Coffee Break: Swell Cafe


Swell Cafe in Pacific Beach. Photo by Alwin Szeto /Guardian

Monica McGill

Swell Cafe in Pacific Beach. Photo by Alwin Szeto /Guardian
Swell Cafe in Pacific Beach. Photo by Alwin Szeto /Guardian

3833 Mission Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92104


Mon. to Sun.: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

andwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay is The Swell Cafe, a local family-owned business that boasts both great coffee and healthy breakfast and brunch options that sample from different cultures (many menu items are vegetarian or gluten-free). Contrary to what one might think from its name, there aren’t any actual views of the ocean from The Swell Cafe, but the coffee shop compensates by having a huge mural of the ocean that runs alongside its patio. The majority of the seating at the cafe is on the huge patio, which is also dog-friendly. Although the noise from passing traffic can be loud at times, it is drowned out by the music playing out on the patio, and on weekends, local artists provide live music for customers to enjoy.

The Swell Cafe serves earth-conscious, dual-certified, direct-trade coffees. This means that the coffee served comes directly from the grower and holds at least two earth-friendly certifications, like fair trade certified, USDA organic or Rainforest Alliance certified, which not only makes you feel better about the coffee you’re drinking but also gives the coffee a richer taste. To keep in line with its goal of being environmentally friendly, the cafe encourages patrons to get cups “for here” in one of the cafe’s mugs rather than to-go. Luckily, the earth-conscious tactics don’t drive up the price of the coffee. A double shot of espresso costs $2.50, and a cappuccino is only $2.95. However, the cafe’s featured drinks can be a bit pricier: The Monkey Mocha (banana, chocolate and coffee) is $4.15, and the Winter Island Mocha (coconut and white chocolate) will cost you $4.45 for a single shot of espresso and $5.25 for a quad shot. If you aren’t craving coffee, The Swell Cafe does offer tea as well as vegan fruit smoothies like their Vegan Creamsicle, which includes orange juice, vanilla, coconut milk and ice. Or, if you want something a little sweeter, you can try one of their “decadent smoothies,” which are made with gelato or sorbet. The Chai-Nana includes chai, Tahitian vanilla gelato and banana.

In addition to coffee, the menu offers a wide variety of breakfast and lunch meals. If you want to have some food with your coffee, try the “cruisin’ crepes.” The crepes really complement whatever coffee beverage you get and are one of the less expensive options on the menu, costing a mere $4.

The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable and is willing to answer any questions you might have regarding the menu or the neighborhood. Free WiFi and welcoming vibes make The Swell Cafe the perfect place to visit after spending the morning at the beach or if you’re just looking for an easygoing place to study.