San Diego is home to some of the hippest college students. With a mix of bustling city and calming beach vibes, it’s the perfect aesthetic for your vintage Polaroid cameras. The major ingredient for every hipster college kid is black, understated and simple: coffee. These 10 cafes in San Diego give hipster students their daily caffeine fix with a minimalist aesthetic, quirky furniture and live underground bands. Perfect to study for your obscure major or socialize with your anti-social friends.
Wear this cute tank while visiting coffee shops in San Diego:
Check out 10 hipster coffee shops around San Diego.
1. Living Room—SDSU
When the dorms get too cramped, just head into the Living Room—the café on El Cajon Blvd., that is. Wandering off campus to wake up with some great coffee and morning treats is worth the walk. “Living Room’s breakfast selection near [San Diego] State is amazing and so underrated; usually people don’t know they serve breakfast there,” San Diego State Senior Sam Panduro said. Spread out your notes on big wooden tables or take a study break in the sunshine on the outdoor patio. While the OG LR resides next to SDSU, there are also locations in Old Town for University of San Diego students, La Jolla for University of California, San Diego, kids and Point Loma for Point Loma Nazarene University folks.
2. Lestat’s Coffee House—Hillcrest
Painted with deep hues of red and orange, Lestat’s definitely has more color than your college library. The 24-hour spot is great for that all-nighter you’ve been putting off to write that philosophy paper. “It’s a great place to be proactive, so I usually go in the afternoon, but you can stay there really late, which is nice,” San Diego State Senior Renee Shekoufeh said. “The unique and antique furniture make it very homey. I feel really comfortable with the calming atmosphere.” Leave your headphones at home and opt for live music with the café’s nightly concerts while lounging on an old-school couch or armchair. It’s the perfect hideout from all the basic bitches on campus with an endless supply of coffee.
Hillcrest’s corner café is a neighborhood favorite that’ll make you want to move in next door. Open until 1 a.m., Filter is a great place to finish that abstract poem for your creative writing class. Grab your friends and gulp down caffeine, plain and simple. “My order at Filter is a medium dark roast coffee,” University of San Diego Senior Laura Tressel said. “While I usually take my coffee like my men—dark and strong with a sweet side—the sugar is unnecessary [at Filter]. I can gulp down that whole cup of dark roast in 20 minutes without adding anything; it’s magic stuff, I swear.” Check out the cream cheese, pesto and tomato bagels or one of the cinnamon-sugar or chocolate muffins to pair with your coffee.
4. James Coffee Company—Little Italy
James Coffee Company is the ultimate hipster warehouse. Seriously, located in a small Little Italy warehouse, this coffee house serves as the center for other quirky shops and services too. Buy a bike, shop for spectacles, browse record players or even get a haircut from the barber shop all before your morning cuppa joe. With high ceilings and scattered metal tables, it’s spacious enough for studying, socializing or just exploring the hip Downtown community.
5. Holsem—North Park
Adventure to North Park to embrace the hipster vegan in you. Natural ingredients and minimalist vibes scream organic-chic. Not to mention the floor-to-ceiling windows will make sure everyone sees you being the hip college kid you are. “Very pretentious to say the least, but it’s a cute little place to chat after a day out,” San Diego Mesa College Junior Victor Edson said. “And the coffee is to die for, so I don’t mind.” Holsem is the perfect place to chat with a friend about those indie Sundance films you’ve been watching on VHS. If a La Vie en Rose cappuccino isn’t enough of a caffeine fix for you, try an espresso muffin for an extra boost.
6. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters—North Park
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters is definitely the dark horse café of S.D., or at least the hipster haven of North Park. Drag your beanie-clad crew to 30th street to sit at a stone slab table and enjoy the breeze of the open air café. The tiny confines make the spot less ideal for studying, so get there early to snag a table for a coffee date with bae. Or opt to order out and explore the neighborhood between classes. Pro tip: Top your iced coffee with a vegan donut for the ultimate Insta shot. Are you even indie without artsy social media?
7. Young Hickory—North Park
If you’re looking for a quirky joint full of caffeinated college hipsters, search no further. Young Hickory, located on the outskirts of North Park, has all the shots you need—“Just a Shot” of espresso, that is. They do, however, also serve craft cans of beer for you folks 21 and over who want to celebrate after a long day of studying. So stop in and put your mark on the place—literally. The wall above the milk and sugar, surrounding the infamous golden cow’s head, is home to hundreds of stickers from customers.
