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San Diego's Up-and-Coming Coffee Scene

San Diego's Up-and-Coming Coffee Scene

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A look at the coolest roasters and shops in San Diego

While it may not be San Francisco or Los Angeles (just yet), the San Diego, Calif., coffee scene is here to stay.

A new article from UT San Diego features the area's best roasters and coffee shops; many agree that much like the craft beer love that's swept the city, so has third-wave coffee. Said Michael Helms, an apprentice roaster at Caffe Calabria in North Park to UT San Diego, “The reason there is room for so many brewers here is because everyone can put their own spin on something like an IPA. With coffee, you could have a cup of single-origin Ethiopia from every roaster in town and have a completely different experience with each one.”

Some of the cool roasters and coffee shops mentioned in the article:

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Micro Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine

Caffe Calabria, in North Park

Revolution Roasters at Cafe Ipe in Leucadia, just 18 months old

Cafe Moto in Barrio Logan; the owner is the stepson of the late Bob Sinclair, founder of San Diego’s original gourmet coffeehouse, Pannikin

Coffee & Tea Collective, named one of the hottest 21 coffee shops by Eater

Stay inside and Skrew it up

Now that we’re settling in for the long haul of self-isolation due to the threat of coronavirus, it’s time to figure out which cocktail is going to get you through.

Our friends at Skrewball Whiskey, who recently committed to donating $500,000 as part of their Skrew COVID-19 campaign, have come up with some easy cocktail recipes you can make at home to with (mostly) common ingredients.

So sit back and relax with a Skrewball cocktail that will warm your soul during these dark times.

Peanut Butter Old Fashioned

1.5 oz. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
.75 oz. Rye Whiskey
4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Luxardo Cherry

Instructions: Build together in Old Fashioned glass. Stir until properly chilled. Garnish with Luxardo cherry.

1-2 shots of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
1 cup of brewed coffee
Whipped Cream

Instructions: Brew your favorite cup of coffee. Add in a shot or two of Skrewball. Top it off with whipped cream to make it a more indulgent treat.

5.5 cups sparkling red wine
4 oz. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
12 oz. Orange soda
12 oz. Club Soda

Optional: Cinnamon sugar rims and orange wedges on glasses and for garnish.
Instructions: Put all into large punch bowl.

1.5 oz. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
3 oz. Club soda
1 Dash bitters

Optional: Garnish with a lime.
Instructions: Build all in Collins glass with ice.
Alternatives: Ginger ale Presbyterian (half soda, half Sprite or Ginger ale).

12:09 PM, Apr. 01, 2020: A previous version of this article stated that Skrewball Whiskey donated $500,000 to the United States Bartender’s Guild’s new Bartender Emergency Assistance program, however, $250,000 has been donated to USBG’s program, with an additional $100,000 donated to the California Restaurant Association and another $100,000 to C.O.R.E. (Children of Restaurant Employees) and around $50,000 in care packages around San Diego.

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Exploring San Diego: Barrio Logan

With a vibrant arts scene, diverse eating and drinking options and proximity to both downtown and Coronado, Barrio Logan offers a rich experience in San Diego’s urban culture.

San Diego Barrio Logan neighborhood is a must-see during your trip. (Source: Shutterstock)

Barrio Logan is an artistic area with strong Mexican roots so deep, the neighborhood is designated as one of 14 California Cultural Districts. To explore Barrio Logan, start off with coffee at sleek, modern Café Moto, the only brick-and-morter café of one of San Diego’s most beloved roasters.

San Diego Chicano Park home to the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world. (Photo: Ana Lydia Monaco)

Spend a few hours wandering through Chicano Park, a historic site home to the nation’s largest collection of outdoor murals depicting the past and present struggles of the Mexican and Chicano communities. Snag a spot in line (which usually stretches around the block) at Las Cuatro Milpas for a satisfying, authentic Mexican lunch. Locals and visitors find the tacos are worth the wait. Nearby, ¡Salud! also serves up top notch tacos, from vegetarian varieties with mushrooms and soyrizo to traditional carne asada and birra (shredded pork). The newly opened Ciccia Osteria, is quickly becoming a local’s favorite. The Italian restaurant provides a more upscale dining experience serving hand-crafted pasta and traditional recipes but always based on what fresh ingredients are available.

