Where: Communal, 600 S. Tremont St, Oceanside, CA 92054
What: Batch brew black coffee, Blueboon blend from Sightglass Coffee Roasters
Tasting Notes: Milk chocolate, honeysuckle, mandarin
What I’m listening to: Lord Huron, “The Night We Met”
I order my standard batch brew black coffee. In this case, it is the Blueboon blend from Sightglass Coffee (San Francisco). While I wait for my mug to be filled, I look around and try to take in the entirety of the newest addition to the burgeoning Communal Coffee cafe empire in San Diego County. I get my coffee long before I can finish.
Communal in Oceanside is big, really big, with long clean lines, a high-top bar that wraps around the counter, low tables lining the wall under oversized windows, and oversized patio tables in the back for, wait for it, communal seating. All of it is bathed in natural light from a skylight so large I kind of feel like I’m underneath an aquarium.
Let’s back up.
What used to be industrial is now a collection of hip businesses clearly curated to complement each other, but Communal is in the anchor, taking up a full corner in a renovated concrete block building painted milk shed white just behind Bagby Beer Company on Tremont Street in Oceanside.
There is an A-frame sign on the corner out front that leaves no doubt about what is on offer — craft coffee, wine, beer, fresh flowers, curated goods and a seasonal food menu.
I have to pass the curated marketplace with plenty of distracting widgets on raw wood shelves to get to the counter. I almost don’t make it. The service is fast, and despite the late-morning hour, there is a constant stream of customers. A smaller cafe would feel claustrophobic, but Communal is not that. It seems to be a North County trend to open big cafes like this one, Vigilante, and Seaborne.
“Perhaps,” I think, “it is a response to the pandemic.” It is easy to move around and even to socially distance both inside and out front, where there is seating for 30-40 guests at patio tables along the road, which is where I find myself sitting with my cup of coffee.
While I sit people watching, I sip on my coffee which has a big, juicy, bold flavor. I enjoy it while a young family with a child in a baby stroller navigates the patio, a couple of entrepreneurs argue over logo design, and two millennials awkwardly hug on what appears to be the first date.
There is a buzz of energy flowing through the cafe. Customers leave the flower shop, Annex, with beautiful bouquets that serve to remind me it will be Mother’s Day soon.
Communal serves food and booze and is open late (7:00 PM), which makes it more restaurant than a coffee shop, in my opinion. I’m not complaining. The food menu features everything from breakfast sandwiches to pizza. There is a small but upscale dinner menu.
Instead of rejecting the avocado toast craze as some cafes have recently, they’ve embraced it, even taking it further with a Toast Bar served all day. Various toasts are available topped with avocado, baked egg, pastry cream, mint, or berries. If I’m not sure what I want, I can opt for the toast flight.
Going to Communal feels like visiting an Americanized version of a hip Paris cafe. It is bigger, more casual, but equally essential.
Author’s Note: I didn’t realize it until I was leaving, but there is an even bigger patio behind the building connecting the various businesses!
Roast! San Diego, also called The Bean Journal, is a new weekly column by Ryan Woldt, host of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast, which can be streamed at: TheCoastNews.com. Look for features on North County coffee shops, cafes, and coffee roasters.