Best Coffee Shops at which to Study – San Diego

There is dearth of internet postings on the best coffee shops at which to study in San Diego. So, in honor of my last day of law school classes ever, I have decided to post on something in which I have a great deal of expertise.

I have never been able to force myself to study at home, and I cannot stand the law library come finals time (due to the stress level of others and general odor), so I have always done my studying at coffee shops. I am constantly looking for new places to set up my books for the day (and often the night). I have probably studied in more coffee shops over the last three years than just about anyone in San Diego.

First, the criteria. I will rate on a scale of 1-10 (10 being a perfect score) the five things most important to me: Seating and Table Size (S&T), Hours and Location (H&L), Menu and Coffee (M), Crowd and Noise Level (C), and Other (O).

This list is, of course as is any list I make fluid, and I retain the right to change it on a daily basis. Additionally, this is based on my subjective likes and dislikes. For example, I do not like absolute silence and I weight table size as extremely important. So here is my list of the Top Five Coffee Shops at which to study:

1. The Living Room (Point Loma – 1018 Rosecrans Street)

S&T: 8 – Good tables downstairs, even better upstairs seating. The downstairs area has the best chairs around.

H&L: 8 – The Living Room is open until midnight, but will often stay open later, or even let you close the door behind you.

M: 6 – Food is just okay, coffee is decent. Great selection of teas!

C: 7 – If they did not play the music quite so loud downstairs they might get a 10. Upstairs is perfect. Crowd is mostly students.

O: 9 – I really like the feel here. Staff is very friendly (unlike the staff at the Old Town Location). Outdoor seating is great. Bathrooms are clean.

Total: 38 points

2. Lestat’s (University Heights – 4496 Park Ave)

S&T: 9 – Terrific tables. Great couches. Huge area.

H&L: 8 – 24 hours. Can’t beat that. Minus one point because sometimes you have to park around the corner. 2 minutes from the 163 Washington Exit.

M: 9 – Great lunch menu for studying. Fun selection of oddball beverage including Blueberry Soda and Chai Tea Soda.

C: 7 – It gets awfully busy. Sometimes you might wait 30 minutes for a decent-size table.

O: 2 – Would probably be my #1 selection if their internet was not so spotty. Bathrooms could be cleaner as well.

Total: 35 Points

3. Caffe Calabria (North Park – 3933 30th Street)

S&T: 7 – Great booths towards the back. If you don’t get one of those the table size gets much smaller.

H&L: 5 – It is in North Park and parking is very tough. It is also a bit of a hike from the 163 and 805.

M: 10 – Maybe the best coffee I have had in San Diego. The food is awesome. After 5 pm Wednesday-Sunday they have excellent woodfired pizza.

C: 6 – Busy. A bit loud. They play international soccer games on the televisions – and the fans get a bit loud. Bring headphones.

O: 6 – The main area is a bit small. There is a back room but it is cold. Staff is friendly, but the line for coffee gets long.

Total Points: 34

4. Filter (Hillcrest – 1295 University Ave)

S&T: 7 – Great tables. Lack of outlets. Chairs are clearly salvaged, some are much better than others.

H&L: 9 – 24 hours. They have a parking garage. Easy to get to.

M: 7 – The Ginger Tea is delicious. The food does the job.

C: 6 – People are there to study which is great. But about half the time there are no available tables.

O: 4 – The unisex bathroom is dirty. They leave the sliding doors open even on cold nights.

Total Points: 33

5. Milano Coffee Co. (Mission Valley – 8685 Rio San Diego Dr.)

S&T: 5 – This used to be a 10, but they moved the big long tables out of the way. Now they are smaller.

H&L: 6 – Mission Valley can be a traffic nightmare, but they will give you a parking pass to stay as long as you like.

M: 5 – Coffee is good. Food isn’t bad. Other restaurants across the street as well.

C: 7 – Its usually pretty empty. Its pretty quiet.

O: 9 – The owners are terrific. A really nice couple. Staff is very friendly.

Total Points: 32


(Other Spots Considered: The Living Room/SDSU, Panera/Liberty Station, Village 631/East Village, Influx/Little Italy, Cafe Italia/Little Italy, Twiggs/University Heights)

(Special Note: My vote for the best Starbuck’s at which to study is the Starbucks at 691 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach)


Citrus-Ginger Flat Iron Steak with Honey-Mashed Beets and Crispy Kale

Last night we made citrus-ginger marinated, grilled flat iron steak. The steak marinated for an hour in a combination of fresh citrus juices (grapefruit, orange juice, lime juice), soy sauce, fresh ginger and a few other spices. It was delicious.

We served it with honey-mashed beets that also had a touch of ginger in them. We also made crispy kale chips topped with a terrific fleur de sel we brought back from our honeymoon in France.

Red Carrot Curry Soup

Last night we made red carrot curry soup. It was delicious. The leftovers even better.

This Week’s Garden of Eden (CSA) Basket

Fruits: Grapefruit, Strawberries, Blood Oranges, Cherimoya, Avocados

Vegetables: Kale, Spinach, Red Carrots, Green Onions, Hydroponic Lettuce, Zucchini, Mustard Greens

Penne with Zucchini in Goat Cheese Sauce

Pad See Ew with Pork and Veggie Spring Rolls

Last night I stopped by the Thuan Phat Asian Grocery on my way home so we could make our favorite Thai dish at home.

We made Pad See Ew with Pork. We also made Spring Rolls with a selection of our Garden of Eden (CSA) vegetables.

In our spring rolls we mixed carrots, zucchini, red leaf lettuce, thai basil orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce and ginger. Then we topped them with toasted sesame seeds.

To make the Pad See Ew: Soak flat rice noodles (which you can find at most asian groceries) in luke warm water for 1 hour. Boil for 2 minutes. In a wok bring oil up to temperature with 5 cloves of garlic (chopped) and fresh green onions. Add sliced pork. Stir fry until cooked. Add 3 Tablespoons light soy sauce, 3 tablespoons regular soy sauce and 1/2 tablespoon of Oyster sauce (light soy sauce is not the same as light sodium soy sauce). Add noodles. Stir fry 3 minutes mixing noodles in well. Add 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Add chinese broccoli, spinach, and fresh Thai basil. stir fry 2 minutes. Push noodles up side of wok and crack three eggs in the middle. Scramble in bottom of wok until mostly cooked and then stir into noodles. Instead of topping mine with peanuts, I chopped up some roasted cashews. Add Sriracha to taste. Delicious!

Tarragon Turkey Burger Tortas with Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

Okay…so I think this one is pretty original, and pretty tasty…

We made turkey burgers from ground lean turkey breast meat tossed with tarragon and basil from our garden. We topped the turkey burgers with roasted golden beets, goat cheese, red leaf lettuce and red onions. We served the turkey burgers on whole wheat telera rolls.

For our side we made a mixed green salad topped with calimyrna figs, honey roasted almonds and goat cheese. The salad was tossed in a Champagne vinaigrette.