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Communal Coffee’s tempting toast bar

We’re still talking anemic-sounding nuts ’n twigs flavors

That’s what it used to be. Now it’s so much more.
That’s what it used to be. Now it’s so much more.

How many times have I potholed my way up University, juddering past this place and watching it transform from a lamp store, think it was, to this so-cool coffee, food, cool-merch emporium, right next to a garden place? Today I’m on the #10, trying to get to a pub in Normal Heights. But I miss the last stop on Park, end up on University, pull the chain, and find myself at Texas, right by a sign saying “COFFEE & FLOWERS.” Destiny? Why not? This place has my vibe. It looks kinda “back to nature,” with plants, coffee, and, hey, food! And the hangoutability factor? A 10!

Aimeé: helped turn this into a social hub.

It says to go ‘round the side, so I do. This is the entrance to North Park Nursery, but the other door takes you into a space called “Communal Coffee.” I head inside. Light, bright, kinda intellectual. Interesting art cards, books, nat’ral shampoos, women’s tops, bottoms, knick-knacks, and a coffee and food counter. And it seems to go on, through room after room, each one differently designed in a very cool way, and each one pretty busy with a sophisticated crowd, talking, shopping, slurping, and eating. For a moment, I wonder if we’ve hit some sale, or club day, but no — guess this is just North Park being its everyday self.

Place

Communal Coffee

2335 University Avenue, San Diego

I go to the counter, and the gal Aimee (“accent on the last ‘e,’” she says) gives me a menu. Ah, yes: for starters, breakfast all day. Eggplant veggie bagels ($10), oatmeal bowls ($4), salted maple sausage sandwich ($10), and a cilantro crema sandwich with baked egg, pepper-jack and arugula on an English muffin ($10), which — have to say — sounds really healthy but not totally full of pungent flavor. A mango mint chia bowl (coconut milk, mint, toasted almonds, toasted coconut)? Same-same. We’re talking a similar palette of uber-delicacy. But at least they’re doing something different for brekkers.

Eggs: $2 extra for two. Worth it for the color, ooze.

The “Toast Bar” looks tempting too, although we’re still talking anemic-sounding nuts ’n twigs flavors. Take herbed cucumber avocado, with herbed cream cheese and pea shoots on toast ($10). You can almost hear Meatarians yelling, “Show me the beef!” And vegetarians shouting back, “You just don’t get it!” OK, at least the Croque Madame adds smoked ham and Dijon mustard to the baked egg and gruyere.

Good news is, there’s almost nothing over $12. Aimee says the exception, the $17.50 Communal Pizza (with three cheeses, ham, and tomato) is great. And the salami pizza (same price) looks even greater. It promises caramelized balsamic fennel, goat cheese, mozzarella, Calabrese salami, and finocchiona salami. Have to look that up. Turns out “finocchiona” is fennel. They only serve these after midday.

Garden of Eatin’ - tables are strewn among living plants for sale.

Hmm. But this is gonna be my breakfast, right? So first, a coffee. And what a beautiful steaming, wide, big china coffee-cupful turns up. It’s worth coming just for this. Then I go for an item from the “Toast” section: the charred corn cotija ($10). It’s avocado, pickled corn, and charred corn on toast, with cotija cheese and chives. I know cotija cheese can be made very salty to preserve it. It’s a seasonal cheese produced in Cotija, Michoacan, during the rainy season when the grasses are rich, up where they keep their cows, 5000 feet in the mountains.

Then, last minute, I start panicking about not getting enough food, and cave when I spot the Ginger Mediterranean Bowl ($12) in the “breakfast” section. It’s the promise of ginger that hooks me. We’re talking cucumbers, red onion, avo, tomato, sesame ginger dressing, and micro cilantro. Yes, the “bland” word crosses my pre-brekky brain again. I add the optional couscous (I know: more bland leading the bland!) for $2 extra, and two soft-boiled eggs (also $2 extra), just so I can squish out their yolks for a bit o’color. Plus I ask for Tapatio.

Ginger Mediterranean breakfast bowl, $16 with couscous and eggs.

