In the several years I’ve spent living in San Diego, finding a quality spot to enjoy a reassuring cup of hot, creamy, properly caffeinated goodness has never been easy.
Every once in a while, I’d stumble across a hidden gem here and there, yet these encounters were always brief and – most frustratingly – generally unplanned. My decision to join Yelp a little while back was a major step in the right direction, but even this didn’t solve the problem completely.
So on a rainy autumn day not long ago I set out to sample some of San Diego’s top coffee shops and will now attempt to share my impressions with you below.
Perhaps most accurately described as a momentary trip to another country, the experience of visiting Pappalecco will have you not only returning here for drinks and gelato, but also rushing to book airline tickets for your Italian vacation! More from my Yelp review:
One word: bravissimo! I work just a few blocks away, so I often come to Pappalecco for coffee or tea or to savor an afternoon snack from the rich assortment of fresh Italian delicacies this place offers. The people who work here are super friendly and amazingly dedicated. They all speak Italian, so if you drop by often like me you’ll probably end up learning a few words too!
The gelato is made fresh daily and tastes way better than the alternatives you might find at other gelatterias in the area. Coffee is likewise top-notch and light years beyond Starbucks. Try it iced with half-and-half on a hot summer day and you’ll know what I mean.
If you’re looking for the authentic Italian coffee shop and gelato experience in San Diego, look no further. Free wi-fi makes this the perfect classy hangout spot to bring friends or spend an hour by yourself blogging or just watching the clouds go by. Location in the heart of Little Italy is also a plus.
Tabac Specialty Coffee & Cigars
Do you smoke? No? How about hookah? But really, one does not need to smoke to appreciate the quality coffee and excellent service this place has to offer. Here they also serve gelato and sell delicious sweets. More from my Yelp review:
With fresh gelato, hookah and hand-rolled cigars, Tabac is much more than a quality coffee shop – it is a refined cultural experience like no other. European and Middle Eastern overtones are reflected in the interior decor, furniture and the chill, loungey ambiance.
Coffee here is nothing short of amazing – some of the finest I’ve had in my life, in fact – with the White Mocha being my current favorite. The late hours (Tabac is open until roughly midnight on weekdays and past 1am on weekends!) and free Wi-Fi are even more reasons to visit.
An excellent, classy break spot to pause and unwind in the course of a busy day, enjoy a good book or just watch the clouds go by, this is a great place to stop by at any time, be it for an afternoon cup of coffee or a late night post-clubbing hookah visit with friends.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea La Jolla
The only coffee chain that deserves a mention, Peet’s is not a place you’ll find on every street corner and their La Jolla location specifically delivers outstanding quality and experience at bargain prices. More from my Yelp review:
Having been a loyal customer for over two years now, I can tell you that if a God of Coffee existed, his name would no doubt have to be Alfred Peet. The caffeinated pleasures one can experience at Peet’s Coffee and Tea easily surpass the offerings of competing chains like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, and this is especially true of the excellent, newly remodeled La Jolla location.
The first Peet’s opened its doors in 1966 and they still keep things old school when it comes to making coffee: a café au lait is crafted with the same care and dedication to quality as a four-person order of large white chocolate mochas. Even something as simple as a medium latte never ceases to impress with its rich full-bodied flavor and foamy crema finish on top. I stay away from Spenda and the like, so to sweeten my day I’ll occasionally ask them to add vanilla instead or just treat myself to a matcha green tea freddo for a change.
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of good coffee, you probably know how difficult it can be to find a quality coffee shop here in San Diego. While mediocre product abounds, one has to search far and wide to find a truly worthwhile coffee drinking experience. And now that you’ve found one – go check it out!
Brick & Bell Cafe
A coffee shop with international flair, Brick & Bell was a favorite coffee break spot of mine for quite a while when I worked in La Jolla Cove. Their convenient location, pastries made fresh daily and variety of lunch options make this place a great spot to relax and unwind half way through a busy day. More from my Yelp review:
Be it a 10 minute coffee break, a lunch outing with coworkers, or a Saturday morning brunch with a friend, Brick & Bell has something to offer for each of these occasions.
The ambiance here is classy, laid back and exuberantly international, with friendly multilingual staff and small flags from around the world decorating the interior of the shop. The outer courtyard has that cozy, distinctly old school, romantic flair that can actually make your beautiful day in good company even better.
Coffee and sandwiches are excellent – and, of course, priced accordingly. The pastries – like muffins, scones and croissants – are made fresh daily at 5am in the morning. Also, their new Traveler Plus lids ooze with hi-tech sophistication and simply rock.
As always, this is by no means an exhaustive list and it will be revised as new coffee shops turn up and I have time to give them a try. Any suggestions on where to go next?