Biker’s Brew

“Is that a mirage?” I wondered as I approached on my bike. (Since moved from this location.)


Coffee Cycle
(4900 block of Pacific Highway at Anna Ave.)
moved to 1632 Grand Ave. (near Ingraham)
San Diego, CA 92109

I thought it was a mirage when I came off the San Diego River bike path and turned north on Pacific Highway: there was a large “coffee” sign beside the bike lane. As I cycled closer I realized I wasn’t seeing things, there indeed was a coffee cart along Pacific Highway. There was another biker ordering coffee, so I patiently waited my turn before ordering what he said was a favorite among his cyclists: a cappuccino, served in a small glass no less (in other words, no Styrofoam or paper cup).


Chris, the friendly barista, created the cart from scratch.

I was still in a bit of a haze (“Am I really drinking a cappuccino along industrial Pacific Highway?”), but the coffee woke me up enough to start asking questions about his business. Chris, the creative barista & entrepreneur of Coffee Cycle, actually made the cart that can be pulled behind a bicycle. But that was the easy part. To actually make coffee from a cart one needs electricity…no problem for industrious Chris, his solar panels & a lithium battery do that.  These also provide electricity for a refrigerator & his water pump. His water source is industrial strength bags of fresh water strapped on the cart. There were of course steps to get a city license & health inspection, but he passed them all to open earlier this year.


He’s usually open Mon.-Fri. from 7:00am to 2:00pm. On Sundays you’ll find him working as a barista at Bird Rock Roasters ( . He has a full coffee & tea menu offering just about anything a coffee shop will make. His beans are roasted by Bird Rock Roasters, but his vanilla & lavender syrups are home made. I’m not usually a fan of syrups, they’re too sweet for my palate. But both of his syrups are made from fresh vanilla bean or lavender, without the taste of additional artificial sweeteners.

If you’re not on a bike, look for parking along Pacific Highway, just not in the red zones. I returned with a car & had to park about 2 blocks away. If he’s not there in the time window I gave above he may have moved on to his next dream:  an actual coffee shop.

It’s possible to stop without a bicycle, just don’t park your car in the red zones.

Here’s to dreams & the hard work that make them happen! Here’s to coffee that new studies have found help us live longer!

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Come for the Coffee, Stay for the Neighborhood

Burly and the Bean Coffee Cabin
3014 Columbine St. (at Poplar St., just west of Fairmount)
Azalea Park in City Heights
San Diego, CA 92105

Owners Justin & Vanessa, AKA Burly & the Bean

This month we visited Burly and the Bean’s Coffee Cabin. Burly and Bean are the nicknames of the owners and they are inspiring entrepreneurs. They’ve been at this location for a year, but had a coffee cart nearby prior to that.

We indulged in mocha coffees with intriguing names like Hot Like Me (Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, Tabasco) and Nut You (with almonds and hazelnuts). Both were amazing and will prompt us to return to try other interesting offerings, but only the bravest will try their strongest coffee, the Eye of the Storm, with six shots of espresso! Burly is a self-trained barista and is enthusiastic about creating wild new concoctions. Daymar Beans ( is their roaster.

Marvelous mochas in a garden setting!

Burly and the Bean is located at an intersection with plenty of parking nearby on each of the two streets. The ambience is eclectic as this coffee spot has become a magnet for memorabilia given to them from customers. There is a lending library and an organic veggie garden area with a picnic table and ripe veggies are shared with customers.

The day we were there a trio of adorable children were there making balloon hats and dogs as well as offering garage sale finds in their mobile garage wagon. Yes, of course we had to purchase from these young entrepreneurs!

Burly and Bean are on the go planning a neighborhood chili cook-off in August.  They have also opened a second shop at City Farmers Nursery, a 100% organic full-service nursery at 3110 Euclid Ave. (at Home):  Their City Farmers Nursery coffee hours are Thurs.-Sat., 8:00am to 2:00pm.

Their Azalea Park hours are:
Tuesday through Friday 6:00 am to 4:00 pm
Saturday 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, Sunday 7:00 am to 2:00 pm
Closed Mondays

A Columbine flower marks Columbine Street.

It’s a destination you won’t want to miss! Come for the coffee, of course, but while you’re there explore the neighborhood of Azalea Park where you’ll notice wooden carvings of flowers & leaves posted around the neighborhood (see the example of a Columbine flower). It took me awhile to realize that they correspond with street names like the example, plus Poplar, Iris, Tuberose, Violet, & Dahlia. Art is also found in the community park at the southern end of Poplar St. (see the sculptures in the photo below).

What brought me to Azalea Park the first time were the canyons that just about surround the neighborhood: Manzanita Canyon is to the north, Hollywood to the southeast, Swan Canyon is nearby, and 47th St. Canyon is near the City Nursery. If canyon exploring is your plan, wear sturdy boots & carry water. A hiking stick helps, too, just never explore a canyon alone. There are maps at (scroll down for the “City Heights Canyons Loop Trail”).

The car hood shade structure, called Joy Ride, was designed by Jim Bliesner, a neighborhood artist. The muffler bull was designed by Karim Carlock, another neighborhood artist. Both were fabricated and installed by Ironworkers Local 229 volunteers.

Coming this fall is the Ocean Discovery Institute’s Living Lab at the northern end of Manzanita Canyon:

The Ocean Discovery Institute’s Living Lab (under construction) viewed from Manzanita Gathering Place, an art installment at the north end of Manzanita Canyon. The Living Lab was designed by Rob Quigley.

