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Best Coffee/Coffee Shop In SD

  • b

I've lived in SD for years, but cant think of many great cups of coffee i've had. The best I can remember is espressos from expensive italian restaurants around town, or maybe from Cafe Bassam in the gaslamp.

Anywho, if anyone could recommend some good coffee/coffee shops in SD, i would be very appreciative.



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  1. I'm not sure that San Diego has a coffee culture similar to that of other places. I've had reasonably good luck at Twigg's, which is located at the corner of Park and Madison in the University Heights area.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gayla

      There used to be a place...gosh, let me think where...just off Fern in Golden Hill..*Rebecca's*. When I lived in San Diego I'd go out of my way for a cup of coffee there, a home-made scone (lemon poppyseed was my favorite), and a chat with Rebecca. If she's still there, give her coffee a try.

      And as Gayla says, Twiggs is excellent~and all their pastries are home-baked by the owners. Super!

      1. re: Cristina

        1)Any of the Pannikin coffee houses

        2)The Living Room in Hillcrest

        3)Hill Street Coffee House in Oceanside(which also has an extensive menu)

        1. re: U16 girl

          Some of the best coffee in San Diego is at Caffe Gelato Vera on Washington and India. Fabulous gelato and good baked goods too.

          1. re: Dolores

            OMG yes!Their coffee is good-I've never had the gelato there though(surprisingly)

            Slightly off topic, but there are a LOT of great restaraunts in the same area as Gelato Vera(El Indio is one)

    2. Has anyone been to Influx in Golden Hill. I have attached a link below with a short description and a link to their website. It looks like a fun atmosphere, I haven't had a chance to get over there. I'm curious how their coffee is. Here's a quote from them: "Dedicated to quality, taste, and style, influx will make you wonder where you went before, and why." (A little cocky, makes me want to give it a try)

      Oh - and I tend to like the coffee at Urban Grind on Park in Hillcrest better than Twiggs or the Living Room in the same area. And, while I try to avoid the McDonalds of coffee-dom, I still sometimes crave a black cup of Sumatra from plain old Starbucks. (though most of their other coffees disappoint) Haven't tried Gelato Vera but have been meaning to.

      Link: http://www.featureonline.com/guide-de...

      1. Dear Friends, some time ago in Little italy, there was a coffee house/gallery named Gargoyle, the espresso was THE Best real authentic espresso, one of the Baristas told me the coffee brand was Portioli from Milan, and that he got trained by the coffee company person in San Diego and o yes this barista was making drinks like a champ just like what i lived in Italy during my studies abroad.

        1 Reply
        1. re: caffe

          Gargoyle has closed - it was bought by the same people who owned La Vache and turned into a restaurant - I think it has changed hands again since then.

        2. I live in the San Jose area and travel to San Diego on business every month. When I get there one og the first things I do is go to "The Living Room" in La Jolla. They have a large selection of the milky frufru coffee drinks that I avoid. They also make great brewed coffee and espresso. Nice selection of pastry and light fare. The ambiance is pretty cool and you can sit out on the patio and people watch.


          1. From my experiences, ordering a soy mocha:

            Good: Cafe Colabria, Diedrich.

            Tolerable: Living Room, Twiggs, The Other Side, Korova, It's a Grind.

            Bad: Cafe Gelato Vera (good gelato though), Rebecca's, Cafe Italia (Sorry... but they steamed it in a paper cup).

            1. I'm not sure this post was really looking for information on soy mochas - but good to know. For coffee - the Pannikins (local chain)generally have good coffee from Cafe Moto. Cafe Calabria gets high marks and they roast their own. Twiggs serves their coffee, but they sometimes let it get stale in the vacuum pots. I am not crazy about Rebecca's coffee (just had a cold stale cup the other day) though they do have great scones. I like Gelato Vero's coffee, and Diedrich's and Peets are always good. Whole Foods also has good coffee - though they do put it out in vacuum pots, it's always fresh.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Alice Q

                Having spent a good deal of time at Twiggs over the last 6 months I can't say that their brewed coffee is very good, kind of like colored hot water and forget about any caffeine buzz ;-). However - and this is a BIG however - for ambiance, social connection and pretty decent baked goods Twiggs is hard to beat. I don't go for the coffee, I go for the community; and isn't that part of the function of a neighborhood coffee house?

                I was at Caffe Calabria this morning and the coffee was very good, but the ambiance totally lacked. There were at least 6 other people in there in addition to myself, my friend and the staff and the place was like a morgue. It was exceedingly quiet and my friend even remarked that he felt like he was in a library and needed to whisper.

                In a high volume place I have no problem with brewed coffee in airpots. The turn over is sufficient to ensure the coffee is not going to sit very long. Airpots will keep coffee fresh and hot for up to 5 hours without seriously deteriorating it. The quality of what comes out of an airpot is directly related and proportional to the quality of what went in in the first place, the degree of training staff has received and the vigilence of the owner or manager on duty.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I agree with your opinion about Twiggs but I also like the ambiance at Caffe Calabria. At Twiggs you meet the whole neighborhood whereas at Calabria you can have a nice conversation with somebody or just relax and read a good book for several hours (what I normally do in a coffeehouse). Both places have very different ambiance but both are great for the right moment.

