Robert Bush 9 a.m., March 29
Toma Sol Cafe
The cafe is situated on the less-occupied stretch of Washington Street between Hillcrest and Mission Hills proper. Considering the relatively sterile feel of the block on which it's located, Toma Sol manages a comfortable vibe that might make the quiet coffee shop a good place to sit and get some serious work done.
A shot of espresso (the coffee comes from local roaster Cafe Moto) was better than average with good crema and a deep, rich flavor that had a touch of sweetness to it even without sugar.
The cafe serves panini in a few different flavors and soup from Decker Brothers, a company that purveys ready-to-serve soups to a handful of San Diego coffee shops and small restaurants. A Tuscan lentil soup ($5.25/16oz) was very hearty and had just the right texture; not too brothy, yet not quite reduced to gravy. It could have withstood a dash or two of salt and pepper, which is not ideal but far better than the alternative since one cannot un-salt soup.
In addition to the soup and sandwiches, there are a few pre-packaged salads on display from Ganosh Gourmet. The Coronado-based company, which offers weekly meal plans and home delivery, seems to produce some nice looking food, though I didn't have the appetite to sample any of it at the cafe.
Somebody at Toma Sol knows her way around a blender. A mango smoothie ($4.05) was gloriously thick and managed to strut the line between fruit and ice perfectly.
The pleasant atmosphere and professional coffee making at Toma Sol were more noteworthy than the food options. The available snacks and light meals would definitely suffice for, say, the frazzled graduate student working hard on a thesis and unable to tear himself away, but they wouldn't really warrant a dedicated lunch trip unless caffeination was a serious priority.
301 West Washington Street