San Diego's brewery scene in Barrio Logan (Source: Adobe Stock)

Border X Brewing offers a taste of Mexican craft beers like Abuelitas made with Mexican hot chocolate, and Thorn Brewing showcases a 30-barrel brew house with plenty to try including some exciting collaborations with well-known San Diego breweries.

Any trip through Barrio Logan isn’t complete without a visit to one if it’s many artistic spaces. Pop by The Church, an art collective housing a record label and a clothing company also acts as a public venue for community events like the Barrio Art Crawl, or grab a custom-made piñata and other Mexican favors and candies at Rainbow Supplies.

Explore Barrio Logan by foot and take full advantage of the art and cultural experiences when in San Diego.

Best Coffee in San Diego

Brandon Hernández explores San Diego&rsquos world-class beer and cocktail scenes in the July/August 2012 issue, and where beer and cocktails are taken seriously, it&rsquos a good bet that coffee also gets the royal treatment. This is increasingly true of San Diego&rsquos growing coffee culture. Here&rsquos a sampling of the beach town&rsquos best bets for coffee and tea that&rsquos totally tubular.

Named the 2012 Micro Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine, this beachside coffee roaster and retail shop is leading the charge for specialty coffee in San Diego. With a direct-trade model and a commitment to quality in the cup, Bird Rock has put San Diego on the national coffee map. 5627 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla 858-551-1707

Carrying the craft coffee torch in San Diego for more than 15 years, Caffé Calabria is a pillar of the local coffee scene, with a reputation for quality that makes its North Park café one of the city&rsquos most popular. 3933 30th St. 619-291-1759

With a focus on sustainability, Virtuoso features only organic, fair-trade coffees, and it&rsquos also one of San Diego&rsquos top spots for cold-brewed iced coffee. 1616 National Ave. 619-550-1830

With local roots going back to 1968, the folks behind local this roaster promote themselves first as coffee drinkers and second as coffee sellers, with the motto, &ldquoWe drink all we can&mdashthe rest we sell.&rdquo This passion has translated to the beans and the cup, earning an ever-growing local following. 2619 National Ave. 619-239-6686

Espresso is the main event at this eye-catching Italian-style coffee bar. It&rsquos tucked into the white-tiled lobby of the historic Marston Building, a circa-1881 Italianate Victorian edifice that once served as a department store, then a bank. 427 C St. 619-696-6242

Brickyard Coffee & Tea

A local favorite for al fresco breakfasts, impeccable coffee, espresso and tea, and a laidback, dog-friendly attitude, this café is a great place to sit and watch the trolley go by. 675 W. G St. 619-696-7220

25 of the Coolest Coffee Shops in San Diego

West Coast cities San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles have been long-heralded as coffee capitals, but it's high time San Diego ranked right up there with some of the best places to grab a cup of coffee in the country. The often celebrated laid-back, San Diego beach lifestyle is also one of the sweetest settings for sipping fresh cups of small batch coffee on sun-drenched patios accented by homemade pastries, healthy juices and post-surf breakfast items. What makes San Diego stand out is the abundance of small batch roasters, people willing to roll up their sleeves and work on a product for years, then present it with pride in beautifully designed yet welcoming neighborhood shops.

From gorgeously modern cafes with charcoal walls, to small, walk-up bars with perfect pour-overs, beachfront coffee trucks and family-run businesses serving rainbow lattes in colors you never dreamed coffee could come in, here is a list of 27 of the loveliest coffee shops San Diego has to offer.

Follow @kellenmcavoy on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

Kellen’s joie de vivre inspires us and we can’t get enough of her lifestyle blog, because it covers everything we love — food and restaurant reviews, fitness and travel.

Originally from San Jose, she moved to San Diego for school, almost six years ago and became enamored with the sunny weather and gorgeous beaches so stuck around after graduating. An avid exerciser, Kellen makes fitness a regular part of her day, and shares some of her workout routines on her blog. When she’s not breaking a sweat, she can be found in the kitchen, whipping up a healthy (sometimes sweet) dish, or out exploring San Diego’s many offerings.


While there are some amazing breakfast spots in San Diego, the Great Maple in North Park truly stands out among the rest. Their breakfast menu is known for its unique offerings including “Lolliwaffles” (aka waffles on sticks), Fruity Pebble Pancakes, and an assortment of Scramble Melts. The Chorizo Scramble Melt is my favorite, but their freshly baked maple bacon doughnuts are a must! And, let’s not forget about their morning libations consisting of Watermelon Lemon Presse Mimosas, the Great Maple Honey Mule, and a variety of Bloody Marys to appease anyone’s palette.

