Anyone who has lived in Pacific Beach for any length of time knows of Café 976. This is the go to coffee shop for locals. Early mornings, you’ll find long lines at the counter for breakfasts and coffees. Located a block off Garnet Avenue, and just three blocks from the beach at the corner of Felspar and Cass Streets, you’ll wonder if you just stepped into Grandma’s backyard garden.
You could call Café 976 hip and beachy casual by looking at the patrons, and you’d be right, but it’s more than that. The 1920s beach house with wraparound porch sits back from the street, amidst shade trees, shrubs, flowers, and chirping birds. It’s an urban refuge where you can take a step back from your usual harried existence and exhale. College students in headphones drink espressos behind open textbooks. Bohemian thirty-somethings sip Cherry Sakura green tea engaged in subdued conversation. Surfers order up breakfast burritos after hitting the waves. Tourists hover around café computers to plan their day. Professionals, hippies, families, backpackers – everyone finds a home at Café 976.
Grab a spot at one of the painted bistro tables on the wraparound porch and enjoy a bowl of acai with fresh blueberries and strawberries, while keeping an eye on the action. How about a Nutty Monkey – French toast or a waffle with granola, walnuts, and sliced bananas? Breakfast burritos are a classic favorite in San Diego, and no one does them better than Café 976. Try the Cali Burrito with eggs, bacon, potatoes, avocado, and a three-cheese blend wrapped in a locally made gourmet tortilla. Big appetites will enjoy the burrito solo, but smaller appetites may want to share.
If breakfast isn’t breakfast to you without your morning coffee, Café 976 is best known for its espresso house specialties. If you take your coffee black with no frills, they’ve got you covered. However, if you believe vacations are for trying new things, the wildly popular Nine-Seven-Six espresso with white chocolate, hazelnut, and steamed milk will definitely make you an espresso convert. Chai Latte lovers will not be disappointed at this eclectic café.
Café 976 is a reasonably priced place to drop by for lunch between beach sessions, or on your way to the beach by bicycle. Grab a West Coast Burrito on a spinach tortilla, or a chicken pesto pizza. Vegetarians, try the salad wrap with spinach, cucumber, tomato, Kalamata olives, feta & hummus in a spinach wrap, or the Spicy Eggplant sandwich with grilled eggplant, sun dried tomato, lettuce, and tomato. If you’re looking for a quick snack, come by Café 976 for a Fat Molly Brownie, an Al Green iced espresso, or a Strawberry-Banana-Blueberry fruit smoothie.
Café 976 not only has Wi-Fi for their customers, they also have a couple café computers you can use. Dog walkers stop by for coffee too, so there is the occasional pooch here or there resting at its owner’s feet. Bicycles are welcome. Seat yourself blue-topped tables are scattered throughout the garden area surrounding the café; they’re stationary, so there’s no pulling a couple tables together. Tables against the wall on the elevated porch offer less of a view, but more personal space.
There’s a community bulletin board with local items for sale, house or apartment rentals, and upcoming local events – usually of a musical nature. You’ll also find issues of City Pages, the San Diego Reader, and other free local publications packed with activities, information, and discounts by the front door. There is ample street parking or a couple self-pay lots on Cass Street between Felspar Street and Garnet Avenue. Café 976 opens at 7 a.m. every day.
Café 976 does not serve alcohol, but that doesn’t stop them from having Happy Hour Specials from 4 to 7 p.m. daily. Mondays, buy a sandwich and get a second for half-price. Tuesdays, Café 976 gets in on San Diego’s Taco Tuesday scene with two fish or chicken tacos and a soda for $5. Wednesdays are $6 burritos; Thursday, loaded potatoes; Friday, Nachos, and Saturday, veggie quesadillas. Sundays are all about specialty drinks, blended drinks, or smoothies; buy one and get the second for half-price.
Garnet Avenue is main drag in Pacific Beach with restaurants and bars, surf, tattoo, and head shops, boutique stores, and more. It’s just a one block walk on Cass Street from Café 976. A stroll down Garnet will give you a good indication of the personality of the neighborhood. Turn left on Garnet from Cass and you’ll hit Trader Joe’s two blocks up. Turn right instead, and you’re at Pangaea Outpost at the corner of Garnet and Bayard. You can make the two block walk from Café 976 to Mission Boulevard and turn left for more shops, bars, and eateries, or keep going on Felspar another block to the beach.
Walking the beach to the right, you’ll have a peaceful walk all the way to Tourmaline Surf Park, a favorite among locals. Taking a left on the boardwalk from Felspar, you’ll find the iconic Crystal Pier. Continuing along the beach boardwalk (Ocean Front Walk), you can wander all the way to Belmont Park in Mission Beach. There are a few bike rental shops along the way, if you prefer to ride. Either way, the boardwalk is the hub of the beach area stretching uninterrupted along Pacific and Mission beaches.