Feature

10 Hottest Coffee Shops in San Diego

By Darlene Horn  |  March 6, 2017
Credit: Darlene Horn

San Diego is experiencing a wave of new coffee shops, meaning it’s easier than ever to mix up your daily caffeine fix. Over the past 12 months, a San Francisco coffee empire has entered the scene, several new local roasters have emerged and already established cafes have expanded throughout the county. Here’s a look at what’s new and hot in the San Diego coffee scene, plus what drink to order and what’s good to eat with your beverage.

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  • Credit: Refill

    Refill
    This bright, modern Hillcrest coffee shop, which opened in fall 2016 on Park Boulevard, uses locally roasted Bird Rock Coffee beans for hot coffee, cold-brew on draft and espresso drinks that include a blended treat incorporating Nutella. Order your drink "for here" and you’ll find it served in earthenware mugs that are also available for purchase.
    Must-order: The Nutella-blended brew mixed with the hazelnut spread, espresso and chocolate
    On the side: The shop offers yogurt, toasts and salads, but your best bet is one of the fresh crêpes filled with sweet or savory fillings like baked eggplant, feta, tomato and basil.

    3752 Park Blvd. #104; 619-677-2242

  • Credit: Moniker Coffee Company

    Moniker Coffee Company
    Sip your craft latte in an airy industrial space near Liberty Station that's also home to lifestyle shop, Moniker General, both of which celebrate a one-year anniversary in May. Beans from Copa Vida and local roasters are used in drinks, such as flat whites, cortados, macchiatos, cappuccinos and cold brews. Seating extends into an adjoining patio.​
    Must-order: Salted caramel latte using Copa Vida beans and housemade syrup
    On the side: On the weekends, look for pastries from local spots like Downtown's Donut Bar.

    2860 Sim Rd.; 619-255-8772

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Lofty Coffee & Bakery
    Centrally based coffee fiends don’t have to travel north to Encinitas or Solana Beach for Lofty Coffee. The Little Italy shop is the fourth location for this local roaster, and like its sibling cafes, it serves signature cups of single-origin espresso, Aztec mochas and salted caramel lattes with the option to order made-from-scratch pastries baked on-site.
    Must-order: The uniquely flavored Turkish coffee infused with cardamom and raw sugar
    On the side: Go early for freshly baked macadamia and peach croissants before they sell out.

    444 West Cedar St.; 760-230-6747

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Philz Coffee
    One of the Bay Area’s most popular roasters has come to South Coast Highway in Encinitas. Since opening in February, it’s attracted java junkies for its specialty drip coffees with hints of toffee, toast, dark chocolate and butterscotch. You can also buy one of 28 varieties of beans to brew at home.
    Must-order: The Mojito Mint, made with the shop’s specialty cream and sugar mix
    On the side: The sweet treats from Nutmeg Bakery are tempting, but for something savory, try a toast topped with avocado, ricotta honey and pistachio; hummus and fresh tomato; labneh and za’atar; or almond butter and banana.

    1060 South Coast Highway; 760-230-6880

  • Credit: Cafe Madeleine

    Cafe Madeleine
    Regulars to the South Park cafe now have a reason to head to North Park. There are a lot of similarities: The new locale oozes Parisian influence with patio seating shaded by maroon umbrellas and fresh-cut flowers at every table. Drinks use Illy coffee as the base for espresso, macchiato, caffe latte breve and more.
    Must-order: The miel latte, an espresso-based drink with steamed milk and honey
    On the side: Any one of the house-baked croissants, alone or as the base for a sandwich

    2850 El Cajon Blvd.; 619-693-5733

  • Credit: Copa Vida

    Copa Vida
    Since opening its first San Diego location in 2015, this Pasadena-based roaster has expanded to four cafes across the city. Coffee-minded people looking for a fix in the Marina District will find the newest outpost on the ground floor of the First Allied Plaza building. Wi-Fi is plentiful, encouraging worker bees to bring their laptops to the modern space with warming wood interiors. Like its sister cafes, this shop offers an honor bar system for drip coffee, weekdays 7–10:30 AM. 
    Must-order: Any single-origin espresso
    On the side: Don’t pass up on the yogurt parfaits.

    655 W. Broadway

  • Credit: Communal Coffee

    Communal Coffee
    This chic cafe selling both coffee and flowers has become a fast favorite of the North Park crowd since opening in May 2016. Drinks brewed with San Francisco Sightglass Coffee include Americanos, macchiatos and cortados. And as for plants, you’ll find plenty inside and out that decorate the space and are for sale via the on-site florist.
    Must-order: The latte flight with sippable servings of plain, lavender honey and vanilla bean lattes
    On the side: Pastries make a strong showing, but for something filling, try the bacon quiche.

    2335 University Ave.; 619-363-7737

  • Credit: Steady State Roasting

    Steady State Roasting
    Move along if you’re looking for squirts of chocolate or caramel in your coffee. This small-batch roaster, which opened late last year in Carlsbad, has drawn acclaim for its unfussy pour-overs, espresso, lattes and cold brews. Single-source blends are gathered from places like Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ethiopia. The shop is closed on Tuesdays.
    Must-order: Any of the current coffee offerings, like the Space Traveler blend, with notes of stone fruit and chocolate
    On the side: Food is limited to cheddar cheese biscuits and berry scones.

    2680 State St., Carlsbad; 760-908-1680

  • Credit: Duet Coffee

    Duet Coffee
    Students flock to this College Area coffee shop, and for good reason. Beans come from specialty roasters like Sacramento’s Temple Coffee and LA’s Bar Nine, and options include memorable pour-overs and espresso-based drinks that sometimes get accented with cute coffee art.
    Must-order: Pour-over
    On the side: Fresh waffles topped with Nutella and delicate macarons are both worth the calories.

    6525 El Cajon Blvd.; 619-230-5787

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    WestBean Cafe
    This cafe from a local roaster hasn’t slowed down since its opening at Liberty Public Market in March 2016. As it's the only specialty coffee purveyor in the market, there is often a line of people waiting for cups of vanilla lattes, cold brews and other caffeinated beverages.
    Must-order: The refreshing Kryponite — a cold brew infused with mint and sweetened with brown sugar
    On the side: Nosh is limited and ranges from fresh fruit to snack bars.

    2820 Historic Decatur Rd.