Tip: The restaurant can get a bit crowded so I suggest making a reservation or arriving early in the morning between 8AM-9AM .


If you are looking to grub on a beautifully handcrafted sub made with fresh bread, an assortment of toppings, and sauces galore, then Rubicon Deli is the place for you! Seriously, their sandwiches are no joke. They are bold not only in size but also in flavor. My personal favorite is The Spicy Tuna. It incorporates a unique twist on a traditional sandwich with its’ Habanero Mustard, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Pepperoncinis. Top it off with the Jalapeno Cheddar Bread and you’ve got yourself one spicy sub!

Tips: If you are really hungry, I highly recommend the half & half (half sandwich and soup, salad, or an acai bowl). The portions are large so I recommend ordering the half or splitting the large. Don’t fret if you don’t have the appetite though, a mini cookie comes with every sandwich

Coffee Shop/Bakery

Caffe Calabria is a quaint, Italian-style coffee shop located in North Park, and it’s the perfect way to java-jump-start your day. The line out the door every morning is a sign that this place is truly a neighborhood favorite. They roast their own beans, and every latte has a beautiful design that is definitely Instagram worthy. The Italian pastries and finger foods pair perfectly with a their silky espressos.

Tip: I highly recommend the Chocolate Biscotti with the Caffe Viennese (espresso with steamed milk, honey, and cinnamon).

Happy Hour

Watch the sun set over San Diego’s coastline while sipping on your favorite brew and snacking on a variety of handcrafted American eats at Draft. This “locals” spot is conveniently situated on the Mission Beach Boardwalk and serves over 69 brews on tap. Come on in during Happy Hour (M-F 4PM-6PM and 9PM -Close) and enjoy $4 Local Beers, $4 Wines, $5 Wells, and $3 Off Select Shares. Some of my favorite “shares” are their Mustard Dusted Pretzel Bites, the Shredded Beef Nachos (they are HUGE), and the Spinach & Artichoke Dip. To satisfy your entertainment, there are pool tables, foosball tables and dozens of big screen TVs featuring live sporting events.

Tip: If you don’t want to wait for a table, there is open seating in the bar area as well. Cheers!


Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar is best known for its seafood fare, craft cocktails and quirky nautical designs. There’s an entire wall made out of piranha heads! The cocktail menu can be a bit difficult to navigate but once you pick your poison, you won’t be disappointed. For starters, you can’t go wrong with the crab cake or anything from the raw bar.

Tips: For their dinner selection, the Lobster Roll is a MUST HAVE! It’s a decadent combination of rich, flavorful lobster situated perfectly inside a buttery toasted bun. Though the dinner menu changes, if you happen to be there on a night when brussels sprouts are on the menu, I highly suggest this as a side (they’re glazed in a sweet and tangy balsamic vinaigrette and will be devoured in an instant). This is the perfect spot for a special occasion or date night, so make a reservation!

3 killed, 27 hospitalized after boat capsizes off San Diego coast

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Three people were killed and more than two dozen others were hospitalized Sunday after a boat capsized and broke apart in rough water just off the San Diego coast during a suspected human smuggling operation, authorities said.

Lifeguards, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10 a.m. following reports of an overturned vessel in the waves near the rugged peninsula of Point Loma, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The original call was for a handful of people overboard but as rescuers arrived in boats and jet skis they quickly realized “it was going to be a bigger situation with more people,” said San Diego Lifeguard Services Lt. Rick Romero.

“There are people in the water, drowning, getting sucked out the rip current there,” he said.

Seven people were pulled from the waves, including three who drowned, said Romero. One person was rescued from a cliff and 22 others managed to make it to shore on their own, he said.

“Once we arrived on scene, the boat had basically been broken apart,” Romero said. “Conditions were pretty rough: 5 to 6 feet of surf, windy, cold.”

A total of 27 people were transported to hospitals with “a wide variety of injuries” including hypothermia, Romero said. Most of the victims were able to walk themselves to ambulances, he said.

Officials said the group was overcrowded on a 40-foot (12-meter) cabin cruiser that is larger than the typical open-top wooden panga-style boats often used by smugglers to bring people illegally into the U.S. from Mexico.

“Every indication from our perspective was this was a smuggling vessel. We haven’t confirmed their nationality,” said Jeff Stephenson, a supervising agent with U.S. Border Patrol.