8. Park Place Café—Downtown
While the San Diego Gaslamp District is more famous for its lively night scene, there are a few coffee spots hidden for you downtown cats. “It’s hard to find a good coffee shop in the Gaslamp, but in the middle of all the hustle and bustle [try] Park Place Café,” Panduro said. “It’s tiny, but the workers are great, the decorations are vintagey and the breakfast burritos are my hangover cure coming into work, for sure.” After a night on the town, stop by Park Place for some much needed morning-after coffee.
9. Caffe Italia—Little Italy
Take a nostalgic trip back to your semester in Florence with this Italian-themed gem. The front windows offer a glimpse into the busy Little Italy streets, while the back wall boasts original photographs of Italy that look like they are straight off of Tumblr. “The café is in a great location and brings back memories of true Italian espressos,” Shekoufeh said. “Not to mention the atmosphere: flowers on the table along with authentic pictures from Florence, Venice and other places around Italy.” Don’t forget to snag some gelato with your espresso for the ultimate European adventure.
10. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters—La Jolla
In a quaint beach neighborhood between La Jolla and Pacific Beach, S.D. hipsters can find this independent coffee shop. An open-wall bench entrance and outdoor seating for sandy feet is the perfect place to stop in for a coffee after hitting the shore. Stop in for a handcrafted coffee where baristas individually pour water into a cone-shaped dripper to personally soak the grounds for your cup of coffee (or make your own from home after browsing their online shop). Plus, the pour-over bar was one of the first in San Diego, so Bird Rock knew about pour over before it was cool, making this coffee shop the ultimate hipster.
10 More San Diego Coffee Shops for a Less-than-Mainstream Buzz
Written by Zoë Knafelc
Your world literally runs on coffee, especially if you identify as a sleep-deprived and tired college student. Don’t worry, plenty of coffee houses across the globe have coffee to satisfy your coffee craving—but where should you go first? The colorful city of San Diego, of course. Try 10 more cafes and coffee shops in the city that seem so hipster, you might feel like you aren’t hipster enough.
11. Moniker General
Head down to Moniker General for hot coffee and chill vibes—or chilled coffee and chill vibes. Their location in Liberty Square offers a unique social setting, with spacious seating for people to sit and chat as well as study. “I like working in a coffee shop and specifically Moniker General because in the customer service industry we have the ability the change the course of someone’s day by the conversation we instigate with them to the quality cup of coffee that we serve them. The coffee industry attracts loyal regulars who become friends,” University of San Diego sophomore Allie Durnell said. A lot of students from USD like to hang out there and do group projects. Besides their hip and cool vibe, their signature coffee, which includes the salter caramel latter (a customer fav) served on tap.
12. Bay Park Coffee
Head on over to a coffee shop that puts a twist on the usual café scene. Hanging out here makes you feel like you belong in a futuristic café, with a warm and welcome feel all wrapped into one. A down-to-earth hangout, Bay Park Coffee roasts their own coffee beans off-site to deliver a flavor uniquely their own. With a variety of build-your-own sandwiches, seasonal pitaya and acai bowls, and pastries, this coffee shop can deliver all your needs in the best way possible.
13. Bean Bar
What coffee destination bears a cuter name then the Bean Bar? Trick question. Located in East Village, Bean Bar prides themselves in making artisan drinks for their customers in a tiny shop. And Bean Bar doesn’t just deal in beans—check out their leaf selection on their tea menu. “I don’t like coffee but I love how San Diego coffee shops offers a variety of teas. Also, my favorite tea is chai tea because it reminds me of the holidays,” USD freshman Faith Shinnick said. Not only does the Bean Bar allow friends to converse easily, they also offer an inclusive place for people to connect over coffee and fresh ingredients. And for the food? Don’t get us started. Bean Bar just released the Mediterranean toast: toasted bread topped with hummus, arugula, hemp seeds, veggies, mozzarella and balsamic redu. You and your book club will thrive here.
