10 Perfect Cups of Coffee in San Diego

By Darlene Horn  |  February 24, 2014

Since we know you can’t survive without your daily caffeine fix, we're kicking off #CoffeeWeek with the 10 Perfect Cups of Coffee in San Diego to drink right now. From amazing standard drips to iced Vietnamese coffee, check out our picks, plus where to get them and what to eat with them. And stay tuned for lots of caffeine-related coverage: we'll hit the best coffee-inspired dessert, the weirdest coffee beverages and more as #CoffeeWeek continues to percolate for the next four days. 

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    The Drink: French press from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
    The Price: $2
    Why It’s Amazing: This strong cup of well-balanced coffee is brewed in small batches and reasonably priced to boot.  
    Perfect Pairing: The pastries from Papa G's - like coffee cake, chocolate chip muffins or cran-orange scones - are vegan, but they're delectable regardless of your dietary restrictions.
    Know Before You Go: They only serve straight-up coffee. So look elsewhere for a latte. 

    3260 Adams Ave.; 619-344-6962

  • The Drink: White chocolate mocha at Café Bassam
    Price: $4.50
    Why It’s Amazing: For a place that specializes in a wide variety of teas, all the coffees are intensely flavored and pristinely decorated. The sweet and velvety smooth white chocolate mocha fits best as an after-dinner drink but would work any time of the day when something decadent and uplifting is in order.
    Perfect Pairing: The baklava goes better with the teas so pass unless you desperately need a snack. Other pastries are not worth the splurge.
    Know Before You Go: The antique-shop-meets-cafe environment is just as good for book reading as it is for hushed conversations. WiFi can be jarringly inconsistent.

    3088 5th Ave.; 619-557-0173

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    The Drink: Cappuccino at Zumbar Coffee & Tea
    The Price: $3.25
    Why It’s Amazing: A strong brew, perfectly balanced with creamy froth, this cappuccino pleases both newbies and full-fledged caffeine snobs.
    Perfect Pairing: The array of Solana Beach's V.G. Bakery donuts runs out daily, so arrive early for the best selection.
    Know Before You Go: This shop is located in a hard-to-get-to part of town, but it's well worth the drive if you work or live in the Sorrento Valley area. 

    10920 Roselle St.; 858-622-0000

  • Credit: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

    The Drink: Monkey Bite espresso shot from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
    The Price: $1.85 shot
    Why It’s Amazing: Local and national awards abound for this cozy shop. Most recently, Coffee Review named it among the top 30 coffees in the U.S. of 2013. The espresso is no-frills, but undertones of dates and blackberries make it memorable.
    Perfect Pairing: Pastries can be hit-or-miss. Instead, relax and enjoy the view from the beachfront shop.
    Know Before You Go: There's a dog-friendly patio outside.

    5627 La Jolla Blvd., 858-551-1707

  • Credit: Caffe Calabria

    The Drink: Caffe latte at Caffe Calabria
    The Price: $2.95
    Why It’s Amazing: Every cup is carefully crafted from freshly ground beans roasted on the premises. 
    Perfect Pairing: If you’re in for a late lunch, order one of their freshly made pizzas baked right before your eyes.
    Know Before You Go: Parking in the neighborhood is at a premium. Go during off-peak hours for the best shot. 

    3933 30th St.; 619-291-1759

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    The Drink: Iced mocha from Café Virtuoso
    The Price: $4
    Why It’s Amazing: It seems like an unlikely contender for an immediate buzz, but the mix of chocolate and coffee is a guaranteed afternoon pick-me-up. Think chocolate milk for adults that jump-starts your brain.
    Perfect Pairing: The subtle sweetness of the beverage doesn’t necessitate an afternoon snack. Save your calories for a larger size.
    Know Before You Go: Indoor seating area is limited and the neighborhood can be a bit sketchy at times. Best to grab-and-go.

    1616 National Ave.; 619-550-1830

  • The Drink: Iced Vietnamese coffee from Broke Girl’s Coffee Bar
    Price: $4.50
    Why It’s Amazing: The owners are as passionate about coffee as they are music. Strongly brewed coffee is perfect on its own, but when sweetened with a shot of condensed milk, it's an early morning treat.
    Perfect Pairing: All pastries are made on the premises. For breakfast, order one of their housemade quiches with bacon. Although they look petite in the display case, one slice will fill you up for hours.
    Know Before You Go: There's lots to look at once inside. The interior and name play homage to the legendary NYC music venue CBGB. Punk rock posters adorn every free space, and an easygoing attitude set the tone for this relatively new coffee shop.

    3562 Adams Ave., 619-546-8302

  • The Drink: Cold extracted at Café Moto
    Price: $3.50
    Why It’s Amazing: A slow brew sans heat creates an ultrasmooth coffee-drinking experience that's so intense that ice dilutes the caffeine into manageable amounts.
    Perfect Pairing: Pass on the pastries and instead order your coffees “sweetie” style, meaning with cream and sugar.
    Know Before You Go: The cafe closes at 5 PM and is not open on Sundays. Call ahead for coffee tastings.

    2619 National Ave.; 619-239-6686

  • The Drink: Pour-over at Coffee & Tea Collective
    Price: $3.
    Why It’s Amazing: The pour-over coffee menu is limited, but what they do serve is done amazingly well. 
    Perfect Pairing: Order the raised and sweetened liege waffles, and ask to have them warmed up. 
    Know Before You Go: An ultraminimalist decor makes it hard to be comfortable and intimate conversations can be a challenge, but it's great for people-watching.

    2911 El Cajon Blvd.; 619-564-8066

  • The Drink: “The Best Drink Ever” at Better Buzz Coffee - The Lab
    Price: $3.50
    Why It’s Amazing: They combine just three ingredients - espresso, water and vanilla powder - for a perfectly sweet vanilla-infused energy shot that goes down smooth.
    Perfect Pairing: Marble cake is available fresh every morning.
    Know Before You Go: One part mad-scientist lair and two parts coffeehouse. A display case full of glass vials and bottles for their Kyoto Cold Brew makes this the honorary "lab" location, unlike the four other Better Buzz outposts. Street parking is extremely competitive since the venue’s steps away from the beach.

    3745 Mission Blvd.; 858-488-0400