Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
Hide in plain sight, they say, it works. At least it seems to be working for Art of Espresso on the UCSD campus. The coffee cart at the south end of the Mandeville center has been pulling top-quality shots of espresso since 1999 and it's a fixture for students (and people passing through campus by bike).
On any given weekday morning there will be a queue of students lining up for caffeination before the day's scholastic pursuits. There's no better shot of espresso to be found on campus. In fact, the java at the Art of Espresso can go toe to toe with just about anyone in town. Make no mistake, the cart isn't a stop for a lackluster morning jolt, it's a serious espresso bar. As is the case with any really good coffee place, I recommend sticking with espresso or macchiato to get the most out of the experience. The plain truth is that good coffee needs no adornment. Nevertheless, the staff is super-pro and they will make whatever with care and skill.
People in a rush can opt in to the self-service, honor system airpots on the left flank of the Art of Espresso. Prices are rounded for ease of transaction and there's a basket out of which it's possible to make change, but the most elegant solution is to bring the exact sum (a small coffee is $1 and prices increase by quarters) and achieve a zen-like, seamless purchase. It's really quite gratifying.
Sure, maybe the Art of Espresso won't become everybody's go-to coffee spot, for no other reason that it's concealed within the college campus. But anyone passing through UCSD or the area would be well advised to pop in. It's just off Gilman Drive, accessible via Mandeville Lane.
Open only during classes