14. Hawthorn Coffee
Sometimes service outranks number of menu items in the restaurant business. Hawthorn Coffee workers always show off top-notch customer service.Everyone tries to maintain a caring attitude and it shows in their coffee. Customers say that this open and airy coffee shop not only serves good coffee but a sense of community, too. And the smell of freshly roasted beans makes gathering in this space even cozier. “I like coffee because not only does it wake me up in the morning or give me the boost of energy I need to study or complete tasks throughout my day, but even the smell is so comforting. It reminds me of when I was little and my mom would drink it in the mornings,” USD sophomore Nicole Dowell said. Plus, Hawthorn offers seasonal specials, like the caracara orange cardamom latte, that will make your mouth water when you visit Normal Heights.
15. Communal Coffee
Communal Coffee couldn’t grow coffee plants right in their shop, so they sprouted something else to brighten their guests’ days. Communal Coffee partners with a local florist to spruce up your table, a total win especially when you take your date to get coffee. The lavender latte and the avocado toast attract most of the customers here—a total hipster (and Cali) move. Free WiFi and outlets all over the store creates a really cool space for students to buy some coffee and study for finals or just hang out with friends. If you happen to be gluten free, Communal Coffee always offers gluten-free pastries. The inclusive and pretty space offers a perfect for those aesthetic Instagram pictures that will make everyone super jealous of your latest coffee run.
16. Pacific Bean Coffee
Want to drink your morning cup of coffee with the sunrise on Pacific Beach? This little coffee shop creates the ultimate location for all the coffee beach lovers out there. Only a few steps from the beach, Pacific Bean offers a great cup of joe to go with the great views of the Pacific Ocean. The store from the outside seems small but once you venture inside, the coffee shop offers a homey place to hang out and grab an iced raspberry torte mocha with chocolate whipped crème (what a delicious mouthful) before hitting the beach.
17. Better Buzzed
The buzz of this hip coffee shop does not get any quieter. Better Buzzed offers a lot of dedicated and loyal customers, and everyone loves something different. The Best Drink Ever, a classic Americano with their signature vanilla crème, crowned itself the most popular drinks on the menu, but we will let you try it yourself. “My favorite Better Buzzed drink is called Vanilla Buzz. Typically, I get it with coconut milk as it makes the drink a little less sweet. I like this drink because it gives me the taste of coffee but isn’t overpowering or too strong like black coffee or dark coffee,” USD freshman Maddie Bilo said. “The blended drink is perfect for a summer day as I never have to worry about the ice melting and the drink getting watery.” The service here values being quick and easy, which makes it perfect for the busy college student trying to get in and out.
18. Influx Café Little Italy
Walking through Little Italy tires you out, so fuh-get about it with a nice, caffeinated drink. Hop on over to get a drink at Influx Café Little Italy like a local. The coffee shop creates a chic vibe with the white décor that customers love. The espresso, banana and chocolate blend might make you swoon and ask where the cup of coffee was hiding all your life. If you take one sip and hook yourself for life—don’t worry, Influx will provide. The café also offers a lot of gourmet sandwich, like the Flux 1, a hearty sandwich decked out with eggplant, feta, red onions, mixed greens and tomato, or some homemade strawberry oatmeal.
19. Aromas (USD)
Who knew that a college would house a really hip coffee shop? Recently remodeled in 2017, Aromas offers all sorts of coffees and freshly brewed milkshakes served in cute mason jars. It looks straight out of Pinterest if you ask us. If you don’t like coffee or don’t feel like getting something to drink, Aromas also offers a build-your-own avocado toast station along with crêpes. “I like working at Aromas because it is conveniently located on campus and they work well with students’ schedules,” USD freshman Samantha Avera said. Aromas even offers coffee and teas from a self-served tap wall. Plus, a lot of seating offers an accessible space, so grab your friends and take a study break in their lovely big chairs.
20. Scrimshaw Coffee
Sometimes, simple tastes better. One of the hippest and most minimalist places to get coffee in all of San Diego hails in Adeline Gardens. With their menu divided into three categories, Scrimshaw offers espressos, Dark House coffee and other flavored drinks like smoothies. Make sure you bring some food before you go, as this joint’s so new, the menu only features liquids. But don’t worry, they work on it. Their logo shows a whale, working straight into their mission to make you feel whale-come while you order.
**Updated on April 24, 2018 to include list items 11–20 by Zoë Knafelc.