While anyone can order a vanilla latte from any of Starbucks’ 16,255 locations, it’s the local treasures that offer some of the best morning brews. Next time you’re in the mood for a caffeinated boost, skip the frappuccino and try these novel coffee shops offering more than just a pick-me-up.
Good For: Lovers of coffee and plants
Nestled between a vintage thrift boutique and an old-timey barber shop is Communal Coffee, a patio retreat in the heart of South Park. Operating out of a retro trailer, Communal offers glamping vibes complete with string lights and hanging plants that decorate its pet-friendly pato.
Communal offers a variety of craft coffee drinks, a rotating seasonal menu, and cafe bites for you to enjoy while you soak up the sun. Next door, guests can also shop plants, ceramics, and other boutique goods available for purchase.
2221 Fern St, South Park
Good For: Vintage vibes and Bohemian aesthetics
Café Bassam feels like stepping into an I Spy book. Mason jars full of every tea variety you can imagine, antique paintings, old wood-stocked rifles, a ragtime piano, and trinkets in every corner, you could spend all day finding new treasures and still not find them all.
Unsurprisingly, Café Bassam was originally an antique store before converting itself into a café, wine bar, and cigar shop. Open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, guests can enjoy a late night coffee beverage like their iced Vietnamese coffee, a fresh baked pastry, or a cigar on the patio in true bohemian fashion.
3088 Fifth Ave, Banker’s Hill
Jennings House Eatery
Good For: The feeling that you’re in your own home
Located on Rosecrans Street, Jennings House (or The Living Room as true OGs know it), is the oldest home in Point Loma and moonlights as a coffee shop. With an interior that remains largely untouched since the home’s inception in 1886, rooms are set up to feel like you’re at home with comfy chairs, couches, and cozy nooks.
Featuring a coffee bar, bakery selections, and a kitchen offering breakfast and lunch, Jennings House is a good place to go for that stay-at-home feeling without having to actually do the dishes or clean up after yourself.
1018 Rosecrans St, Point Loma
Lestat’s on Adams
Good For: Night owls and late-night study sessions
Lestat’s in North Park is a sanctuary for students, artists, and workaholics. This creative hotspot welcomes patrons with an interior filled with local art, unusual seating options (e.g., an actual six-foot throne), and other other eye-catching artifacts.
Originally opened in 1997, Lestat’s now has two other locations: Hillcrest (open until midnight) and University Heights (open 24-hours), but its Adams Ave hub (open until 11 p.m.) is still its most popular. With a menu that rivals the Cheesecake Factory in length, patrons can order a plethora of coffee drinks including their popular Mexican mocha paired with pastries and other bites to keep you fueled for your all-night study sesh.
3343 Adams Ave, North Park
S3 Coffee Bar
Good For: Selfies and IG-worthy snaps
Located in Grantville, you may miss this coffee shop if you’re not looking for it. Outside, its unassuming location in the middle of strip malls and a busy intersection is part of what makes stepping inside of S3 so fun.
Pink, flowery, and unabashedly feminine, S3 Coffee Bar is an experience all on its own. It’s so charming inside, you’ll almost feel like you’re in the Barbie movie. Adding to its charm is its two-dimensional feel with walls featuring floor-to-ceiling black-and-white cartoon art. It’s an influencer’s paradise.
On top of the eye-catching allure, S3 offers a rotating holiday drink menu, an assortment of pastries, acai bowls, lunch items and even a drive thru—a rarity for independent coffee shops.
6225 Mission Gorge Rd, Grantville
The Cat Café
Good For: Feline fanatics
Inspired by Japan’s viral cat cafés, this home for our furry friends in the Gaslamp is not only a coffee shop but encourages guests to adopt a new feline friend from nearby shelters. In partnership with the SD Humane Society and The Rescue House, patrons of the Cat Café can enjoy a caffeinated beverage while bonding with a furry companion in need of a forever home.
Once a month, the shop also offers a Hatha flow yoga session available for reservation alongside the café’s crew of cats. Check out the cats available for adoption before your visit to get your pick of the litter.
302 Island Ave #101, Gaslamp Quarter
Clayton’s Coffee Shop
Good For: Taking you back to a simpler time
Pull out your leather jacket, start up your red Corvette, and head down to Clayton’s Coffee shop in Coronado for a breakfast of eggs and nostalgia. Dating back to 1941, this long-standing coffee shop retains its vintage charm from its early days as Gerry’s Coffee Shop, before converting to Clayton’s in the 1970s.
The diner is equipped with squeaky red leather booths, tabletop jukeboxes for playing your favorite bops, and a horseshoe bar perfect for reminiscing with your father about his days as a greaser.
979 Orange Ave, Coronado
Banana Dang Coffee
Good For: Banana lovers (don’t make it weird)
While some coffee aficionados prefer their coffee black, Banana Dang Coffee in Oceanside has other ideas. Go bananas at this sustainable north county coffee shop originally founded in Puerto Rico and transported to San Diego.
Specializing in banana-inspired coffee and cuisine, patrons can order menu favorites like their blended iced coffee drink, Dirty Banana Mylk, or nutty banana toast made with peanut butter, bananas, honey, and crushed peanuts. Pastry options include classics like banana bread and options for those with dietary preferences like their vegan danishes.
115 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside
Good For: Green thumb coffee lovers
In Old Town, Garden Coffee welcomes plant enthusiasts with its quaint sanctuary for your morning cup of joe. This locally owned, independent coffee shop offers a variety of coffees and teas, light bites, pastries and gluten-free options, all with a side of plants.
The shop is decorated with plants upon plants upon plants, all available for purchase or to simply admire for your mental health. Next door you can also browse vintage goods like planter pots for your newfound houseplant at Honest Thrift Studio.
2611 Congress St, Old Town