                2. re: Alice Q

                  Lol, I don't think that was a very nice comment for a reply to anyone making a contribution to this topic. The OP asked for good 'coffee' and 'coffee shops', he wasn't -only- looking for information on drip coffee. I've found soy mochas an all-around good test drink because they're an indicator of the coffee (espresso), technique (pulling/ steaming), and frou-frou factor (mocha). All of which are essential parts of a coffee shop.

                  1. re: Radical347

                    You know, that's a good point - I didn't think about that. You actually recommended two of my favorite places, though I was told that Dierdrich's is closing it's retail stores - which really bums me out. It will also leave a big hole in that Hillcrest Ralphs shopping center!

                    1. re: Alice Q

                      Diedrich's was purchased by Starbucks, so they're all converting or closing. Bummer indeed. But hey, I really do think that what this city needs is just ONE more Starbucks to be complete. ;)

                      1. re: jalanpipes

                        Grrrrr! That is horrible! Diedrich's was always so much better than Starbucks, and I liked the fact that it was at least semi-local, being from OC. The counter-person said that their coffee would still be available by mail order - so I guess Starbucks just bought their retail locations? Somehow I missed hearing about this.

                        1. re: Alice Q

                          Starbucks bought them lock stock and barrel. Martin Diedrich has a new place that's much better than the old Diedrich's (in SD county anyway): Kean. On my only trip up there so far, he was at the roaster. Only one location, not on this board.

                          1. re: Spike Costa

                            Thanks for the tip. Yet another reason to hate Starbucks, and another reason to go up to Newport Beach!

                            Lately I've become addicted to the Vietnamese Iced Milk Coffee at K Sandwiches. It's espresso and sweetened condensed milk - and I think some regular milk too - over lots and lots of ice. It's just a little over 2 bucks. I also love their BBQ Pork Bahn Mi. It's pretty much my new favorite place.


                3. Check out this article in the NY Times - read it and weep!


                  1. If you are downtown and need a quality cup, Tony's Coffee on Broadway. Its a cart at the corner of Columbia and Broadway, downtown. Open early, closes mid-afternoon

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sdnativa

                      I'm definitely planning to check out Tony when I start working downtown in a few weeks. A brisk mid-morning walk down to Columbia and Broadway may be just what I need. (I am NOT used to getting up early!)

                      1. re: Alice Q

                        Great, maybe we will cross paths sometime.

                        1. re: sdnativa

                          When I worked on Broadway and India, a ton of people in my office passed a couple coffee shops in our building to walk over to Tony's. Definitely a great cup.

                          1. re: sdnativa

                            I still have not made it down there in the AM, though I walk by the stand on my way to the Y to workout at noon. (He's quite the flirt! :-) It's just a leetle bit too far to be convenient for everyday - but I will have to make the trip sometime just to check it out!

                      2. I had a quick chat with the owner of Caffe Calabria recently; he is often working in cafe or back in the office. He mentioned that he has been unhappy with the way Calabria's roasts are treated at other coffeehouses. He would like to require that barista's take a day-long training course; apparently this is already in place at his cafe.

                        However, despite his pessimism about the local options, he did mention one other place for good espresso:

                        Elixir Espresso Bar
                        427 C St # 101
                        Downtown in the gaslamp.

                        Has anyone been down there? I will try it if I am ever in the area.


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Joseph

                          I think I just walked by this place yesterday on my way back from lunch, and am planning to try it out today. It's between 4th and 5th on C - a short walk from my office, will let you know!

                          1. re: Joseph

                            Does anybody know how long Elixir is open in the evening ?

                          2. I like The Living Room on El Cajon Blvd. near San Diego State.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: howefortunate

                              The living room has a great location. It's a nice old house, with a counter set up in the old living room and the rest of the house furnished with nice old couches and chairs, with a few tables in between.

                              However, I have not been impressed with the coffee at this location or the old one in Hillcrest. I ordered a double espresso, and recieved a half-cup (probably almost 6 oz) of some of the most bitter coffee I've tasted. Starbucks does a better job than that. I'm sure their lattes taste find with enough sugar and cream, but I can't recommend the espresso; I couldn't finish it.

                              1. re: Joseph

                                The Living Room in Point Loma is in a great old house too. But same problem with the coffee last time I tried

                            2. nice, all these spots sound pretty tasty

                              1. Best coffee--and baked goods for that matter--Bread & Cie in Hillcrest.

                                1. When I'm in SD, I like http://www.bigjoyfamily.com/ They hand grind the beans fresh to order (yes, with a mechanical grinder) and brew with French press. Plus, the tokyo manju pastry is not too sweet, and oh, so yummy! Give them a try.

                                  1. I'm interested more in cappucino than atmosphere. North County has a lot of decent espresso shops, but there's generally more atmosphere than great espresso. E Street (just West of 101) in Encinitas has reasonably good pastries, music in the evenings and espresso that's better than SBx. They are a little more consistent than most of the mom and pops (who always seem to suffer from chronic turnover in undertrained baristas). Like most of the mom and pops, they're understaffed so don't go if you're in a hurry.

