Merced is right in the middle of everywhere, but feels like the middle of nowhere. With the highest unemployment rates in the state, it has a myriad of troubles. However, the slowly-gentrifying Main street has perhaps begun to help take a turn for the better. With a college crowd partially augmented by the recently-founded University of California, Merced, Merced has begun the slow climb out of destitution and seasonal unemployment with the infusion of money and ambitious young people that a campus brings with it. Founded by two graduates, this simple coffee shop is a pleasant place to be, well-run, and serves a mean latte. It is likely also a very encouraging sign of things to come. Sacks of free coffee grounds wait for customers with home compost piles. The 'community board' is covered with scrawled poetry, drawings, and flyers for optimistic 'first annual' events. Outside on the patio, a scruffy man (Merced's homeless population has quatrupled over the last couple of years) quietly smokes a cigarette in the evening air, occasionally weighing in on the conversation of several other patrons.
If you like good coffee and people-watching, this small shop in this small town is definitely worth your time. Buy a piece of local art (the walls are covered with them, and the homemade shelves have more, if you fancy a bookmark or cup sleeve) or leaf through the free honor-code library in the back. Bring a book to leave behind you, and take something you haven't read. I gave my old copy of Treasure Island, and now hold a selection of T.S. Eliot poems.