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Surf’s Up!

Surf Check
1404 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. (at Pt. Loma Ave.)
Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA 92107

Look for this mini-trailer at 1401 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., just one block before Sunset Cliffs Park on your right.








Surf Check, just one block north of Sunset Cliffs Park in Ocean Beach, gives you the  opportunity to check the surf while enjoying your morning joe. Look for the mini trailer in the parking lot of Cliffside Auto Clinic & swing in for a dark or medium roast cup of Bird Rock Coffee. They also offer specialty espresso drinks like The Dawn Patrol & Wave of the Day (see descriptions on their surf board menu posted here).  You can get a smoothie, acai bowl, and muffins, too. They open 30 minutes before sunrise so grab a steaming cup & head one block south to the stretch of park that runs along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. There’s usually plenty of free parking here.

If it’s the end of your day there’s no place better to watch the sunset than from the top of the cliffs along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. They offer hot dogs at Surf Check should you want dinner as you watch the sun go down. They’re open until 30 minutes past sunset. A deck should be coming soon.

If you’re not familiar with the cliffs here, know that they are unstable so please heed the warning signs about getting too close to the edge. I volunteer at nearby Cabrillo National Monument, so I’ll give you the same advice I give to the guests:  If you’re heading down to the beaches below I hope you’re as sure footed as a llama. And please don’t jump in…you don’t know what rocks are just below the surface of the water!

See fabulous photos of Sunset Cliffs and comments from visitors at This is what the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association has to say about Sunset Cliffs Park: While you’re in the neighborhood, drive out to Cabrillo National Monument for more fabulous views of the ocean and downtown San Diego all the way to Mexico:



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Bonjour from South Park!

Café Madeleine
2248 30th St. (at Juniper)
San Diego, CA 92104

Please place Café Madeleine, an adorable Parisian-style coffee shop, at the top of your      “must visit” coffee spot list. I loved it! I felt transported, just a tad, to the streets of Paris, with the cafe’s Parisian music, decor, and pastries including croissants, pain au chocolat, madeleines, macarons, and crepes (sweet and savory). I can’t vouch for the entire menu, but I’d embrace the idea of working my way one-by-one through the delightful offerings.

I had a latte served in an Illy cup while Patty enjoyed a Mexican Mocha. The Illy family has been “perfecting espresso coffee in Trieste, Italy since 1933.” Two complimentary, mini-madeleines were served on a separate plate adding a delightful touch to our outing. This got us thinking, “What’s the story behind a madeleine?”

A quick investigation on the Internet explains that there are various stories behind the origin of madeleines. Since Patty has been on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, I liked the story that a pilgrim named Madeleine brought back the recipe from her journey. I particularly liked this option because madeleines are small sponge cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape and the shell is the most iconic symbol of this pilgrimage (known as the Camino). Whatever their origin, the madeleine is one of France’s most popular desserts.

Back to the Café Madeleine experience! Fresh flowers in a vintage teapot welcomed us at the table we enjoyed by the front window. It seemed to us to be the perfect location for enjoying both the indoor and outdoor ambience. Outside the cafe are red umbrellas, fresh flowers on tables, and Parisian bistro chairs. Dogs seem to be welcomed.


There was plenty of nearby parking including 30-minute parking in front of the cafe. Hours are 7:00am-6:00pm Mon.-Fri. and Sat./Sun. 7:00am-7:00pm.

Café Madeleine opened on May 31, 2010 and my only question is . . . what took us so long to visit?

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Keeping It Classy San Diego

Lofty Coffee Little Italy Café & Bakery
444 W. Cedar St. (at Columbia St.)
San Diego, CA 92101

I fell in love with Lofty Coffee’s Turkish Latte 4 years ago when I discovered their Encinitas coffee shop.  They have other excellent options, but it’s their bold espresso with a hint of cardamom that kept me going back. With their new Little Italy location I don’t have to drive to Encinitas. It’s the largest in their chain of 4 (other Lofty Coffee locations at This site, opened just over one month ago, is a modern space with a bit of a bay view. Design lovers will also appreciate the Beaumont Building designed by Rob Quigley next door.

Lofty Coffee at Cedar and Columbia with the Quigley Beaumont Building behind.

While the Turkish Latte is my favorite, I’m intrigued by their Kyoto cold brew system (see photo). It looks like a science experiment, but is actually a very slow drip cold brewing process.

The Kyoto cold brew drip process.

I keep a bag of their “Keeping It Classy San Diego” espresso in my freezer should I want to brew a pot of Lofty Coffee at home (although mine is never as good as their Turkish Latte). For those of you who missed the Will Farrell movie Anchorman, he plays a San Diego TV anchorman who closed his news show with, “Stay classy San Diego”.

Another reason to come: they make their own bake goods that are locally sourced & organic.

There are a few things to know about Little Italy, though:  1. Parking is always tough! You’re better off  coming by Uber, taking the trolley, or biking here.  2. Saturday morning might not be the best time to come as the café is on the Farmer’s Market street (unless you don’t mind fighting the crowds). I prefer Sunday as it’s quieter & metered street parking is free on Sundays (if you can find a spot, that is). But Little Italy is always worth facing its parking challenges. Check this website for other reasons to come to Little Italy:

Open M-F 6:00am-6:00pm, Sat./Sun. 7:00am-8:00pm


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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!

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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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