San Diego's Best Coffee Shops
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Life as a Digital Nomad has its perks...coffee perks!
By Siri Kay Jostad
When I woke up to the amount of time I spend in San Diego coffee shops,I knew I needed to share what I have learned. Not all coffee houses are created equal.
When it is your place of work, then you consider things such as:
Does it have plugs for my laptop?
Does it have more than coffee--food--in case I'm there a long time and get hungry?
Is it noisy?
How's the music?
Is there parking?
I'm here to help.
This is going to be extensive. There are so many great coffee shops in San Diego, so I keep an ongoing list in the Notes on my iPhone for those times my friends say...where should we meet?
I intend to update this blog as places close and new ones open. Please let me know if you notice anything good to include. I want this to be a very useful reference.
One of my very favorites. Though above I'm eating Green Soup, it's not my fave--a little too green. I do, however, LOVE the Green Eggs (scramble with kale, asparagus, green beans, avocado served with toast spread with labne). TBH I like most of their menu, and I think this is because, unlike most coffee shops, they actually have a pastry chef. The daily offerings are out of this world! Scones with raspberries and chocolate, matcha pecan scone, bran muffin that is moist and not cardboard, snickerdoodle cookies, I could go on and on. It's a vast selection and everything is good. If you need something more substantial and savory, the menu is great, including tortilla soup, Hibiscus cups, lots of bowls, lots of salads and the requisite avocado toasts. I prefer the beet-cured salmon toast myself. As for drinks, the unique menu is also extensive. Don't miss the Immortality Latte or the Magic Mushroom Mocha. My regular is the Mushroom Cacao Chai Latte.
Locations (3): Little Italy, La Jolla, Del Mar (La Jolla is teensy. Little Italy is five times the size. All have outdoor tables as well as indoors)
Parking: I haven't been to the Del Mar location yet, but parking in both Little Italy and La Jolla can be challenging to find.
Notes: Plugs available so you can sit for hours and work. The music in Little Italy is often too loud for conversation. Staff is really nice and don't mind if you ask them to lower the volume.
You see a lot more pics of 'Buzz,' bc I spend a lot of time in their various locations. My favorite aesthetically is their Company Headquarters in Hillcrest. Bee themed decor, interesting drinks like Iced Morrocan Spice, Lavender Black Tea Latte, Rose Water Latte, Turmeric Latte, Orange Infused Matcha (alternate milks) and a food menu that includes smoothies and multiple toasts like Almond Butter & Jam, Feta Avocado, Lemon Ricotta with Pistachio and Honey, as well as a great breakfast sandwich and grilled cheese (above) and really so much more. The basics plus some with gourmet touches.
Locations (9): 2 in Pacific Beach, Hillcrest, Point Loma, Encinitas, Mission Beach, Fashion Valley Mall, San Marcos. (Pacific Beach has one location with a drive-through.) They have a new spot opening in La Jolla.
Parking: Point Loma always has a line down the street for their drive-through and parking is where you can find it in the residential area. You will likely be walking blocks. Same for Pacific Beach and Hillcrest. Encinitas you can usually find something within a block or two. The Mall cafe comes with mall parking aplenty, but then you walk in to order from a take out window that has no seating. Always a line at the mall, but moves quickly.
Notes: Plugs are at a premium at all locations. Strategically they probably don't want digital nomads 'camping'. Their largest location in Hillcrest has literally a single plug upstairs near a small table and then a plug on the outdoor patio. Point Loma doesn't have any plugs.
Communal Coffee is very loved in San Diego, and have been successful enough to recently open a second location in South Park. I think their popularity comes from the sense of community this 'coffee shop' fosters. The location is a broader collaboration that includes a flower shop, a gift shop and a plant shop. There is a spot indoors and outdoors specially curated for kids to play (though honestly i have never seen kids there). The cute converted old building has the character of multiple, different shaped rooms. Recently they converted a behind-the-scenes barn door to a room with couches and a fireplace! Previous favorite spot was the rattan hanging chair next to a couch and coffee table in the window. It is all most definitely Instagram worthy. They hold periodic events as well as provide space rental for your own creation.
