San Diego may be synonymous with board shorts, beaches, and a perpetually warm climate, but this city has a serious coffee situation going on. From pour-overs to cold brews, here are 5 new (or newish) cafes worth checking out:
When you move to San Diego, you’re fortunate to get a lot of visitors. And when it snows like it’s the End of Days in Boston, I get to have one of my best friends leave the Tundra for a little San Diego getaway.
Considering her Vortex-plagued past few weeks, my mission was to provide my best pal, Shilpa, with outdoorsy, signature SoCal fun. So we hiked Torrey Pines, had smoothies at an aerial yoga studio-meets-organic cafe, hit the beach, got blowouts (for a dose of extra-girly entertainment), and ate tacos at Puesto. The Hyatt Regency La Jolla also generously offered me a stay in one of their newly renovated rooms. It was the ideal way to feel like we were getting away without going far. (It also gave her a break from sleeping on our couch!)
All that to say, I’m feeling extra relaxed and rejuvenated at the end of this weekend. Ah, staycations. They’re a beautiful thing.
Here’s a peek at our weekend itinerary:
Bankers Hill was one of the first neighborhoods I explored when I first moved to San Diego, and in my latest piece for San Diego Magazine, I share my picks—mostly of the food and drink variety—around the petite nabe. There are fancy pastries, rooftop fine dining, and a new indoor farmers market—and if you want to walk off that burger at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant or the pasta at Cucina Urbana, make sure to find the Spruce Street suspension bridge (above), a historic (and wobbly) bridge that’s tucked inside a residential area. It’s one of my favorite spots in the whole city.
You can read the whole guide over at San Diego Magazine.
Photo by Corey Jenkins
As far as healthy lunch and snack takeout options, San Diego’s downtown was sorely lacking. Actually, the options seemed downright abysmal. In the few months I worked at San Diego Magazine last spring (filling in for an editor on maternity leave), I was always at a loss for those times I didn’t pack a lunch. Do I try the overpriced salads or bear with something heavy like Pad Thai? There weren’t any sandwich places that checked the healthy and tasty boxes, and Jimbo’s seemed like too far of a walk. What’s a hungry worker bee to do?
Thankfully a few months ago the East Village welcomed Sol Cal Cafe, a vegan market and cafe with an in-house naturopathic doctor. (You know you live in Southern California when…this combo doesn’t faze you at all.) The brainchild of an integrative nutritionist and a former NFL player, the cafe serves juices, smoothies, acai bowls, blended coffee drinks, food, and cookies. Yes, the prices can seem steep—$9 smoothies and $11 salads—but keep in mind the quality of ingredients. Everything on the menu is concocted in-house and made with organic, local, GMO-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and unrefined ingredients.
I loved the lettuce tacos for a light meal, the kale salad is quite sizable, and more than a few of my friends recommend the quinoa chili. And I’ll be back to the glossy case of macarons, almond cookies, and raspberry crumble bars. Check it out:
When you think San Diego, there’s a good chance that the upscale beach community of La Jolla is what comes to mind. A cobalt coastline, impressive bluffs, well-manicured green space, chi-chi boutiques, and real estate porn as far as the eye can see—this is La Jolla on the surface. There’s also a longstanding seafood hole-in-the-wall, a contemporary art museum, my favorite French toast of all time, and a series of murals dotted throughout La Jolla Village.
For all my picks, check out my Neighborhood Guide in the latest issue of San Diego Magazine.
Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann
San Diego’s East Village is where all the magic is happening. It’s where cool food ventures and innovative public projects meet, and it’s where I go if I want a dose of real city living. And the restaurants by CH Projects, the team behind Polite Provisions, Underbelly and many other uber-cool venues, is where I go when I want a dose of city eating.
This June CH opened the stylish East Village deli, Rare Form, followed by Fairweather, a rooftop bar with a penchant for tropical drinks two months later. The former is a dim, library-like space with banker’s lamps, Baroque-style paintings and religious undertones; my mind is still processing how or why those elements go together. That said, the sandwiches are well-made—the namesake Rare Form sandwich is a gigantic pastrami-filled ode to New York—and the fries are dynamite. They also make fresh lemonade, and though I can tell the ingredients are natural, it was neither here nor there. Out of everything we chowed down, the soft pretzel and dipping sauces were tops.
I liked Rare Form, sure. But I love Fairweather. I love the blue and white tiles on the front bar, the view atop Petco Park, the cozy banquettes, the Shazam-worthy salsa playlist, the intimate atmosphere and the bartenders, who hand you a menu and then throw in that they can actually make anything you want. Local cocktail king Anthony Schmidt gave Eaman a tropical play on a negroni, and for me, the best mocktail I’ve ever had. It was mixed with their house-made passionfruit syrup, and when I asked him about the recipe, it was refreshing to hear how much thought he put into a non-alcoholic drink. Let me tell you, that’s a rare thing.
Here’s a closer look at the deli-bar combo:
San Diego’s coffee game has stepped up big time recently, and though I moved here only two-ish years ago, friends who’ve lived in San Diego their whole lives have noticed a change, too. The major players include Coffee & Tea Collective, Cafe Moto and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, but there’s one hole-in-the-wall cafe worth adding to the list.
Meet Industrial Grind Coffee, a small-batch artisan roaster on Park Boulevard in Hillcrest. Owned by partners in work and life (and retired members of the Navy) Kathy and Barb, the cafe has an open-air layout with a front patio, cool back patio that’s designed with sauna-style wooden benches in stadium seating and fun details like benches decorated by each barista. Though that particular address on Park has operated as a coffee shop for about a decade, it wasn’t until four years ago when Kathy and Barb found it on Craigslist and—inspired by L.A.’s Intelligentsia—transformed it into its current form.
Since it’s just a 5-minute walk from my apartment, you’ll often find me there with Teddy (it’s a very dog-friendly cafe) and a cup of the Bettie blend, my favorite brew in the whole city. (I love that they offer an 8 oz. cup for just $1!) Customers also love their huge selection of gluten-free breads, but that’s not the only reason we all keep coming back. Industrial Grind feels like a home or someone’s backyard, and the staff is made up of some of the friendliest people in the city.
Take a look:
South Park is hands-down my favorite area of San Diego not just because it has a sense of community where everyone knows each other and a great dog park and almost all small businesses, but also because it has one of everything I need. There’s my pizza place (Buona Forchetta), my coffee shop (Cafe Madeleine), my work coffee shop (Rebecca’s), my ice cream spot (Daily Scoop), a home decor/gift shop (Progress) and a handful of other useful, fun shops. But it now also has something I didn’t realize I needed: a quaint, date-night-ready restaurant.
Piacere Mio recently transformed from a casual gelateria and coffee shop to an intimate, romantically lit Italian trattoria. There are meat dishes and a smattering of typical appetizers, like bruschetta, beef carpaccio and sauteed mussels, but the highlight is the homemade pasta. Servings are seriously huge—enough to serve 3-4—and well priced at $12-15, and I love the mix-and-match option, where you can choose a sauce and pasta style to go with it. Considering how rich and carb-heavy pasta can be, though, if you’re a party of two, I’d suggest ordering one pasta dish (the pesto sauce is phenomenal) and one vegetable or meat.
But it’s delightful even beyond mamma-mia-good pasta. The setting is charming—check out the beautiful pendant lamps and snug bar space—and feels like the kind of place Eaman and I would go to for weeknight dinners during the cold New York City winters. It’s warm, cozy and very fitting as San Diego starts to turn towards “fall.” Check it out: