Not a Dark Horse

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
811 25th St., Unit 100
San Diego, CA 92102

“San Diego Beverage Times” announced that in August 2016 San Diego was named the 6th best city for coffee fanatics. Patty and I have been out and about for over 5 years investigating new coffee spots each month so this isn’t an enormous surprise to us! We’ve been watching San Diego’s explosion of interest in coffee with great interest.

This month’s coffee adventure took us to Dark Horse Coffee Roasters (AKA  D.H.C.R.) in Golden Hills. We’ve had Dark Horse coffee before at other locations, but this was our first visit to their shop right off Highway 94 at 25th St.

Dark Horse roasts their own coffee so the smell of roasting beans rises up to greet you upon entering. The shop is decorated with a combination of industrial warehouse and contrasting polished, tree-trunk benches with bark edges.

They are located in the “You Are Here” complex which was designed by Foundation for Form (, located in the complex across the street (next to an Irving Gill home). The You Are Here complex is a mix-use structure that incorporates an existing 1965 Texaco Station into its design. And, yes, it’s very cool.

Foundation for Form incorporated a former gas station into this mixed use project. D.H.C.R. faces 25th St. with apartments above.

Foundation for Form incorporated a former gas station into this mixed use project. D.H.C.R. faces 25th St. with apartments above.

Back to the coffee, their signature coffee is The Champ, a latte with cinnamon and honey. Patty tried the Salted Maple latte (delish) and I tried an ordinary cup. Pour over setups are lined up for orders and the place was bustling with customers, but plenty of employees and places to sit are available to accommodate everyone. We visited on a drizzly day, but there is also a lovely outside area to sit as well.

We saw, but didn’t try, their house-made vegan donuts which are from their Skinny Donuts sideline (

The owner of Dark Horse is a big Beatles fan with George Harrison, the founder of Dark Horse Records, being his favorite Beatle. “Dark Horse” is also the fifth studio album by George Harrison.

We noticed a Simpson cartoon incorporating Dark Horse logos, by Luie B Cartoons:

Daniel & Bryan Charlson in front of D.H.C.R. in Normal Heights, by Luie B Cartoons

Daniel & Bryan Charlson in front of D.H.C.R. in Normal Heights, by Luie B CartoonsCartoons:

Other Dark Horse locations are in Normal Heights at 3260 Adams Ave., North Park at 3794  30th St., and Truckee, CA and they do a fabulous wholesale business so you’re sure to discover Dark Horse coffee in other shops.

This location provides easy on and off freeway access and plenty of free street parking on 25th St. Open daily 7AM to 6PM.

We appreciate and applaud the “We Welcome” sign by their front door (see photo below).

Honestly . . . it was a mini-vacation right in our own hometown. Check it out!

Posted in Coffee shops in San Diego, cold brewed coffee, Foundation for Form, modern setting, nitro coffee, roaster | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Eleven Pumps of Coffee

Swami’s Café
3924 W. Point Loma Blvd. near the Sports Arena
2920 University Ave. in the heart of North Park
8284 La Mesa Blvd. in downtown La Mesa
1506 Encinitas Blvd., in Encinitas east of I-5
1163 S. Coast Highway, Encinitas across from Swami’s Beach
202 N.Coast Highway, Oceanside
12845 Poway Rd., Poway

That's right, 11 pumps of coffee at the above Swami's!

That’s right, 11 pumps of coffee at the above Swami’s!

There’s rain forecast through next week & on rainy days I love to curl up with a cup of coffee & a good book. Given that it rains so rarely here I usually stay home with my own coffee, but with a daily deluge forecast I’m looking for daily coffee alternatives. Swami’s, a long time Encinitas café, now has 9 locations throughout San Diego County with 11 coffee pumps at 7 of their locations (see addresses above). For $2.50 (plus tip) you can visit Guatemala, Mexico, Hawaii, France, and Colombia through Swami’s coffees. If you prefer sweeter choices, they have vanilla nut, caramel, & blueberry flavored coffees, plus soy & almond milks. Know that they have decaf choices, too, should you overdo it on the caffeine. Their coffees come from Gavina (

Most Swami’s are decorated with a mural or two by Kevin Anderson. Check out his Point Loma & La Mesa murals posted below or check out more examples here:

There’s a Swami’s within walking distance of my home, but with 8 other locations there’s bound to be one near you. I’ve got 2 books & a library nearby if I finish them both before the rain stops. Don’t have a library near you? Check out this site for a free book:  Hooray for rain, hooray for libraries, & hooray for coffee choices on a rainy day!

Kevin Anderson's mural at the W. Point Loma Swami's

Kevin Anderson’s mural at the W. Point Loma Swami’s

This mural by Kevin is at the La Mesa Swami's.

This mural by Kevin is at the La Mesa Swami’s.

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Christmas Traditions

Bay Park Coffee
4130 Napier St.
San Diego, CA 92110

I have 3 things I must do every December:  see the Christmas lights on Garrison Street, see the Hotel Del Coronado Christmas tree, & have a peppermint mocha. Of course I do all the other frantic preChristmas activities, these 3 are my reward after the holiday prep is done. So after checking the first 2 off my list I set my sights on #3:  finding the perfect peppermint mocha. It’s more fun if it’s a new place every year, so when my blog partner & I visited Bay Park Coffee I noticed with special interest their peppermint mocha sign…it was December, after all. I was sold when they told me they used real candy canes in their preparation. You judge for yourself how you think they did by the picture below.

 It certainly wins the adorable decoration award.

It certainly wins the adorable decoration award.

They also win the friendly barista award. Add home baked goods like banana bread & scones, plus Cravory cookies, and I was in love. Their undoctored coffee (that is, without candy canes) was good, too. Award winning Klatch Coffee out of Rancho Cucamonga ( does their roasting. Look for Klatch Coffee in LAX & Tokyo, as well. The Bay Park shop features a daily list of “Drinks of the World”. When we were there it was Vietnam & France. For tea drinkers they featured a London Fog Earl Grey creation, plus they sell loose leaf organic teas.

Friendly baristas will greet you...

Friendly baristas will greet you…

Other bonuses to this small neighborhood coffee shop is free street parking and a corner for kids to get creative. Open 6:00am -5:00pm Mon.-Fri. & 7:00am-5:00pm on weekends. (Note, their website says they’re open until 7:00pm, but that is not the case at this time.)

a corner for kids

There’s even a corner for kids.

So when you need a break from the frenzy of December, head to this tiny café in quiet Bay Park, off Morena Blvd. (just off the I-5 between Sea World Dr. & Clairemont Dr.).  You’ll be glad you did.

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Coffee + Creativity

Communal Coffee
2335 University Ave. (at Texas)
San Diego, CA 92104

The more we visit coffee shops the more I realize that there are so many ways to offer an unusual coffee experience. Communal Coffee is definitely a switch from other coffee spots I’ve enjoyed and I love it! Communal Coffee shares space with Native Poppy so their pairing line is “Coffee + Flowers.” How’s that for a unique collaboration?

They are located on University, a busy street, but as soon as I took one step inside their shop it felt like I was walking into a new taste and sight adventure. I was fascinated by the ambiance they created mixing industrial with mid-century modern with touches of clever and a dash of femininity. Both spaces merge seamlessly sharing the same design aesthetic.

Chemex coffee is one of the options at this creative cafe.

Chemex coffee is one of the options at this creative cafe.

Their coffee menu offers interesting combinations such as maple cardamon latte and lavender honey latte. I saw the traditional and seasonal flights of lattes too late for my order, but I’m certain to return for a flight. I watched with interest as a customer walked to his seat with three small lattes balanced on a wood flight board. Ah! I tried the batch brew to taste their regular cup of coffee. It’s brewed by Sightglasss Coffee in San Francisco (

Native Poppy, the flower portion of the enterprise, is named after California’s state flower, the poppy. Their floral design aesthetic is a natural look of flowers—as if you simply walked through a field of wildflowers and carefully selected and arranged the flowers with love. Their arrangements are lovely and welcoming and even they provide a flow chart for deciding what best meets your needs and a menu of flowers. A selection of quality gifts completes the space.

Open every day from 6:00 to 6:30 (with the exception of some holidays). There are a few parking spaces on the Texas St. side of the building, otherwise there is free street parking on Texas St.

I love our monthly outings and they never cease to amaze me and remind me that San Diego is full of treasures around every corner.

We couldn't help but smile at this character in their garden seating area.

We couldn’t help but smile at this character in their garden seating area.

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Thank You to Santos Coffee!

Santos Coffee House
3191 Thorn St. (near 32nd St.)
San Diego, CA 92104

Sixteen years ago after a class at City College I went looking  for a place to enjoy a good cup of coffee. That wasn’t easy 16 years ago when coffee shops weren’t so common. I finally found one at Santos in South Park. While I enjoyed my coffee, curiosity got me out of the coffee shop wandering the sidewalks of this charming neighborhood. An idea was born that day: Urban Safaris, my walking tour business.

Sixteen years later I now have 15 different neighborhood walks, but not from Santos Coffee in South Park…Santos is now in North Park. They have picked another charming neighborhood in a small pocket of local businesses and bungalows along Thorn Street. Open from 6:00am-7:00pm daily, it’s a great place to begin your day with a cup of their dark joe or take a break in the afternoon with their Banana Cream coffee. That’s right, Banana Cream! It didn’t sound good to me, but I had to try it & I’m glad I did…it does taste like banana cream and that’s not a bad thing. They roast their own beans and get creative with their roasts. They also have a nice array of baked goods and a comfortable outdoor patio (pictured) where dogs are welcome. In Old Town they serve coffee from a cart near the Cygnet Theatre on Twiggs St.

Mural by Alex Julian

Mural by Alex Julian

Parking is free on the side streets off Thorn with little competition for a spot (unless it’s close to closing time when new customers are heading to Thorn Street Brewery across the street). Come for coffee then go on your own neighborhood Urban Safari!