                                    However,on weekday mornings there's a tall blond male barista who knows a lot about espresso. If you want a very good cappucino, he's the guy. Sometimes they have him running the cash register and you need to insist that he make the espresso. Better than any I've found in Southern California.

                                    1. Well. I'm not from SD, by BF's family is still there. When we go he always takes me to this place that they refer to as CAPPY'S but I don't know if it is technically still called that. Maybe someone who reads this will know where it is, I'm sorry I'm not familiar. I know they they always have doggy treats outside. Anywho they have a Chocolate Chai that I get with Soy and it's AMAZING. I liked their soy so much I asked what they used and it was some Moon Rose soy or something like that. So tasty and I can never find it. So yes...CAPPY's. Maybe in Pacific Beach???

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: JSM

                                        Moon Rose soy milk is, I believe, a Sysco house label, that may be why you can't find it. It may be called something else retail. Or check Smart & Final for commerical brands, they sometimes carry them.

                                      2. DiningDiva,
                                        I feel so enlightened and relieved. I thought I wasn't scouring the shelves hard enough. Thanks.

                                        1. Korova is now re-named Cream; the space on Park Blvd has been opened up and blessed with better chairs and lighting. It is still rather industrial, especially with all the extension cords snaking across the floors, but the free wireless makes it a great studying spot. The espresso is still Free Trade. Their shots are rarely good enough to drink straight, but they make a nice Mexican mocha. When Caffe Calabria is closed for the evening and we don't feel like hanging out with the vampires at Lestat's it is a good choice. They also are offering a couple bottles of wine and a few imported beers (Newcastle, Heineken, Imperial from Costa Rica; also Sierra Nevada PA), if you get tired of studying, and the lunch and breakfast menus are new.

                                          1. I think Lestats will need to be my favorite. The crowd is fluid and their coffee is meaty and strong. Anyone remember 7th near B? Tudor Too? Sigh.....The days before downtown became a screaming debacle of too many condos.

                                            Oh! Urban Grind in Hillcrest is one of my regular hang outs. For those from across the pond, they have a good selection of teas. Not a bad a food menu either.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Dagney

                                              We used to go to Urban Grind all the time when we lived nearby and the wireless was free. But now the wifi is expensive and the price of coffee went up when they remodeled and added more food options. I believe the espresso is still good (they pulled a pretty nice ristretto), but Calabria is superior and actually cheaper. If they would open up the wifi it would be a great place to study in the evening, just like before.

                                            2. I would add Caffe Callabria in North Park on 30th, the beans are very good here.
                                              I'm not sure of the name but the little Italian Caffe in Little Italy, right below the Le Pensionne Hotel has terrific Caps.

                                              For beans, it is hard to beat the fresh roasted beans at Whole Foods.

                                              1. If you ever in the UCSD area, stop by the Art of Espresso (AoE). Their coffees and espressos showed me what coffee was supposed to be in college. Their baristas freqent caffe calbria when the AoE is closed on the weekends so you know that they know their stuff.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: PwrChords

                                                  Is this on the campus???

                                                  Where exactly is it located?

                                                2. my vote for best coffee goes to ryan bros. they are now located in the spot occupied by Chuey's for years.

                                                  1. I know this may sound silly, but I'm really into the atmosphere just as much as I am into how great the coffee tastes.

                                                    Nautical Bean in Oceanside Harbor makes great coffee, and the employees are always extremely happy to see you, no matter if you're a regular customer, or there for the first time (Matt is my personal favorite). They take a lot of pride in their coffee beans. They have great recommendations and really good chocolate whip cream you can get on top of your mochas/lattes. Might I mention they have a great selection of coffee too. Plus, during the summer months, they have an outside covered seating area to sit in, which is right next to the harbor, and at night, they've got great live music, such as the one-man-band Steve White, or carribean steel drums. It really "sets the mood" for that special date. Fun to ride up on your beach cruiser bike, or bring your dog along to sit outside with you. During the summer, they stay open late, but beware; the winter months have earrrly closing hours. (Picture attached of the Harbor. Nautical Bean is a little more to the right, off of the picture).

                                                    His Place in Escondido on Grande Ave is a great place to get the BEST CHAI LATTE you'll ever taste--I swear. It's by far better than Starbucks and the Hill Street Cafe in Oceanside. I even order it "non-fat" and somehow it still goes down creamy and oh-so-rich--amazing. The barista, Christina, calls it "Christmas In a Cup" because it tastes like Christmas. Their coffee drinks are amazing too. They also have the best bagels in town, and serve Julian Apple Pie! Sad thing--they aren't open on the weekends. Good thing--they're open until 10pm M-F. Plus, its a great Christian atmosphere. And who doesn't love Crusin' Grande between April and September?? It's where the old cars come out and go up and down Grande Ave--the PERFECT setting for a cup of coffee from His Place.

                                                    1. Though it's more of a bakery than a coffee house, Bread & Cie in Hillcrest serves good cappuccinos, and you can't beat the neighborhood ambiance and selection of baked goods!