Where: Breakers Coffee+Wine, 12843 El Camino Real, Ste 205 (upstairs), San Diego, CA 92130
Open: Daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
What: Cyrus the Great House Blend – Brazil and Ethiopia coffee beans
Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, golden raisin, and light sweetness
Price: $3:00 – 3.50 for 8-12oz (comes with a refill if drinking in-house)
What I’m listening to: PawPaw Rod, “Lemonhaze”
As a general rule, I avoid malls. On my last day operating the sunglass kiosk at the local mall back home—this was the late ’90s — I vowed never to return.
Luckily, that was 2,300 miles away from the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, and I don’t feel like I’m breaking the spirit of that promise by visiting Breakers Coffee+Wine.
Although, the thickness of the early morning marine layer feels a little ominous.
The cafe occupies a corner spot with a surprisingly nice view of palm trees and a driftwood whale fountain that is quite enchanting. The large patio in front of the cafe bleeds into the big outdoor space at the beverage-heavy Sky Deck Food Hall, which is home to Northern Pine Brewing, Understory and Boochcraft Taproom, to name a few.
I interviewed the founder of Breakers, Kyle Rosa, for a podcast months before the cafe opened, and even though he described his vision to me then, I was a bit taken aback when I walked through the doors next to the walk-up window. The space is much bigger than expected, with plenty of table seating and a large L-shaped bar that made me nostalgic for my pre-COVID-19 mid-afternoon cocktail sessions.
Although there is the obligatory coffee shop pastry case* near the register and an espresso machine, the tin-ceiling and tile-lined bar with the marble top feels more like a hip wine bar than a casual coffee shop.
The back wall features bottles of wine and polished wine glasses on display, along with a few houseplants and a chalk menu board. Bags of house-roasted coffee line the counter, and the manager is quick to say hello. I can hear the smile behind his mask.
I need to take a sentence to apologize to the General Manager because I didn’t quite hear his name, but I assure you the service I received at Breakers on this mid-August morning was top-notch. I made a point to tell the owner that whatever they are paying him isn’t enough. He hands me my coffee in a lovely ceramic mug, and I make my way past the roasting machine.
It’s a beautiful, blue Diedrich roasting machine in full view of the dining room but protected from curious onlookers by oversized windows in what Daily Coffee News called a “…modern barn-like interior room.” By the time I leave, the roaster is running, and the smell of fresh coffee fills the space.
I find a table outside. The wooden table tops are worn just so, and I listen to the fountain water and the soft music emanating from some unseen speakers. Mall walkers pass by again and again. Scrubs-clad employees from the nearby medical center pick up breakfast and coffee they must have pre-ordered online.
The menu is much bigger than I would have expected. In addition to coffee and wine, Breakers has a full breakfast, lunch and tapas menu designed by their in-house chef.
The clouds burn off, and the sun illuminates my corner of the patio, forcing me to pull my sunglasses down while I sip on my black drip coffee. The flagship house blend, Cyrus the Great, named after the owner’s father, primarily tastes of dark chocolate, which I’m particularly fond of.
This coffee is a blend of beans from Brazil and Ethiopia, but I imagine someday, a new flagship coffee will be established featuring beans from Bluetail Coffee Grove in San Marcos. Breakers Coffee+Wine is an extension of the owner’s dream of owning a coffee farm, and in 2019 they planted 2,000 Arabica coffee plants in North County.
A coffee plant takes approximately three years to produce coffee cherries, meaning those first coffees are likely just coming online now.
By the time I finish my first coffee and ask for a refill, the patio has filled up, and inside, several customers have laptops out. I imagine they are working on the next Great American Novel, hoping it will one day be on the local authors’ table at the Diesel Bookstore below.
The mall also features a grocery, an ice cream shop, and a vegan restaurant. I’m starting to wonder why I took my anti-mall stance so many years ago.
Before I go — unfortunately, a work meeting calls — I take one last look at the menu. The food that has been coming out to fellow diners has looked amazing, and the beer and wine menu **is legit. If I planned it right, I could come out in the morning and never leave.
*It feels like the pastries at coffee shops have gotten so good in San Diego that it would be more interesting to write about if they weren’t. How often can one talk about the glisten of a glaze or the soft interior of a croissant?
**Breakers has a limited Coffee and Wine Club with varying levels of membership that include coffee and wine tastings, discounts, monthly exclusives, and more. Club memberships range in price from $35-75.
Listen to an interview with the founders of Breakers Coffee+Wine and Bluetail Coffee Grove, Kyle Rosa, on the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast! Follow @RoastWestCoast on Instagram.