With all this nosh, I head outside, because actually all the rooms inside are kinda full. I end up in a patio that joins up with the North Park Nursery next door. It’s a very cool scene. Plants, little trees, and a lot of people laptopping, Zooming. Women, mainly, chat away between eating. Some talk in Spanish, some in Russian, sounds like. Also, in English, they’re answering phone calls about real estate, or social issues. Like, “Are you wanting a price reduction or a credit?” “Guest house outbuildings? Signs of deterioration. Water damage?”

We’re near a display of California native plants for sale. I never knew we had so many.

I take a gulp on this wonderful coffee and start in on the charred corn cotija. It takes a while to discover that the main flavor here is in the pickled corn, helped by the charred corn. They deliver a much-needed sharp tang. And with the bowl, too, I’m not getting a huge ginger charge. I hate myself, but I ask for salt and pepper. I can see everyone kinda shrinking away. It’s only just before I put the salt on that I realize if you scoop down to the bottom and haul up liquids to pour over the rest, you suddenly start to get an interesting and still super-healthy dish.

And here’s the thing. I think of this part of University as more Pizza Hut (there’s one across the road) than nuts and twigs, yet here is this island of goodness and back-to-earth values and flavors. It’s so refreshing. Right now, even though I have been craving flavor, I would no way go back to a greasy traditional breakfast. Not today, not here.

Think I’ll get a cawfee refill and test out their hangoutability factor a little more.

  • The Place: Communal Coffee, 2335 University Ave. (at Texas), 619-363-7737
  • Hours: 7am-7pm, daily
  • Prices: Oatmeal bowls, $4; eggplant veggie bagel, $10; salted maple sausage sandwich, $10; cilantro crema sandwich (baked egg, pepper Jack, arugula, $10; mango mint chia bowl (coconut milk, mint, toasted almonds, toasted coconut), $9; herbed cucumber avocado (herbed cream cheese, pea shoots on toast, $10; croque Madame (smoked ham, baked egg, gruyere), $12; Communal Pizza (3 cheeses, ham, tomato), $17.50; salami pizza (with goat cheese, mozzarella, $17.50); charred corn cotija on toast, $10); ginger Mediterranean breakfast bowl, $12 (optional couscous, $2; two soft-boiled eggs, $2
  • Buses: 7, 10
  • Nearest Bus Stops: University Ave. at Texas St. (eastbound), University Ave. at Louisiana St. (westbound)
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That’s what it used to be. Now it’s so much more.
That’s what it used to be. Now it’s so much more.

How many times have I potholed my way up University, juddering past this place and watching it transform from a lamp store, think it was, to this so-cool coffee, food, cool-merch emporium, right next to a garden place? Today I’m on the #10, trying to get to a pub in Normal Heights. But I miss the last stop on Park, end up on University, pull the chain, and find myself at Texas, right by a sign saying “COFFEE & FLOWERS.” Destiny? Why not? This place has my vibe. It looks kinda “back to nature,” with plants, coffee, and, hey, food! And the hangoutability factor? A 10!

Aimeé: helped turn this into a social hub.

It says to go ‘round the side, so I do. This is the entrance to North Park Nursery, but the other door takes you into a space called “Communal Coffee.” I head inside. Light, bright, kinda intellectual. Interesting art cards, books, nat’ral shampoos, women’s tops, bottoms, knick-knacks, and a coffee and food counter. And it seems to go on, through room after room, each one differently designed in a very cool way, and each one pretty busy with a sophisticated crowd, talking, shopping, slurping, and eating. For a moment, I wonder if we’ve hit some sale, or club day, but no — guess this is just North Park being its everyday self.

Place

Communal Coffee

2335 University Avenue, San Diego

I go to the counter, and the gal Aimee (“accent on the last ‘e,’” she says) gives me a menu. Ah, yes: for starters, breakfast all day. Eggplant veggie bagels ($10), oatmeal bowls ($4), salted maple sausage sandwich ($10), and a cilantro crema sandwich with baked egg, pepper-jack and arugula on an English muffin ($10), which — have to say — sounds really healthy but not totally full of pungent flavor. A mango mint chia bowl (coconut milk, mint, toasted almonds, toasted coconut)? Same-same. We’re talking a similar palette of uber-delicacy. But at least they’re doing something different for brekkers.

Eggs: $2 extra for two. Worth it for the color, ooze.

