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Surfdog's Java Hut on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Surfdog's
Surfdog's Java Hut on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Surfdog's
ColumnsFood & WineRoast! San Diego

Surfdog’s Java Hut

Where: Surfdog’s Java Hut, 1126 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Open: 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM Daily
What: Batch-brewed Caffee Calabria black coffee
Tasting notes: Tastes like coffee
Find them at: www.surfdogjavahut.com • @surfdogsjavahut
What I’m listening to: The Shacks, “This Strange Effect”

It isn’t the lovely new green-certified building nor the pelicans painted on the wall. It’s not the turtles cut into the outdoor lanterns nor the flowing overhang shaped like a wave. It’s not the compact coffee bar, location near Swami’s, or the vintage wooden surfboard affixed to the ceiling. It’s not the customers wearing flip-flops or the surf rock or the tiki-inspired decor.

It’s all of those things and none of them. Surfdog’s Java Hut, more than anything else, is a vibe. This feels like the SoCal I imagined as a kid catching the occasional surf comp on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. It’s where I imagine Johnny Utah would pick up coffees for himself and Agent Pappas.*

It’s where it feels warm and cozy even when the marine layer fog has socked us in, and the plain bagel tastes a little bit better when paired with a fitting surf-rock soundtrack. It’s where the people inside are generally smiling as they take away paper coffee cups from the counter.

The inside of Surfdog's Java Hut in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
The inside of Surfdog’s Java Hut in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

I espouse such profundity, knowing that the Surfdog’s Java Hut of today isn’t the same as the one that opened in 1999 or even the one from the late 2010s. The bamboo grass ceiling is gone, as are the palm trees painted on the walls and the Tahitian-style hatched roof overhanging the patio.

The entire building that housed the original Surfdog’s Java Hut has been transformed, pulled apart, torn down, and rebuilt with clean lines and mixed-use permitting. As a result, the tiled turtle that so prominently took up the space under your flip-flops in the middle of the dining room has been saved as a nod to the past. Instead, it hangs on the outside wall between buildings where you can always find shade.

Surfdog’s Java Hut still offers a solid breakfast menu, including acai bowls, scrambles, toasts, and granola-topped oatmeal. There are a few lunch options to go with the ever-present bagel display. The coffee menu is simple. They offer coffee and tea, hot or iced, and the espresso drinks most commonly ordered in every coffee shop everywhere. Are you looking for something in between? Order an all-fruit smoothie.

Enjoy your coffee on the outdoor patio near the entrance of Surfdog's Java Hut in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Enjoy your coffee on the outdoor patio near the entrance of Surfdog’s Java Hut in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Ten years ago, I sat outside under the thatched overhang, reading the local newspaper and wondering if Encinitas was the place I could stay for the long haul.** I remember thinking, This feels like Southern California. This corner. This coffee shop. This might be it.

Surfdog’s isn’t the same but look around North County. What is? The Top Gun house is a pie shop. South “O” is cool. Carlsbad Village’s fourth coffee roaster will be opening this summer. Half the buildings on the Coast Highway have been rebuilt. Have you been to Vista? Even the cliffs facing the Pacific don’t have the same lines. Things change.

Some change is bad. Some change is good, but it is still nice that some things feel the same. The vibe at Surfdog feels the same to me. It is nice to sit here at the round table next to the oversized new pandemic-enabled patio.

My coffee is not as crafty as I would typically like. That’s okay. It tastes the same as it always has. It’s hot, and the steam rolls upward as dogs pass. It will be the perfect coffee ten minutes from now when I’ve left this place. I’ll walk south a few blocks to Swami’s Seaside Park and lean over the rail to look at the ocean. I’ll take in the scene and think, This. This is the SoCal that is.

*Presuming a different ending to Point Break. No spoilers.
**I was living in Pacific Beach back then.

Want to hear the stories of local coffee entrepreneurs or learn how to brew a better cup of coffee at home? Listen to Coffee People and Coffee Smarter on your favorite podcasting platforms. You can even stream the latest episodes on The Coast News!