To all my fellow coffee addicts, espresso bean chewers, and cappuccino craftsman I present you with this short, but perfectly bitter-sweet and balanced list of some of my favorite coffee haunts in San Diego. Like me, I am sure you have spent dozens of hours in various study hunting for that perfect cup of joe. And like me, you have probably found that while you have your go-to favorites, sometimes branching out and trying that obscure cafe down the street with the peeling paint will allow you to indulge in something new and equally delicious. So without further delay, here is a list of my favorite hotspots:
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is another Little Italy gem. A few blocks up from the popular restaurant-lined blocks of India and Kettner, Bird Rock is a farm-to-cup Direct Trade coffee company. It has established relationships with a wide variety of coffee farmers all over the globe, which has resulted in some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. So far I would have to tip my hat to their Yemen Haraaz Red, Ethiopia: Nefas Natural, and Panama: Elida Estate Natural. However, because of the limited availability they are always churning out new blends so every visit is a potential surprise in the waiting.
Coffee & Art is one of those places you may walk by and decide not to go in because of the VERY limited seating. The shop itself isn’t bigger than a master bedroom but the service is wonderful and the coffee – even better. It’s located on 6th Street in the Gaslamp District and the walls are covered by local artists. I love the unique feel of this place, plus the fact that the majority of their drinks are espresso based. After dropping by a few times and getting either a cappuccino or regular espresso I decided to branch out and try their black magic – rich espresso with black tea. What can I say? I fell in love. I would never have guessed to put the two together but the spice of the black tea perfectly complements the bitterness of the espresso.
Lestat’s Coffee House in Normal Heights is the perfect place for laptop users and people watchers. I know I would have spent every Saturday morning here as an undergrad filling up on strong coffee and making good use of the ample seating and white noise. The coffee is good and there is a large tea collection but what I really come here for is the atmosphere. Inside the walls are covered by works of local artists for sale, including painted skateboards and other contemporary mediums. The back patio is dutifully watched by a sculptured gargoyle and weeping angel. If I had to choose any drink I would pick the iced Vietnamese coffee. It’s decent but can be on the sweet side. Lestat’s has that true bohemian feel that any creative thinker could ask for in a coffee house.
Pappalecco is a cherished and hidden treasure of Little Italy. The product of two Italian brothers, it can barely fit four tables inside its narrow passageway but the long line and wafts of rich espresso and perfectly-churned gelato will always beckon you from outside. And while it would be a sin to indulge in their rich affogato and iced hot chocolates it would be much more a sin to skip this little heaven on earth.
I hope you make good use of my list for anyone living in or visiting San Diego. I’m still on the hunt for great Vietnamese and Turkish cups of coffee. But do not fear! I will not give up, intent to come out victorious. Until then, cheers!