Sixteen years & counting my Urban Safaris are going strong. Walks are Saturday mornings, January-October. The 2017 Saturday schedule will be posted by late December on

Thanks, Santos Coffee, for getting me started!

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It’s All About the Space, ‘Bout the Space

Corner House Coffee
2902 San Marcos Avenue (off US Route 154)
Los Olivos, CA 93441

I always enjoy finding a new coffee shop with an interesting point of view, a new-to-me local roaster, or a great way of serving a super cup of coffee. That said, many times it’s all about the space. The space.

It’s the space that welcomes me and beckons me to come in, sit down, sip and savor. It begs me to return. Not all coffee shops are the same. There are some places that have great coffee, but don’t rank so high in the ambience department.

With Corner House Coffee in Los Olivos . . . it’s all about the space. Sure, they serve Peet’s Coffee which is always a fine and dependable offering, but it’s more about the house. On my recent trip to Los Olivos I asked two employees working behind the counter about the house. One said, “I know it’s older than me.” I laughed and said, “I know it’s older than me, too.” I found out from the Corner House Coffee facebook page, that CHC is “housed” in one of the first buildings in Los Olivos and dates back to the 1880s. I bet it has some stories to tell.

The house has a large wrap-around porch with handsome tables made from thick wood planks and a towering pine tree adds to the yard’s ambience. Folks sit inside and work on their computers with free wifi while motorcyclists stop and chat before heading down the road to visit Fess Parker Winery. Locals gather and chat, planning and comparing their days. It’s the town’s gathering spot.

Bob and I went there to plan our day.

Bob and I went there to plan our day…

It’s perfect. It’s a perfect space.

It’s perfect. It’s a perfect space.













This is what Helen sent me from her road trip, so when I was on a recent road trip I stopped by. I’ll add that it’s all about the tree, that huge old tree in front.

dedicated to Meghan Trainor for All About That Bass

dedicated to Meghan Trainor for All About That Bass





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Happy Coffee Day!

Refill Café
3752 Park Blvd., near Robinson
San Diego, CA 92103

Raise your cup today, Sept. 29, to coffee! For some reason this date was selected to celebrate America’s favorite hot beverage. (I’d say “beverage”, but that claim might belong to beer.) If you missed your chance on Sept. 29 you have another chance on Oct. 1, which is International Coffee Day. The international day even has a website ( with a search option for Coffee Day celebrations in your area. None were in San Diego so I chose Refill to celebrate today. Why Refill? Truthfully, it was the building that drew me…see for yourself at Refill is at street level of this intriguing Jonathan Segal apartment building. Why that name? Not Refill, but Mr. Robinson…I’m guessing because it’s on the corner of Park & Robinson, although I would have preferred Mrs. Robinson.

So let me get back to the important topic of the day: coffee! Their coffee is roasted by Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (, a San Diego roaster known for responsibly sourced organic & fair trade certified coffee. I enjoyed a cup of Ugandan cold brew. I was originally drawn to their Ethiopian coffee for the promise of a hint of cardamom, but the barista let me try both & that swayed me to the stronger Ugandan. I was also tempted to try an affogato, Italian for drowned, which is a scoop of ice cream drowning in a shot of expresso. But I felt the cold brew gave me more of a coffee taste on this National Coffee Day. Affogato, you’ll be next…

Given the modern building I was not surprised to see their tables & chairs have a Scandinavian look. Their mugs were a surprise, though. I was told they were made (“thrown” I think is the proper word) by Steve Cook, the owner’s high school pottery teacher. I can’t get over how special that is to have every single mug made by hand. It’s extremely rare, actually. The next time you finish a cup of coffee flip it over & I’ll bet it was made (not “thrown”) in China, Thailand, or any number of countries other than the United States. This business was developed with lots of thought & TLC from friends.

A stunning setting to get a blog posted. The tables are made with repurposed cedar.

A stunning setting to get a blog posted. The tables are made with repurposed cedar.

Your coffee will be served in these mugs thrown by Steve Cook. They are also for sale.

Your coffee will be served in these mugs thrown by Steve Cook. They are also for sale.








Parking will be your biggest challenge. Bring quarters for meters on Park Blvd. or there’s a pay-to-park lot across the street. Centre St., parallel to Park Blvd. one block west, should give you some free options. But it’s worth the extra effort (or the extra parking fee). Head over between 6:00am & 9:00pm daily. And go hungry for their crepes, sweet or savory. The name Refill implies free refills, but they told me they come at a price of $1.08 only for select coffees. Alas, there are no free refills at coffee specialty shops, anymore.

If you missed Sept. 29 & Oct. 1, check this list of other coffee dates celebrated around the world: (scroll down to History where you’ll find dates starting with April 14 when it’s celebrated in Portugal).


Posted in art, award winning coffee, Coffee shops in San Diego, cold brewed coffee, modern setting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment