Where: The Cup, 206 Wisconsin Ave, Oceanside, CA 92054
Open: Daily 6:30 AM – 10:00 PM
What: Batch Brew Caffe Calabria Five A.M blend
Tasting Notes: Lemon notes, hints of apple, and blueberry
Price: $1.00 with your mug. $2.00 without.
What I’m listening to: BROS, “Tell me.”
The Cup in Oceanside is not where I planned to get a cup of coffee today. It wasn’t the first place I drove past or even the second. It was the third. I stopped for one reason and one reason only. The front patio was in full sun, and the digital display in my car said it was 46 degrees.
I’ll say that again, 46 degrees! If I were to survive the chill, I would need hot coffee to warm my insides and the sun’s rays to warm my outside. So I went inside to order. I haven’t been to the cup since the halcyon days pre-pandemic — the time I like to refer to as “The Before.”
My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I’m pretty sure not much has changed at The Cup in my absence. I can hear a boisterous morning crowd chattering away over music from a time when the biggest rock stars wore long crimped hair and spandex tights. Of course, it’s morning, but I could just as soon walk up to a local tavern on a game day afternoon.
Inside, the menu is still on the wall, although it is painted now instead of written in chalk. They still serve sandwiches. The smell, as I enter, is quite lovely. Someone has ordered a classic breakfast sammie. I’m guessing egg, cheese, and ham on an English muffin.
The main space is smallish. The seating area consists of long, narrow tables with stools extending inward from the front wall where the sunshine billows in through an oversized window. An L-shaped bar consists of ordering space, a large coffee dispensing thermos, and several guest seats along the long side—all currently full.
I order a batch-brewed drip. I have cash and my mug, so it is only a buck, which I toss into a basket. I fill up the mug and ask what I’m drinking. It’s the Five A.M. blend from Caffè Calabria and drinks darker than the tasting notes (above) imply. I’d add baker’s chocolate to that list — dark, rich, and much better than one would expect from a $1 cup of joe. It is better than a $1 cup of coffee deserves to be.
Cup in hand, I make my way past the coffee bar. Another small table is tucked into a corner. Down at the end of a hallway, an open door takes me outside to another larger patio where a solitary remote worker is typing away on a laptop.
There is a bit of sun back here already, but not enough for me. So I wrap around the building — pausing to admire the mural of an eye on the building’s east side — and stretch out in front along Wisconsin Ave.
It’s the perfect spot to watch the train pass and gawk at the human traffic. The stream of skaters, strollers, surfers, and puffy coats in and out of the front door is impressively constant.
A gaggle of high schoolers (shouldn’t they be in school?) shuffle in wearing the same baggy, straight-leg dark khakis, Vans, and collar shirts under crewnecks that I’d venture their fathers did.
To a man, they have long hair sticking out from tight-knit stocking caps and—except for their clear spiritual leader — their clenched fists jammed deep into their pockets. Seeing how hard they are working to look disinterested floods me with nostalgia.
I stop a couple who’ve stepped off the nearby pedestrian path and ordered breakfast to ask why they made their way to The Cup this morning, and the response makes me smile.
“I’m over chains and all that…And you can get a beer and a coffee anytime, even in the morning. That’s important.”
They continue to espouse the pleasure of coming to a regular’s kind of place that gives them a feeling of community. After a decade in the neighborhood, it’s not just the coffee. It’s not just the food. It’s not just the beer. It’s the people that make The Cup.
I asked for their names, but they don’t want to be credited for this column. So instead, they cheekily ask to be referred to as “No-ah Body” of Oceanside. I laugh and nod. I’d venture anyone I spoke to this morning would have shared similar sentiments. There are only good vibes here.
“It’s gonna be a nice day,” someone says, and I agree.
I take my coffee and wander down Wisconsin Avenue a short way to Tower 7. The waves are crashing, albeit respectfully, with only enough spray to make a nice photo. The breeze is light and perfectly compliments the continually warming sun.
I find a spot on a boulder among the many protecting the boardwalk. I nestle in to sip my coffee. I close my eyes. When I open them, I take in the endless blue, broken only by a solitary gunmetal gray Naval ship on the horizon and a passing pelican.
It’s going to be a nice day.
*What makes an English muffin English? The English in the name is to distinguish it from a sweeter type of bread shaped like a cupcake. In trying to find that answer, I also learned there were Muffin Men — like from the nursery rhyme — who went door-to-door in the 19th century selling muffins as snacks before most homes had ovens.
Pro-tip #1: Are you looking for a boost? Try the Hammerhead.
Follow The Cup on Instagram @MeetAtTheCup. Always tip your baristas, and be sure to drink good coffee. Get more Bean Journal on roastwestcoast.com or listen to the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast on Spotify. Follow @RoastWestCoast on Instagram.