While San Diego is famous for craft beer, top-notch food, and some of the best weather in the world, our locally roasted and carefully brewed coffee is a hidden gem that you’ll want to know about. Whether you like crazy flavors and high-tech brewing methods or something a little more traditional, we can guarantee you’ll find a cup you like at one of the hundreds of local coffee shops spread across SD. Here are our favorites.
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
With four locations in the hippest neighborhoods (Normal Heights, North Park, Golden Hill, and, most recently, La Mesa), DHCR serves your pour-overs with a side of skinny jeans, beanies, and glasses. But these hipsters (and we do mean that in the best way) are passionate about their coffee. A testament to quality, the owners have taken trips to Kenya to explore new flavor profiles to add to their menu!
James Coffee Co.
This Little Italy joint co-inhabits a huge hangar-style building right under the flight path to SAN. It shares space with a rotating collection of pop-up shops, including a leather works crafter, a bike shop, and a custom eyeglass store. With plenty of open seating and a solid WiFi connection, this industrial setting is perfect for freelancers and students looking for a place to work while people-watching.
Young Hickory nails the North Park vibe with their cheeky slogan: “Hot Coffee, Cold Beer”. And they’re keeping that promise with a menu full of local brews (both the hoppy and the happy kind) and plenty of snacks to soak it all up. We recommend heading in early to grab a spot near an outlet, where you can plug in and caffeinate all day, and then staying late to wind down with a local IPA.
Homemade. Nutella. Latte. Need we say more? Didn’t think so. But in case you’re wondering where you have to go to get one of these beauties, the answer is North Park. While there is no shortage of trendy coffee cafes there, Holsem is one of our favorites thanks to a clean aesthetic and staff of brilliant baristas.
Lofty Coffee Co.
When you think of Solana Beach, you typically think of surfer dudes (and babes) and trendy thirty-somethings drinking kale smoothies. But right in the middle of this sleepy little surf town is an indoor/outdoor coffee shop that strikes a perfect balance of hipster and homey. While their flagship location in Solana Beach is the most central, Lofty Coffee also locations in Little Italy and Encinitas.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
While you can find Bird Rock Coffee beans at many great shops in San Diego, we recommend going to the source. This Bird Rock space feels like the perfect neighborhood hangout. You’ll run into regulars who have their coffee and newspaper there every day and cyclists stopping for a pick-me-up along their ride. We recommend snagging a window seat, where you can kick back with a hot cup of their house roast and enjoy the people-watching.
If you’re one of the many NorCal transplants living in San Diego, you know all about Philz Coffee. For the rest of you, Philz specializes in Turkish-style pour-overs made from single-source coffee beans and no added flavors (say that five times fast). And while their drinks sound bougie, the vibes at Philz are as chill as it gets. Head to one of the North County locations for a taste of the good life for just a few bucks.
Pannikin Coffee & Tea
Whether you visit Pannikin in La Jolla or up in Encinitas, you’re in for a treat. Situated in adorably refurbished locations (a cottage in La Jolla and a train station—for real—in Encinitas), these unique coffee shops invite a sense of comfort and welcoming. This is only strengthened when you’re holding an oversized mug of something warm and delicious.
Moniker Coffee Co.
Liberty Station in Point Loma is full of hidden gems, restaurants, and shops. And it’s now one of the most-hip coffee spots in the city. A unique space that sells both trendy clothing and trendy coffee drinks, Moniker looks like the backdrop in your favorite food bloggers Instagram stories. Plus, their baristas pour some of the prettiest latte art you’ve ever seen.
You could practically feel North Park brightening up when this spot opened. A cool combination of killer coffee, bespoke floral arrangements, and perfectly curated workspaces, Communal Coffee has set the standard for trendy cafes. Not to mention the massive Coffee + Flowers mural out front, which is where most of the memorable Instagramming happens.
Heartwork Coffee Bar
Not to be confused with the previous entry, Heartwork Coffee Bar is located just a few miles north of Little Italy on University Ave. in Mission Hills. As soon as you walk inside, you’ll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby medical centers. Pop in for a to-go cup on the way to work or bring your favorite book for a snuggle on the couch with a warm cup of joe.
The Grounds Bean Bar
Setting themselves apart from other cafes in San Diego, The Grounds brings exciting espresso drinks, a remix on avocado toast, and an air of exoticism to the table. We strongly recommend this new joint in Crown Point for some tasty treats, cozy indoor/outdoor seating, and for the opportunity to snap a bomb Insta photo. Not much of a coffee drinker? No worries, they’ve got a new black basil lemonade on nitro that tastes as good as it’ll look on your feed.
Coava Coffee Roasters
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Coava Coffee Roasters is taking the San Diego brew community by storm. While they offer a year-round menu of espresso drinks, house-made cold brew, and snacks from local bakeries, it’s their seasonal drinks that have won the hearts of locals. Pop into their downtown location for a salted caramel almond milk latte and grab a table on the sidewalk for an afternoon of people-watching.
Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
Thanks to Instagram stardom and those crazy long drive-thru lines, Better Buzz has dominated the coffee scene in San Diego for years. But we think the hype is well-deserved thanks to curated beverages like the aptly named “Best Drink Ever” and decor that is quintessentially San Diego. If you’re looking for a laid-back spot to grab a coffee near the beach, head to their location on Mission Blvd. that has managed to maintain its hole-in-the-wall vibes despite the brand’s celebrity status.
**Updated by Emily Burke, September 2018