I'm a big fan of the gluten free/baked/vegan donuts they sell in flavors like lavender and matcha. The rest of the menu is equally wonderful with a flower latte flight (rose, lavender and vanilla), kombucha, matcha lemonade, seasonal drinks, the requisite avocado toasts and lots of good pastries. Alternate milks available.
Locations (2): North Park is their original spot and now also in South Park.
Parking: There are 4 spots in a lot right in front. Residential parking is catch as catch can. I've never had to walk more than three blocks.
Notes: Plugs are ubiquitous and never a problem.
Moniker shares space with a chic mercantile shop that sells home goods, eyewear, furniture, gifts. They also have a full on cocktail bar for when coffee isn't enough 😉. All the normal good coffee drinks and alternate milks along with cold beverages. They offer a nice menu of simple savory bites that includes toasts, salads, sandwiches, all of which are yummy. Outdoor seating is either on a grassy area with picnic tables and adirondack chairs under trees, or an enclosed patio. Lots of long tables for work meetings or social gatherings.
Locations (1): Point Loma in Liberty Station
Parking: Liberty Station is massive, so there is a ton of free parking in lots that surround the shops.
Notes: Plenty of plugs. Not hard to get a table.
The menu is small, but sometimes I like having fewer choices. In this case, it means they do each item extremely well. The matcha is ceremonial grade and crazy good. Alternate milks available. They serve my same favorite gluten-free/vegan/baked donuts that taste like moist cake that Communal Coffee does. I've asked: they both get them from the Coronado Baking Company. Snacks are few but they do serve a gluten-free, dairy-free matcha soft serve which is super fun! If you want good IG pics...go here.
Locations (2): North Park and East Village (near Padre Stadium)
Parking: Street parking. I usually have good luck parking close for the North Park location. For the East Village location, you had better hope you're walking. Seriously, parking sucks. Be sure you don't try going on a day there is a Padre game!
Notes: There are plugs, but this isn't really a good place to work--even though I've had several work meetings here. The tables are small and round, more like cafe size, so there is no real room for open laptops. The East Village location is super tiny.
West Bean does good lunch food when you're working long. A comfortable, clean, modern place to settle in and have a turkey pesto sandwich or their daily soups. Sort of hard to locate because the Bankers Hill location is in the bottom of a tall office building (Mr. A's is on the top) so the address is Fifth Ave, but it's really at the corner of Laurel and Fourth.
Locations (4): Bankers Hill, downtown, Liberty Public Market and Bay Ho.
Parking: Street parking. Lots of nearby metered parking spots plus free parking if you're willing to walk 2-3 blocks. For long stays working, it's nice not to have to go fill the meter every 2 hours!
Notes: Plugs galore along the window facing bar. In Bankers Hill only 3 tables with plug access: 2 high tables and one large table. People tend to share the tables and are generous with letting you plug in when you are sitting further away.
This is a little treasure in a lesser-known 'hood. The coffee and chai are really good. Their coffee roaster is named 'Siri,' so I kinda have to have an allegiance 😁 This is a teensy place with just over a handful of tables inside and another handful outside. Cute and Cozy. Alternate milks avail.
Locations (1): Normal Heights
Parking: Metered street parking
Notes: Plugs for every table
I go to James for the pretty mugs from Bali...I'm a sucker for pottery for some odd reason. I don't go to James often because I can't work long there. Bankers Hill offers solely outside tables and not many. They are not particularly comfortable, and tend to be wobbly. James is now adjacent to the new Extraordinary Desserts location.
Locations (2): Little Italy, Bankers Hill
Parking: Metered street parking. Little Italy parking is a bit harder to find.
Notes: Forget about plugs.
I discovered this gem of a place when I lived in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla. Started as a local joint for families and surfers. For a number of years, Bird Rock coffee was my very favorite coffee in all of San Diego for flavor and smoothness as well as the ethics behind their sourcing. The coffee is worth driving in for it. I stop whenever I'm near. Alternate milks avail.
Locations (6): La Jolla (Bird Rock), Bressi Ranch, Little Italy, Torrey Pines, Morena, Pacific Beach
Parking: varies by location
Notes: The Bird Rock location isn't a place for working. Better for sitting on the ledge of the roll up firehouse doors. Little Italy has ample plugs. I haven't tried the other locations.
