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Fourtillfour Cafe is located along Coast Highway in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Fourtillfour Cafe is located along Coast Highway in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Columns Food & Wine Roast! San Diego

Fourtillfour Cafe embraces good coffee, vintage cars

Open: Daily 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What: Batch brew of Four Coffee 002, a blend of Guatemala and Honduras coffee beans
Roast: Medium-Dark
Tasting notes: Chocolate, nutty
Price: $3.15 with cup discount
What I’m listening to: Tokyo Police Club, “Be Good

I applaud Fourtillfour for thumbing their nose at conventional wisdom. The coffee shop’s branding relies heavily on the coolness of vintage auto culture. They have an outdoor cafe with a decent size parking lot — a true Leucadian luxury, and yet, they’ve chosen to turn their parking spaces into another seating area.

A nod, I assume, to the walkability of the neighborhood and their belief that neighbors will be driving their success. The bold yellow umbrellas along the Coast Highway pop against the matte black fence like the Harvest Moon in the September night sky.

Filling the endcap where Moonage Food Co. was parking their truck as recently as late 2020, Fourtillfour is one of the newest coffee shops to open in coastal North County. The transition seems to have included quite a bit of black paint.

The color scheme throughout is matte black on matte black on matte black. The darkness makes the occasional splashes of orange and mustard attract the eye like a hummingbird to the generic fire engine red feeder.

The classic red Porsche in the parking lot and the Baja’d out Volkswagon inside the fence attract me in much the same way. I find myself peering in the windows as if they were art student dioramas. I don’t know why. I’m not really a car guy. Some things just ooze inherent coolness.

A classic red Porsche parked in front of Fourtillfour Cafe in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
A classic red Porsche parked in front of Fourtillfour Cafe in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Inside the gate, across from the VW Bug, is a repurposed pull-behind camper that serves as the cafe. The menu is displayed next to the service window cut into the side. The black block letters have a gloss varnish that sets them off against the matte black wall. I order a black drip coffee which the barista describes as being “…roasted to medium, but it has our darkest flavor.”

Early 2000s Indie rock music —The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, The Hives — sets the tone as I look for a place to sit. In this outdoor patio, there are four distinct seating areas. Coincidence? I wonder.

Next to the camper cafe is a raised patio lounge with floating counter seating. Patio tables with shade umbrellas line the succulent wall planters to the left of the gate. A small stage and merch stand with a bench and some box seats are in the back corner.

At the back, under an overhang, a final set of patio tables and another series of counter seats are illuminated by a neon sign and kept cool by overhead fans.

On this morning, coffee drinkers, most seemingly remote workers with laptops, are spaced sporadically throughout. Several tattooed gentlemen clad in black tees, un-ironic mustaches, and flat brim caps sit near the entry and appear as if they could have been placed as decor. Motorcycle helmets occupy space on the table next to their coffees and computers.

Four Coffee 002, a medium-dark blend of coffee beans from Guatemala and Honduras. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Four Coffee 002, a medium-dark blend of coffee beans from Guatemala and Honduras. Photo by Ryan Woldt

I find a stool and make myself comfortable. The baristas make the rounds just to chat with customers. Most seem to be regulars. My coffee is hot and black and matches the barista’s initial description as a medium roast with some dark tendencies. Four Coffee is the roasting side of the Fourtillfour cafes, of which there are two. The first opened in Scottsdale, AZ, in 2015

I move to the lounge chairs nearest the cafe so I can hear the grind of the beans and smile at the happy dog that seems to be playing hide-and-seek with its own tail. I eavesdrop as a guy covered head to toe in motorcycle leathers explains the differences between his old muffler system and his new one to anyone in earshot.

For the most part, the Fourtillfour experience this morning is calm and quiet, except for the occasional train whistle tearing apart the tranquility. This Instagram-friendly shop seems designed for a new type of customer looking for more than coffee. The store is looking for a place where a few well-placed selfies will let its friends and followers know they experienced coffee.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ogle the red Porsche out front and imagine feeling the rumble of the motor as I downshift around a corner and race off on my next coffee adventure.

Pro-tip: The door behind the stage you think is the restroom isn’t. There is one down a walkway in the back right corner that is shared with the flower shop next door. Be sure to check both locks!

Want more coffee content? Listen to the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast on Spotify.  Follow @RoastWestCoast on Instagram.

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