In La jolla, start your day the Pannikin way with sustenance and a smile

The Greek Eggs are served with oranges and a bagel from Busy Bee's. A cup of coffee rounds out the full breakfast.
The Greek Eggs are served with oranges and a bagel from Busy Bee's. A cup of coffee rounds out the full breakfast.

By Kelley Carlson

From sunrise until sundown, La Jolla's Pannikin Coffee & Tea is constantly buzzing with customers. It’s a cozy setting, a haven for all ages. On the patio, birds serenade customers from the treetops all day long. Dogs curl up next to their owners, who sip on steaming cups of java while perusing a newspaper from the stands on the sidewalk. A chalkboard just outside the restaurant’s door highlights menu items and notes the hours with an artistic flair. And if it’s not a typically warm Southern California day, heat lamps keep the temperature comfortable.

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The Greek Eggs are served with oranges and a bagel from Busy Bee's. A cup of coffee rounds out the full breakfast.

Inside reveals old-school charm with modern-day touches, complete with eclectic knickknacks. Patrons travel a well-worn wood floor to the counter to place their orders for breakfast and lunch entrees, coffees and teas, or baked goods in the nearby glass case. They settle in seats next to windows with lace curtains, set up their laptops and take advantage of the free WiFi, gather around the chess table in the back, or kick back in the colorful seats and socialize with friends.

The walls display an ever-changing array of paintings, with a different local artist featured each month. There’s also a photo collection of past-and-present employees. One tongue-in-cheek sign reads, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy.”

Tunes from jazz musicians like Django Reinhardt and Ella Fitzgerald, to folk singer Iron & Wine, complete the coffeehouse setting.

The Pannikin fills up early and stays steady all day, and then begins to mellow around 4-4:30 p.m. To fully appreciate the experience, Amanda Morrow, who co-owns the establishment with Renee Moreno, suggests coming in around 9 a.m. on a sunny morning and sitting outside. If it’s raining, come extra early to reserve a seat by the fireplace, which has a red-and-white Harley hanging over it. (Original owner Robert “Bob” Sinclair collected motorbikes.)

Morrow said the baristas get to know the customers’ names and preferences, so they know what to prepare when patrons walk through the door. “I feel like we’re a real community,” she said. “We don’t treat people like they are a number.”

The La Jolla Pannikin also maintains a close connection with area businesses, including its sister locations in Del Mar and Leucadia, which have different owners. They share the same recipes and assorted pastries, and the coffee beans are roasted at the Leucadia site, guaranteeing that the java is never more than a week old. “We never have old coffee; it’s super-duper fresh,” said Morrow, who established the roastery for the company.

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Spinach Mushroom Quiche and red chai tea. Photos by Kelley Carlson

There are about 20 varieties of coffees (along with 40 types of teas) which can be purchased in store or online. In addition, Pannikin offers a full espresso bar, and the creative baristas — Morrow and Moreno included — often turn the foam into works of art. Among the specialty drinks are the Jimi Hendrix with four shots of espresso, steamed Mexican chocolate milk and hazelnut syrup; the Keith Richards, identical to the Jimi Hendrix except there’s no hazelnut syrup, but there is foam on top; and the Michael Jackson, consisting of three shots of espresso, half Mexican chocolate and half white chocolate.

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