Agents were at hospitals preparing to interview survivors, including the boat’s captain who Stephenson described as a “suspected smuggler.” Smugglers typically face federal charges and those being smuggled are usually deported.

Officials said smugglers sometimes use larger more conventional boats to try and blend in with regular maritime traffic.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Jose Ysea said when he arrived on scene near the Cabrillo National Monument there was a “large debris field” of splintered wood and other items in the choppy waters.

“In that area of Point Loma it’s very rocky. It’s likely the waves just kept pounding the boat, breaking it apart,” he said.

There were life preservers on board, but it wasn’t known how many or whether any passengers were wearing them, officials said.

Among the rescuers was an unnamed Navy sailor who was in the area with his family and jumped in the water to assist someone in an effort described by Romero as a “huge help.”

Officials believed everyone on board was accounted for right away, but crews in boats and aircraft continued to search the area for several hours for other possible survivors, Ysea said.

On Thursday, border officials intercepted a panga-type vessel traveling without navigation lights 11 miles (18 kilometers) off the coast of Point Loma with 21 people on board. The crew took all 15 men and six women into custody. Agents determined all were Mexican citizens with no legal status to enter the U.S., according to a statement released by Customs and Border Protection. Two of the people on the boat, the suspected smugglers, will face charges, it said.

Border Patrol on Friday said law enforcement officials would be ramping up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling off the coast of San Diego this weekend.

As warmer weather comes to San Diego, there is a misperception that it will make illegal crossings safer or easier, the agency said in a statement.

Live Music Scene

When it comes to live music, San Diego rocks it as a prime tour stop and home to impressive local talent. From the central city, up to North County and to the east, dozens of venues in all shapes and sizes host everything from acoustic folk and intimate shows to A-list rock-n-roll and big-production, elaborately choreographed pop. Not to mention, the city welcomes music festivals galore.

The underground, independent music scene in San Diego also thrives, with clubs throughout the city hosting nightly shows. For more than 25 years, The Casbah in Midtown has been a prime spot to see up-and-coming acts. And just a little to the east in City Heights, the neighboring Soda Bar and SPACE have a similarly impressive calendar of shows.

In Downtown and North Park, respectively, the historic Copley Symphony Hall, home to the San Diego Symphony, and Observatory provide a picturesque backdrop for crowd-pleasing headliners. Belly Up in Solana Beach and Music Box in Little Italy offer the best chance to see big names in a small intimate setting. And on Shelter Island, Humphreys Concerts by the Bay pairs live music with a gorgeous waterfront view, not to mention dinner and hotel packages.

Even on college campuses, it's easy to find a great place to see a show. The Open Air Theatre can be found in the center of San Diego State University's campus, and hosts big-name touring bands throughout the year. Or for a more intimate experience, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable at The Loft at UCSD.

From stadium-filling touring acts to local bands in neighborhood bars, there's something for every music fan in San Diego.

Opened in 2012 in the North Park neighborhood, the Coffee & Tea Collective is part art gallery and part minimalist coffee-house. They take their coffee so seriously, you might consider each cup a work of art in its own right. Every beverage is lovingly hand crafted: beans are roasted in-house, espresso is pulled from a lever-operated press and drip coffee is made one cup at a time through the pour-over method.

Houston, TX

“With a better-than-average economy and a better-than-average job market, people from all over the world flock here,” says Josh Burdett, a trader with InterAmerican Coffee importers, which has an office in Houston. “Houston is a giant melting pot of people and cultures, but one of the main things that all these people share is coffee,” As one of seven approved delivery points for the ICE coffee exchange, the global commodity market for coffee, Houston receives millions of pounds of exchange-grade coffee, as well as serves as a warehousing hotspot for specialty-grade coffee importers across the country.

Despite weather that isn’t at all conducive to enjoying hot beverages the specialty coffee industry is thriving in the sprawling metropolis of Houston. Shops like Blacksmith and Catalina Coffee set the coffee bar high (and have garnered national attention), while unique establishments like Double Trouble and Eatsie Boys pair great coffee with craft cocktails and high-end breakfast. Houston's tight-knit food and cocktail scene is woven into the fabric of the city's speciality coffee bars, and there's a vibrant spirit of collaboration here that pervades the community. Sprawling, diverse, and full of cool stuff if you know where to look, Houston's profile as a coffee hub may not stay under the radar for long.

This is Emily McIntyre's first piece for Sprudge. You can find more of her work at her official website and Soft Explosions. Follow Emily on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.