine menu of three reds and whites changes at Behind the Grind owner Chris Quinlan’s whim, often covering the bases with a zinfandel, shiraz, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

But really, for patio dwellers, it’s all about the beer.

Behind the Grind still serves the same breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that have made this place a local favourite. The egg scramble wrap, fish tacos, pizzas and enchiladas are still all thankfully there. A new panini machine has crisped things up a bit as well as a two-entrée dinner menu: wild salmon or chicken with salad, roasted or baked potatoes and dessert for $15. All other menu items fall under the $10 mark.

Whistler has three more hours in the day to take advantage of the patio hangout with the interior 16-seat capacity inside. Doors now open as early as 6:30 a.m. and close as late as 9 p.m.

So is Behind the Grind a coffee shop or a restaurant?

"We are a café," says Quinlan with the dramatic flare of a man who enjoys wearing false eyelashes on a MY Millennium Place stage. He takes the time to make sure I am saying café with the right inflection.

Quinlan’s humour is everywhere in the business he runs. From the baby T-shirts with the slogan "Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks" written across the back of his hot staff to the business’s tag line "cheeky coffee".

Ask for a double, no-foam, skim-milk latte with rainbow sprinkles and prepare for a sideways glance. They will make it, but not without a few playful jabs beforehand.

Kidding aside, the food is no laughing matter.

"We serve up good healthy food for a good price and we’ve got coffee – let’s not forget that it is almost as important as the beer," Quinlan says,

The business owner of almost five years and Whistler resident of 15 years is happy to call the new space home, coming full circle, after beginning his food and beverage days on Blackcomb, then the now Crab Shack and over to Hoz’s. Circling around, he passed through Les Deux Gros then Il Caminetto before winding up at the base of the mountain once again.

"I’ve worked a lot of territory – you never want to stop your feet moving," he says.

Not unless you want to sit back for a break at the Grind.