Where: Steady State Roasting, 2562 State St., Suite G, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Open: Daily 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM
What: Batch Brew Black Coffee: Ethiopia Gore Kone
Tasting Notes: Acai, Key Lime, Peach, Strawberry
Price: $3.50 for a 12oz
What I’m listening to: Black Country, New Road, “Concorde”
When I walk in the door, the barista says, “Hey, Ryan, good morning.” I’m always amazed they remember my name. I spent the better part of two decades working as a server or bartender, or restaurant manager, and I rarely had the capacity to recall a name. A face, sure, but then I’d say, “Hello, buddy, pal, friend, mate”—you get the picture.
But at Steady State Roasting, they remember my name. It is calming and comfortable, and I realize I’m so very close to some life-affirming coffee. I should disclose up front that I’m a homer for Steady State. It is in my neighborhood. The coffee is consistently excellent, and the people are kind.
The vibe here has changed some since its opening a few years ago. This is the second iteration of Steady State, which used to be in the back of a mixed-use building just down the block. When it opened, everything had clean, almost cold lines, creating a linear, lab-like feeling. It matched the precision of the coffee being brewed and the pursuit of excellence being chased by founder and head roaster Elliot Reinecke.
Over time the cafe experience has softened with the addition of some indoor plants, and the growth of a community of those who feel like they are “in the know” has grown. I don’t get to Steady State every day or even every week like some true regulars, but I inevitably know enough other customers by face to smile and wave and say hello whenever I wander over.
A recently painted mural covering the entire north wall by artist Shelby Ling has further injected some pep and warmth into the space. Repeating cacti and palms in orange, yellow, and a pastel mauve version of pink intertwine around a never-crashing wave that evokes endless summer.
The coffee bar and order counter are right inside the entrance. While I wait, I let my eyes wander over all the bags of coffee beans to go. You have more than you can drink at home, I remind myself. I order a batch brew, which they pour into the 12-ounce mug I brought from home. They also offer a 10-ounce pour. They are very precise with it.
I take my mug, look longingly at the coffee equipment for sale at a corner retail station, and make for a table outside. The patio is part of the center’s parking lot. Skinny, tall tables with half umbrellas are pushed against a retaining wall. There are a few vintage folding beach chairs and end tables to rest your mug.
A long bench is pushed up under the oversized rectangle window looking into the cafe. On the other side of the glass, patrons tap away at laptops. Their coffees leave little hints of condensation on their side of the line.
I envy them. I’m not ready to sit indoors, but losing myself in a column or story while picking at a scone at a corner bistro table is one of the post-covid experiences I’m most looking forward to. I take a sip of my coffee, and it is a revelation.
Everything slows down. My normal anxiety about going out into the world again disappears, and I forget to take notes about what I’m tasting. Trying to remember now, I recall sweet fruitiness with a bulbous, rolling flavor that seemed to inhabit my entire mouth. I’m not sure I could pick out one fruit, but somehow they all blended together in a complex cacophony of flavor.
The flavors seem to get bolder the further I work my way through. It crescendoes in time with the new album I’m listening to. It disappears quickly. Too quickly.
“What was that batch brew,” I ask at the counter. They tell me it was the single-origin Ethiopia Gore Kone. “Dang, that was so good,” I reply. The baristas all smile and nod. They know. I order another and an Indian Summer latte for my wife. It is chai and ginger and rosemary, and I know it will make her morning.
“See you next time, Ryan,” the barista says as I turn to leave. I raise my coffee in salute.
“Soon,” I reply.
Roast! San Diego is a new 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.