San Luis Obispo has a lot of coffee shops for a town of fewer than 50,000. A handful of them roast their own beans, and they're all a little bit different, catering to the variety of personalities and needs that make up this little berg. We know all you students out there have a need to study—but not all of the coffee shops around town are conducive to focused studying with laptops, books, and notepads. So we thought we'd introduce you to two handfuls of the spots that are closest to downtown, rate them on a scale of one to four coffee cups (with four being very studious and delicious), and give you our thoughts on what makes or breaks them.
1110 Garden St., SLO (6:30 or 7 a.m. to 9:30 or 10 p.m.)
Oh, Linnaea's. This was the first coffee shop I ever visited when I came to SLO looking for housing in 2015, and I felt immediately at home. I've seen 'em all since and still haven't found a more ideal café environment than this 36-year-old gem in the heart of downtown. With a serene outdoor patio garden in back and ample seating both inside and outside, Linnaea's is the place to be to study, meet a date, hang out with friends, or just grab a reliable cup of coffee and bite to eat. Its steady schedule of art, live music, poetry readings, and workshops only adds to the list of reasons to visit this beloved café. The only downside here is that the Wi-Fi can be a little spotty on the patio.
685 Higuera St., SLO (7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Kreuzberg Coffee downtown has all the bells and whistles that a college student wants from a café. It's big and spacious with couches, comfy chairs, and plenty of tables (and plenty of charging outlets). The coffee's great. The menu is surprisingly diverse and delicious. It's hip. There's beer, live music, art, and stand-up comedy. Even the layout is cool, with the coffee bar at the center of the café and a neat side room tucked over to the right. While it doesn't offer quite the quaint and sunny charm that other coffee shops in town do (it's a little dim and can get quite busy there), this SLO fixture since 2010 leaves very little to complain about.
570 Higuera St. suite 180, SLO (Thursday to Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
If you have a spare hour or two between classes or a free morning, make the trip to Joliene Bakery for a cup of coffee and a baked good. The bakery uses French Truck Coffee beans from New Orleans and is the only place on the West Coast that does so. While you're at it, you might want to indulge in a fruit tartlet, a premade ham and cheese sandwich baguette, or a ginger stone fruit scone. Joliene is toward the back of The Creamery Marketplace, so the sun hits its front patio perfectly to enjoy your goodies with a book or a friend.
PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
974 Monterey St., SLO (6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday)
Of all the coffee shops in SLO, this one has the most laid-back, warm, open vibe. It's ideal for studying, with high ceilings, large windows that face the street, and big tables with lots of plugs to connect your laptops to. There's even a community area that doesn't allow the use of computers, so people can actually look at each other and communicate face-to-face—if you're into that sort of thing. The coffee is roasted in the back, and they also make homemade almond milk. You can choose a sweet or savory treat, and Ascendo just started serving waffles!
1804 Osos St., SLO (7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday)
When Sally Loo says this cafe is wholesome, she's not lying. Sure, it's not really downtown and it's not super close to campus either. With the main focus at Sally's leaning more toward breakfast and lunch over coffee, it's typically packed and not really the ideal location for studying. But students aren't just test-taking robots; they need brunch, too, damn it! With specials like the brioche toast topped with ricotta, homemade plum jam, and crushed pistachios; a variety of drink options, including very refreshing spritzers; AND milkshakes that come with mix-in ingredients like orange zest, espresso, and peanut butter, it really is a joy to visit.
2010 Parker St., SLO (6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday)
Nautical Bean's Parker Street location isn't exactly downtown, but it's not exactly not downtown either. It's on the edge, and it's packing a pretty good wallop. With lots of nooks and crannies to cuddle into, art to look at, and even beer to drink if you're just not in the mood for coffee, it's a pretty funky and happening spot. There are lots of tables to choose from for your ideal studious set-up. You can get a bagel, sandwich, or burrito/wrap to complement that caffeine buzz, and if you're lucky, you could even catch a drag show or a music set.
1130 Garden St., SLO (6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 7 days a week)
For the record, Scout isn't the place to go if you want a meal. They've got some awesome cookies and other sweet house-made snacks, but that's about it when it comes to food. However, the coffee is roasted by Scout's owners through their side hustle: HoneyCo Coffee Roasters, so it's pretty darn good. The shop also makes homemade almond milk, delicious sodas, and affogatos (ice cream with a shot of espresso, yes please!). The atmosphere is hip and laid-back, and light filters in from the giant windows facing Garden Street. You can cozy up against one of the brick walls and pull that laptop out so you can pretend to study while you people watch. That's what I'd do.
793F Foothill Blvd., SLO (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
The amazing thing about SloDoCo—aside from the fact that is has almost every flavor of doughnut imaginable—is that it's open 24 hours. It's kind of the perfect place to order a cup of Joe or chai iced tea and get to studying. There are plenty of large tables that lend to group studying or laying out every single tool needed to study until your brain hurts. Now, about those doughnuts—you could get glazed buttermilk, a dozen doughnut holes to share with friends, or you could get really fancy and order a circus animal. Yes, there are cookies on the doughnut.
BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery
1065 Higuera St., SLO (5 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday)
Don't get it twisted, we love BlackHorse. Great coffee, delicious baked goods, and $1 day-old bagels—what's not to love? But everyone who's anyone knows that BlackHorse (we're talking the downtown location) is the go-to spot for San Luis Obispo's non-student residents. Maybe it's the shop's proximity to the city government building. Or maybe it's the no-nonsense interior design. Either way, there are literal packs of old guys, all with their coffees and usually their awesome dogs, gathered around tables and discussing politics on the BlackHorse patio every morning. So, really, that makes BlackHorse the perfect place for students to get motivated and ponder whether they'll end up like these fantastic men—comfortably retired with a daily coffee and dog meetup with your boys.
847 Higuera St., SLO (6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday)
Sorry, Kin! You've got a hip and kewl thing going with the matte black walls, the magnifying glasses everywhere, the local art, and baristas with beards and tattoos. The antique syphon coffee brewers are fun and, honestly, the lavender matcha is pretty bomb—and you can get a large drip coffee for $2 that's out of this world. But we're judging coffee shops based on accessibility to students, and with dungeon-esque lighting (the black wall paint is probably to blame for this), almost no seating, and legitimately no tables that could be used for studying, Kin sits at the bottom of our Student Guide list. Δ
PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM