Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Nov 29, 2008 05:43 PM

Coffee houses in North County area

Will be getting over to Carlsbad for christmas and I like to go to a coffee house have a nice latte and maybe a pastry and read the paper . Are there any good spots or am I confined to the chain which isn't bad but sometimes you can do much better.
Thanks all you chowhounds.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. daantaat is right - Pannikin is great. it's in Encinitas, which is about 15 minutes south of Carlsbad...but if you're planning to hunker down for a chunk of time it's worth the distance.

      Pannikin Coffee & Tea
      510 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

      1. Unfortunately there is not a place in North County that I am aware of that can get you both consistently competent espresso drinks and has a nice loungey, home-like, or living room like atmosphere.

        The Pannikin in Leucadia has a very relaxed, almost Southern, feel to it, but unfortunately I cannot recommend them to execute well in the drinks department. (An irony I've found at all of the Pannikins, even though they are now independently operated...) They do have a very nice blend called Indo Noir, which they roast on the premises, that I sometimes use when I fall behind roasting my own coffee. But for whatever reason they do not seem capable of properly pulling consistent drinks from their own blend.

        The best in the North County area would be Zumbar coffee and tea in Sorrento Valley. A bit of an awkward location, they are situated in a strip mall right next to the Southbound on-ramp to I-5 from Sorrento Valley. The closest freeway offramp to the cafe would be the Northbound off-ramp from I-5 to Sorrento Valley. So if you're coming from Carlsbad, take the I-5 south to Genessee, go across the freeway to take the I-5 north and get off at the next (Sorrento Valley) exit. Turn left and just past the I-5 south on-ramp you will see the strip mall.

        Since their opening they have increasingly improved their game to the point where they are now incredibly consistent with their espresso pulls, and craft what is currently the best espresso drinks in the area. However, it's not much for atmosphere, but just enough to comfortably read the paper or tap into their wi-fi for area tech workers.

        The cafe which has the potential to satisfy both, but not always deliver, is E Street Cafe in Encinitas. There is a barista there named Jesse who is very good at what she does and pulls very competent shots. They also have a comfortable interior, though at one time they pulled all of their upholstered furniture out when too many of their customers were stretching their drinks a bit too far.

        If you need the atmosphere and want somewhat good odds at getting a good drink, then E Street Cafe would be the choice and ask for Jesse.

        Otherwise if you need a good drink pulled but atmosphere is secondary, Zumbar is your only choice and I'll guarantee that they'll hit near perfection 90-95% of the time.

        5 Replies
        1. re: cgfan

          Recently, I had an exceptionally good latte at E Street, but CGfan is right, it is hit or miss.

          At Pannikin I have always had a good cup of coffee (I usually drink coffee in the morning, no espresso or lattes in the am for me) and I like the baked goods there (house made). Pannikin has great outdoor seating. E Street has mostly indoor seating.

          There is Vinaka in Carlsbad. I am not recommending it as I have never been there, but it is in your requested location, and it is independently owned and operated. Maybe another hound has been and can advise.

          Have a great holiday, may you find a good cup of joe to start your day :


          Vinaka Cafe
          300 Carlsbad Village Dr # 211, Carlsbad, CA

          1. re: Enorah

            I checked out Vinaka Cafe one day after having met the owner's parents. Unfortunately I found it very lacking, though certainly the atmosphere is there. Very much an islands motif and a strong community spirit with, if I recall correctly, the customers' mugs stored behind the bar, but unfortunately no one there has even heard or knew how to pour the drink I ordered - a simple espresso ristretto.

            So I ordered a Latte which was so horrid I dropped it into a trash can as soon as I left the cafe. (I'd feel too brutal if I threw it away inside the cafe - too strong a statement to make, especially in the presence of apparently happy, and presumably milk-bombed, customers!) So for me Vinaka's been off of my list.

            For good espresso drinks, think not so much of cafes per se, but baristas (baristi?).

            So when I think E Street may be worth a try, it is only with the advice of asking for Jesse as your barista. It's the barista more than the cafe.

            As to Zumbar I've found all three of their baristas plus the owner/operator (Steve) to have high enough averages at pulling shots, with Nicole being the best. However the baristas there for the most part work non-overlapping schedules, (except for Steve who's always there but usually doesn't pull shots), but the odds are that you'll do fine with any of them.

          2. re: cgfan

            "The best in the North County area would be Zumbar coffee and tea in Sorrento Valley."

            FWIW, for any out-of-towners, Sorrento Valley is not North County and is a bit of a haul from Carlsbad.

            1. re: The Old Man

              True, but close enough. I tend to think of the Sorrento Valley/Genessee/Torrey Pines area as San Diego's "gateway to North County"...

              At least the OP has a choice. I'd still recommend Zumbar over the other offerings for the quality of their coffee.

              Zumbar Coffee & Tea
              10920 Roselle St # 106, San Diego, CA

              1. re: cgfan

                I think he'll wind up at Panniken's. The espresso is very inconsistent but it's hard to beat the ambience.

          3. I agree with both the Pannikin and E Street. Good on ambiance, average on the coffee. Another option a little closer to Carlsbad--but still lacking in the quality barista department--the the La Costa Coffee Roasting Co. They have a decent selection of teas, so I usually avoid the coffee and just get tea. There's got to be a decent coffeshop in Carlsbad proper, but I sure cant think of any... best to head South on PCH and you'll find something.

            1. The Vinaka Cafe has free wi-fi, some outdoor seating as well as indoor seating and the coffee drinks are fine, although perhaps a more limited menu than some people like. It's located in downtown Carlsbad, upstairs above the Coyote Bar & Grill, in the two-story shopping center located behind the Starbucks on 101.

              But, if you're visiting and staying downtown and want to read the paper . . . why not grab a cup to go and walk over to Carlsbad State Beach and soak up some sunshine while watching the ocean? Take a towel/plastic bag and sit on the beach itself or there are plenty of benches along the sidewalk . You can read your paper soak up the local flavor, watch the crazy surfer dudes out there in the freezing water and maybe even see some dolphins.

              Further south is La Costa Roasting Co. - located in the back part of the Von's shopping center, near the Ultra Star theaters - basically El Camino Real & Alga road. They roast their own coffee there and it can smell wonderful, plenty of seating both inside & out - not sure about wi-fi.

              La Costa Coffee Roasting, 6965 El Camino Real, Suite 208 - Carlsbad, CA 92009
              (In Von's Shopping Center) (760) 438-8160

              Pannikin in Encinitas is located just south of Carlsbad's Ponto beach in an old yellow train depot station on 101 - easy to get to, a nice quick, drive down 101 with ocean views - indoor/outdoor seating - not sure about wi-fi - but parking can be a problem at times.

              Enjoy your visit!