I go to San Diego every year for work so I’ve eaten at a lot of places. I try not to go to the same places every time, but it’s hard once you’ve found your favorites. On this trip, I decided to check out independent coffee shops in the Downtown/Gaslamp areas near the San Diego Convention Center.
First up, Coffee & Art. They advertise this as a coffee bar and that’s a fairly accurate description. Bar stools at the counter, limited seating within the actual space and somewhat seedy views , make it feel like your neighborhood watering hole. That means the coffee is actually good, the owner and workers are friendly, they know their regulars and welcome a visitor with open arms and cash register. I had the acai bowl, which was good, a bit too much honey for my liking but good nonetheless. I’m a bit impartial when it comes to acai bowls, I had my first one in Honolulu and none have quite compared since. The croissant was buttery, flaky and fresh and the atmosphere was artsy without feeling forced.
Next, Upstart Crow Bookstore & Coffeehouse. Located in the tourist trap that is the seaport village, but NOT a tourist trap itself. It’s nestled within the village and has a wonderfully cozy atmosphere. It’s like grandma’s house, with a touch of Alice and Wonderland. You have suitcases, clocks and checkerboards that serve as tables, miniature wing back chairs that serve as cafe stools and kitschy gadgets that stock the shelves. The coffee was just okay to me, but one thing I will not forget – the mug. Yes, the mug. I asked for my coffee to be served in one and it turned out to be of the beer variety. How’s that for different?
Last, but not least LION Coffee. This place received 4 stars on Yelp, but in my humble opinion I’m not sure it’s quite worth that rating. Yes, the Kona coffee is really good. Make sure you ask for Kona specifically, though. Otherwise, you’re handled a to-go cup and instructed to pump your own. I tried the acai bowl here as well and sorry it just wasn’t that great. First, it was served in a bowl too small to hold the contents and it just didn’t have the same taste and texture as the one I get here. Outside of the reggae music piping through the speakers, the atmosphere wasn’t too cozy. I had to wipe down my own table and it just didn’t feel too clean to me. But, that’s just me…visit and form you’re own opinion. After all, other yelper’s seemed to enjoy it…