My friend Katie asked me to take her to Wayfarer for a birthday coffee, and in the process I discovered a small neighborhood bakery with the THE most amazing pastries! The whole vibe of this beach-town place is bohemian. A rickety, quaint outdoor wooden deck to sit and eat if you stay. The bread is incredible (They supply many, many San Deigo restaurants and coffee shops). Alternate milks avail.
Locations (1): La Jolla (Bird Rock)
Parking: Free on the street. Fairly easy to find within a block.
Notes: No plugs. Not a work-y place
I love 'the Lofty'. They use the same coffee roaster (as West Bean) named 'Siri'. That's not the only reason I love Lofty. Just something wonderful about them and their homemade coconut and almond milk. I love their Aztec Mocha because it is super spicy. Flakey, buttery croissants. The savory menu is so delish. I recommend the superfood salad that includes watermelon radishes and a light lemony dressing. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Locations (4): Encinitas, Roasting Works (Encinitas), Solana Beach, Little Italy
Parking: Little Italy parking is metered on the street and sometimes difficult. Roasting Works in Encinitas is located across the street and up a little hill from the other Encinitas location and has a small lot for about 15 cars. It's perfect. You can also find free neighborhood parking. I haven't been to the Solana Beach location yet.
Notes: No plugs. Work until your laptop dies. Decor is clean and modern and as hip as they come.
This place has hands-down the BEST avocado toast I've ever eaten...and I've eaten a LOT of avocado toast! It has pickled onion, herbs and sunflower seeds. Because it is the casual side of the much fancier sister, Herb & Wood, they serve a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is inventive and out-of-this-world delicious (Beet and Humbolt Fog Quinoa...Brioche French Toast...Thai Croissant with spicy Thai sausage, egg, Gruyere, aioli and arugula...just to whet your appetite.) Herb & Eatery is a couchy/loungy kind of place although there are work tables and I've seen people with laptops working. I'll be honest and say the staff we encountered had attitude, but the food might make it worth gettitng over.
Locations (1): Downtown San Diego
Parking: It's downtown. Street parking is difficult to find.
Notes: I'm not sure about plugs, but lots and lots of places to sit.
Kettle and Stone
No website for this small little charmer in a ritzy part of town. Only a couple tables inside and a couple more outside under the sidewalk trees. Honestly, the chai and coffee aren't the best--I recommend the tea selection, but it is a nice homey place, sharing space with a cute store and good for meeting friends for convo. I particularly value the quiet of this place.
Locations (1): Mission Hills, 1619 W. Lewis St. (619) 326-8505
Parking: Easy, free, neighborhood parking on the street
Notes: No plugs
A French bistro in the middle of San Diego! So, so cute. The French food is authentic. They also serve a nice menu of smoothies, salads, sandwiches and more. Some nice fancy drinks like Lavender Lattes. Their coffee and chai are not my favorite, but I adore working from the big round table that takes up one front bay window, full of light and a sense of privacy. Plenty of space to spread out. Plenty of good food to keep you nourished through long work days.
Locations (2): South Park, North Park
Parking: Easy, free, neighborhood parking on the street at both locations.
Notes: One plug on each side of the restaurant in easy reach if you have a long cord
Ah-mazing espresso (they roast it right there and sell to other shops too). I love the privacy of the 3 wooden booths in the back. There are bar tables up front and more outside on the sidewalk platform. Good Italian sandwiches, pastries, and pizza. Plus you can get really good tea by the pot too.
Locations (1): North Park
Parking: Moderately-easy, free, neighborhood parking on the street
Notes: No plugs to speak of. Come charged
Me and my team met Seven Seas Roasters at the local Little Italy Farmer's Market. They were so friendly and so excited for their store location to open that we went right away. It's cute. The front window rolls up to reveal a nice wooden counter with stools on each side of it so you can sit with your companion one on the inside, one on the outside. Overall it's not a big place...probably 6 tables inside. Staff in the store is equally friendly. Not a lot of food selection, just some really amazing pastries. On the coffee side of things they have this delicious moroccan spice blend coffee. Only downside is they do not have decaf yet. They roast their own, so I guess they're perfecting it. Alternate milks.
Locations (1): North Park
Parking: Moderately-easy, free, neighborhood parking on the street
Notes: Plugs in reach of every table.
