Tag Archives: opening

Cafe Hounding: Lion Coffee – San Diego

Lion Coffee – San Diego

101 Market Street (Corner of 1st and Market)
San Diego, CA 92101


Following up the news about Lion Coffee in downtown San Diego that I posted here two weeks ago, I finally visited this cafe today. It has been opened just for about a week. The business seems to be going well so far. As I mentioned in the earlier post, this is the only Lion Coffee cafe in the mainland USA.

The location of this cafe is great. It is near Horton Plaza, Convention Center, and Seaport Village. The floor-to-ceiling windows with garden and trees outside make this store unique and differentiate itself from other coffee places in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego. Larry Wilkens, the owner, keeps the layout of the cafe the same as Starbucks cafe that previously occupied this premise, but he redecorated the store with bamboo shelfs, rattan sofa, Hawaiian paintings, and vintage tropical ceiling fans– basically bringing bits of Hawaiian feeling to the mainland USA. (There are a lot of lion dolls and statues here and there all over the cafe, too.)

Picture 7

Seating was ample when I visited, which was in an afternoon of a weekday. Many of the customers seem to purchase coffee to-go. There is also an outdoor seating area if you prefer. I do not expect the cafe to be too crowded. This should be a nice place if you want to spend time relaxing over a cup of coffee, and don’t want to feel that you have to rush because other people are waiting for the table. There is more than enough natural light during the day if you want to read books or newspapers while sipping your coffee. Free wireless internet was detected when I was there, although I was not sure whether it was provided by Lion or some residents in the nearby apartments were generous enough to provide this public goods.

I ordered a latte. It was prepared by a super friendly barista “Lenny” who has worked with Larry and Lion for over a year, since when Lion was still at the previous location in Mission Valley. My latte was made from Lion’s Diamond Head Blend, which has 10% Hawaiian beans plus Arabica from other parts of the world. It was medium Italian roasted. My latte was quite good and served in colorful Lion cup. (I still have yet to try espresso drinks made from Lion’s 100% Kona beans.)

Picture 8

For non-espresso coffee, Lion provides a wide variety of non-flavored and flavored coffee drinks, including 100% Kona coffee. The cafe is also a retail store for Lion Coffee and Royal Kona Coffee beans, which were roasted in Hawaii and shipped here regularly. According to the reviews on yelp and my conversation with Lenny, Toasted Coconut flavor seems to be the best selling blend at this store. There are other Hawaiian goodies such as teas, chips, and macadamia chocolate available for purchase. They also serve light breakfast and fresh pastries, in case you look for something to enjoy with your coffee.

Overall, I had a good experience with the visit. Unlike the ultra-fancy restaurants that occupy the dining scene of Gaslamp Quarter, Lion Coffee is a friendly neighborhood cafe in the middle of downtown that you can just relax and get good coffee prepared by a surfer-dude barista and friendly staff– a cherry on the top of your enjoyment in the beautiful San Diego.

–Kris Hound


Chinatown Coffee Co. Opens This Week!

UPDATE: Chinatown Coffee Co. set to open Monday July 27th!  After emailing with Max Brown (he and his wife will manage the store with Nick’s help) and stopping by in my car today (Sunday, July 26th), I came up with the news.  Friendly competition among Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC) and Peregrine Espresso will ensue.

I talked to David Flynn of Peregrine on Saturday to hear what he knows about specialty coffee out here on the East Coast and he’s as excited about CCC as the rest of us.

My only worry is the location.  It seems a bit out of the way for most people and if I am correct (which I may not be), there was a Juan Valdez on E Street not too far from the CCC location that couldn’t hack it.

Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC)

Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC)

The back story:  For those of you who didn’t know the coffee experience of Murky Coffee (formerly located in Clarendon and in DC), owner Nick Cho had a great thing going.  But, like so many amazing people who are head-over-heels passionate about people and coffee, they don’t fully appreciate the importance of cash flow management in this business (won’t mention any names but even the true pioneers of this entire industry are guilty of this).  That said, those who are knowledgeable, passionate and determined often survive.  This is the story behind Chinatown Coffee Co. set to open this week in the Penn Quarter of Washington, D.C.


Above is a link to some photos that track the development of the place.  If all of the buzz of local residents, the Washington Post and Yelp have anything to say, the coffee looks to be as amazing as ever.  The ambiance appears to slightly mimic a combination of Blue Bottle (off of Mint in San Francisco) and the Espressamente Illy located at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

I’m looking forward to checking it out by the end of this week and hopefully get to at least chat a bit with Nick Cho before I write up a review.

I’ve never explored the specialty coffee scene in DC and now have a great excuse to do so.

Stay tuned!

– Maher Hound

Buzz: Coffee obsession becomes business