San Diego’s coffee scene has exploded in the past few years, with more new roasters and cafes than ever competing to deliver your caffeine jolt. To help navigate some of the best options in the city, we’ve put together a shortlist of the best places to linger over a cup of coffee, including neighborhood favorites that have been around for ages and new additions to our ever-growing bean scene.
Across from the Central Library, this cozy shop has a lot going for it, like owners who are passionate about good coffee, fresh-baked pastries, and quality beans brewed just about every way imaginable, including siphon, V60, Aeropress, and drip (in addition to espresso-based beverages). Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the industrial-chic space with natural light, which makes it a great place to refuel, get some work done, or just people watch.
Comfy couches, bright yellow chairs on the sun-drenched patio, and quiet tables for two near the front door are just three of the potential seating options at this airy cafe that’s well suited for a solo study session, business lunch, or catching up with a friend or two over a caffeinated beverage. Other pluses include its location (overlooking Fault Line Park) and relatively easy street parking. The regular coffee drinks are always a good way to go, but if you want to try something more exciting, order a milkshake spiked with espresso, a specialty frappe, or an espresso martini. And the food. Our pick is the bruschetta (with prosciutto, diced heirloom tomatoes, hydroponic basil, and house-made burrata), but by all means, if another sandwich calls out to you, answer that call.
This small-batch roaster operates a trendy coffee shop in North Park with a menu of refreshing "coffee parlour cocktails" like strawberry malt mochas, espresso shakes, and five different cold brew options on nitro (including banana bread and lemon meringue) made with all-natural, house-made nut milks, malts, fruit purées, and syrups. If you need something to nosh on, the selection of sweet and savory pastries sourced from Bake Sale won’t disappoint. Securing seating can be tricky or even downright impossible. If you can’t snag a chair, take your coffee to the North Park Community Park (it’s a 10-minute walk away and has several picnic tables).
Bird Rock & Little Italy
Since 2006, this local roaster has been serious about brewing excellent coffee from responsibly sourced, sustainable, direct-trade beans. Its dedication has resulted in several high-profile awards, including being selected as Roast magazine’s Micro Coffee Roaster of the Year in 2012. The original location in Bird Rock holds sentimental value for many of the city’s coffee connoisseurs (and has comfortable seating and a chill vibe) but the newer location in Little Italy has its charms too, like a communal table where you could presumably make friends and window seating for those who want to sip uninterrupted. (There’s also a coffee bar at the roasting facility on Morena Blvd.)
When Copa Vida opened in the East Village last year, it already had some stiff competition, but its selection of quality coffee beverages and obsessive dedication to the craft of brewing the perfect cup of coffee (or tea) secured its place in the local market. The shop’s lofty interior, spacious patio, and compact but satisfying menu starring sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items make the space hospitable enough to linger with a laptop, but if you’re in a hurry, there’s also an honor bar where you can grab a cup of drip coffee to-go.
This neighborhood fixture in South Park is located in a remodeled home with a deck that wraps around most of the exterior, offering comfortable seating in the shade of several large trees that poke up through the planks. There’s all of the expected espresso-based drinks (made with locally roasted beans sourced from Caffe Calabria), plus original concoctions like the Smoky Mocha (espresso brewed with Lapsang Souchong tea leaves, steamed milk, chocolate, and spices). If you plan to hang out long enough to require some sustenance, good news: there’s a full menu with breakfast items, sandwiches, and salads, plus sweet treats like cookies, cakes, and tarts.
Encinitas & Solana Beach
If you have yet to experience this North County-based shop’s salted caramel latte (with real, house-made caramel, not sundae sauce), make plans to do that ASAP. All three locations have comfortable, shaded seating inside and out, but because they’re also within a few blocks of the beach, you might want to get yours in a to-go cup. The shop’s fourth location is slated to open later this fall in Little Italy at the corner of Cedar and Columbia Streets.
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1. Bean Bar1068 K St, San Diego
2. Halcyon1429 Island Ave, San Diego
3. Holsem Coffee2911 University Ave, San Diego
4. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters5627 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla
5. Copa Vida905 J St, San Diego
6. Krakatoa1128 25th St, San Diego
7. Lofty Coffee - Solana Beach132 S Cedros Ave, Solana Beach
Steps from PetCo Park in East Village, San Diego's Bean Bar uses direct, local trade to you bring you quality crafted coffee in an artsy and minimalistic space. The gourmet cold brew and drip coffees are tried-and-true favorites, which you can either get to go or drink in-house while you browse the internet on the wifi and admire the blue water-color-painted walls. Bean Bar also provides baked-daily goodies from nearby bakeries, which you absolutely must get your hands on.
East Village's Halcyon is your ultimate day-time coffee or lunch break spot. With its sunny, dog-friendly patio, and comfortable bright yellow couches, this spot should perk you up form your midday slump in no time. Get comfortable — it'd be a shame to order to-go — and order the bruschetta (with prosciutto, diced heirloom tomatoes, hydroponic basil, and house-made burrata) with an espresso-spiked milkshake to treat yourself amidst a hard day's work.
Holsem Coffee is all about quality, sparing no expense to source the highest-grade beans from all over the globe. This small-batch roaster offers seven roasts daily like Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and its own Holsem Blend. Beer people, you'll love that they have a 15-tap system that pours a selection of cold brew on nitro. It also offers 18 non-alcoholic blended, shaken and mixed "coffee parlour cocktails" like banana bread (cold brew, banana milk, cinnamon, honey) and lavender (dark chocolate, lavender confetti, milk). These are made from all-natural, house-made nut milks, malts, fruit purées, and syrups created with evaporated cane sugar.
San Diego's Bird Rock neighborhood hosts one of the most well-known and sustainable coffee shops int he city, duly named Bird Rock Coffee. This spot puts sourcing and quality above all else, scouring the globe for beans that meet its high standards (and it only buys and roasts seasonally so you know it's all fresh) while giving back to the community by showcasing local artists. The modern and minimalist space here is small, so your brew is better off in a to-go cup.
If you've ever been running late and come upon your regular coffee shop with the line out the door, Copa Vida has your solution. Its Honor Bar lets you skip the line and pour yourself a quick cup of fresh-pressed coffee so you'll never have to sacrifice your required caffeine intake for showing up to work on time. If you've got time to spare, you can take a seat in the sleek and airy shop and enjoy the day's espresso offering, a Cortado or a freshly brewed cup of tea.
This coffee shop, bar, and restaurant combination serves up cafe classics in a tiki-themed shack. If you're fighting to stay awake, rely on the Krakhead, the Krakatoa house brew with espresso shots, or, when you're moving at a more leisure pace, an Orange Blossom Latte (pair them with a sweet muffin or avocado toast for breakfast). If you're dropping by later in the day, the Pompeii (mozzarella and basil) and El Chicon (ham and oaxaca cheese) sandwiches are musts, as is the rotating menu of local craft beers.
Lofty Coffee in Solana Beach (and other San Diego locations) is everything local coffee shops should aim to be. Offering organic, locally sourced coffee and food made from scratch in-house, Lofty has created a community within its walls (where the decor is sleek and the massive windows provide major sunlight). You can order your coffee or specialty drink (the iced caramel latte. You'll thank us for this) to go and walk to the nearby beach or pick one of the many seats available inside or on the shaded patio.