Frost Me Little Italy and Seaport Village
Small and nice. Seating inside and out. The outside is on the patio of the Little Italy Piazza de la Famiglia, and there is a basket of lap blankets for your use if it gets cold. Both coffee and food at Frost Me are phenomenal, including a gluten-free quiche, bread pudding, gourmet sweets, bagels and more. Alternate milks available. Clean modern decor.
Black Market Bakery Normal Heights
This place has the cutest enclosed outdoor patio with lots of seating and a play area for kids. Interior seating too. Lots of food, both savory and sweet. They have a spectacular pastry case. Coffee drinks are straight-forward-nothing fancy. All really good. Plus (bonus!) a parking lot!
Influx Cafe Golden Hill, Little Italy, North Park
Seating in and out except in Golden Hill. Some inconvenient plugs. Modern decor and alternate milks, but not my favorite coffee. Good selection of tasty food. Parking on the street.
Coffee Hub Point Loma
Bike oriented in culture and decor. Small, cute. Extensive menu. Parking lot, as it is part of a strip mall. I don't remember about the plugs. It's not totally my favorite place, and I can't say exactly why.
Cafe Bassam Bankers Hill (3088 Fifth Avenue)
This place is quirky and a little dark. Decorated with a wild array of antiques up the walls. A vast selection of teas in canisters from which to choose. (no website)
OB Beans Coffee Roasters Ocean Beach
The cafe matches the surf vibe of OB--it's a little run down, Latin American fabrics, lots of wood, a map on the floor. Not a lot of options in OB, so this is a good one. Alternate milks. Light on the food--just pastries, so don't go if you're hungry. Some outdoor patio seating.
Holsem Coffee North Park
Ultra modern, cool, bright white decor. Excellent drink offerings. A little bit of outdoor sidewalk seating. Parking is tough in the area.
Coffee & Tea Collective North Park, East Village
Similarly sized and decor, I often get this place confused with Holsem Coffee nearby. It's good. Street parking. They just opened the East Village locale, so I haven't been yet.
Genteel Coffee East Village
Industrial warehouse environment, sparsely furnished (I think bc a church rents the space on weekends, so all the tables, chairs and plants are movable). Quality drinks including some cool charcoal offerings. Alternate milks. Not a totally comfy place to just chill. It's hard to find tucked off street a bit. Street parking.
Revolution Roasters Oceanside
This place is goooooood. They even serve affogato (espresso poured over ice cream). Coffee is quality. Delish and interesting food offerings. I didn't like the gluten free bread under the avo toast. Alternate milks. Indoor and outdoor seating. Plenty of plugs. This is a great hang-out place.
Coffee Coffee Encinitas (970 N. Hwy 101)
A nice casual outdoor patio. Dark interior. I didn't like the coffee drink I got nor the muffin.
Extraordinary Desserts Bankers Hill, Little Italy
Spectacular food (yes, desserts and also other savory offerings) and drinks in 2 beautiful, contemporary locations. Paninis, Salad, Gourmet cheeses. You feel special when you visit.
Ultreya Coffee College Area (4653 College Ave)
I spent an entire day working here once. And thus I spent a fortune on food and drink. I felt the prices were a bit high. It's in a strip mall, so lots of parking and an island clad in plastic grass and a pink flamingo outside the front door. Plenty of plug action. Food is inventive (I had a charcoal creation) and alternate milks are avail. No decor to speak of.
Living Room Coffeehouse La Jolla, College Area
Both in converted old home type buildings, so the digs are a little dark inside. Plenty of seating. Extensive food menu that is good. None of it is something to write home about. La Jolla parking is crazy. College area parking is residential.
Refill Cafe Hillcrest/University Heights
Super cute angled wood tables with turquoise chairs in a modern, glassy indoor/outdoor space. Their chai tea latte is one of the best. The menu is full of yummy crepes. Handmade ceramic mugs are earthy and fun to handle. Some plugs. Residential parking not hard to find.
Nectarine Grove Encinitas
I go here more for the restaurant food, which is top of my list but they have a dedicated drink bar on one side worth mentioning: Golden Milk, London Fog, Butter Latte, Spicy Mocha...you get the picture. Not really a work place. Small parking lot in front. I always find parking.
As usual, I have been long-winded. Hopefully you can use these listings like a reference. May they serve you good coffee when you go! And more importantly, may you have good company while there. 💗