The “Toast Bar” looks tempting too, although we’re still talking anemic-sounding nuts ’n twigs flavors. Take herbed cucumber avocado, with herbed cream cheese and pea shoots on toast ($10). You can almost hear Meatarians yelling, “Show me the beef!” And vegetarians shouting back, “You just don’t get it!” OK, at least the Croque Madame adds smoked ham and Dijon mustard to the baked egg and gruyere.

Good news is, there’s almost nothing over $12. Aimee says the exception, the $17.50 Communal Pizza (with three cheeses, ham, and tomato) is great. And the salami pizza (same price) looks even greater. It promises caramelized balsamic fennel, goat cheese, mozzarella, Calabrese salami, and finocchiona salami. Have to look that up. Turns out “finocchiona” is fennel. They only serve these after midday.

Garden of Eatin’ - tables are strewn among living plants for sale.

Hmm. But this is gonna be my breakfast, right? So first, a coffee. And what a beautiful steaming, wide, big china coffee-cupful turns up. It’s worth coming just for this. Then I go for an item from the “Toast” section: the charred corn cotija ($10). It’s avocado, pickled corn, and charred corn on toast, with cotija cheese and chives. I know cotija cheese can be made very salty to preserve it. It’s a seasonal cheese produced in Cotija, Michoacan, during the rainy season when the grasses are rich, up where they keep their cows, 5000 feet in the mountains.

Then, last minute, I start panicking about not getting enough food, and cave when I spot the Ginger Mediterranean Bowl ($12) in the “breakfast” section. It’s the promise of ginger that hooks me. We’re talking cucumbers, red onion, avo, tomato, sesame ginger dressing, and micro cilantro. Yes, the “bland” word crosses my pre-brekky brain again. I add the optional couscous (I know: more bland leading the bland!) for $2 extra, and two soft-boiled eggs (also $2 extra), just so I can squish out their yolks for a bit o’color. Plus I ask for Tapatio.

Ginger Mediterranean breakfast bowl, $16 with couscous and eggs.

With all this nosh, I head outside, because actually all the rooms inside are kinda full. I end up in a patio that joins up with the North Park Nursery next door. It’s a very cool scene. Plants, little trees, and a lot of people laptopping, Zooming. Women, mainly, chat away between eating. Some talk in Spanish, some in Russian, sounds like. Also, in English, they’re answering phone calls about real estate, or social issues. Like, “Are you wanting a price reduction or a credit?” “Guest house outbuildings? Signs of deterioration. Water damage?”

We’re near a display of California native plants for sale. I never knew we had so many.

I take a gulp on this wonderful coffee and start in on the charred corn cotija. It takes a while to discover that the main flavor here is in the pickled corn, helped by the charred corn. They deliver a much-needed sharp tang. And with the bowl, too, I’m not getting a huge ginger charge. I hate myself, but I ask for salt and pepper. I can see everyone kinda shrinking away. It’s only just before I put the salt on that I realize if you scoop down to the bottom and haul up liquids to pour over the rest, you suddenly start to get an interesting and still super-healthy dish.

And here’s the thing. I think of this part of University as more Pizza Hut (there’s one across the road) than nuts and twigs, yet here is this island of goodness and back-to-earth values and flavors. It’s so refreshing. Right now, even though I have been craving flavor, I would no way go back to a greasy traditional breakfast. Not today, not here.

Think I’ll get a cawfee refill and test out their hangoutability factor a little more.

  • The Place: Communal Coffee, 2335 University Ave. (at Texas), 619-363-7737
  • Hours: 7am-7pm, daily
  • Prices: Oatmeal bowls, $4; eggplant veggie bagel, $10; salted maple sausage sandwich, $10; cilantro crema sandwich (baked egg, pepper Jack, arugula, $10; mango mint chia bowl (coconut milk, mint, toasted almonds, toasted coconut), $9; herbed cucumber avocado (herbed cream cheese, pea shoots on toast, $10; croque Madame (smoked ham, baked egg, gruyere), $12; Communal Pizza (3 cheeses, ham, tomato), $17.50; salami pizza (with goat cheese, mozzarella, $17.50); charred corn cotija on toast, $10); ginger Mediterranean breakfast bowl, $12 (optional couscous, $2; two soft-boiled eggs, $2
  • Buses: 7, 10
  • Nearest Bus Stops: University Ave. at Texas St. (eastbound), University Ave. at Louisiana St. (westbound)
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