Coffee and community: Pannikin La Jolla extends offerings into summer nights

Pannikin La Jolla has expanded hours and dinner items for the summer.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Business Spotlight:

Steeped in tradition as a La Jolla go-to for coffee, tea and community for more than 50 years, Pannikin La Jolla at 7467 Girard Ave. continues to innovate, having honed its menu over the past year and extended summer evening hours.

“We love building community; that’s our favorite part about it,” said Amanda Morrow, who co-owns Pannikin with Gloria Serna and Dan Grunow.

Morrow bought the cafe in 2007 after working there for years.

New this season are “Pannikin Summer Nights,” in which the cafe is offering dinner until 6 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and until 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

New dinner options include sweet or savory baked brie dishes, a veggie burrito and charcuterie boards, along with lunch menu favorites such as sandwiches and salads, according to John Fraher, Pannikin La Jolla’s general manager.

“I’ve just been doing fun stuff, like anchovy crostinis,” using the slower afternoon and evening hours “to be creative and find out what people like,” Fraher said.

He said popular new items will be added to the menu permanently.

“Our lunch and dinner menu has been really shifting and gotten better over time,” Morrow said.

“Through the pandemic we had to hone down” the offerings, Serna said, noting that due to low revenue, she and Morrow decided to start baking in house.

“Through all of that, we started really focusing on the kitchen,” Serna said. “I became one of the chefs. We started using a lot more organic stuff,” aligning with how she and Morrow, who are married, eat at home.

“We’re very focused on our health,” Serna said. The COVID-19 pandemic “was a big push for us to home in on the things we really care about.”

Most everything Pannikin La Jolla offers now is made in house and sold fresh, featuring locally sourced and organic ingredients “as much as possible,” she said.

The cafe also features bread products from local company Wildwood Flour, whose owner,
Noah Orloff, used to work at Pannikin.

Pannikin La Jolla also has a new coffee roaster, which means all beans are now roasted in the cafe instead of purchased from the Pannikin in Encinitas, which shares the name but is otherwise unconnected.

The La Jolla cafe also now serves alcohol after obtaining a beer and wine license during the pandemic, Morrow said. “We just thought it would be fun” to extend Pannikin’s offerings, she said.

“We do microbrewed, local, small-business-owned beer,” along with organic wines from Ziobaffa, Morrow said.

The Pannikin Summer Nights have garnered positive response so far, Fraher said. “It’s really nice to just sit and connect with people. It’s the only European-style nighttime cafe in town.”

Pannikin La Jolla opens at 6:30 a.m. daily and will keep the expanded patio and tables the city of San Diego has been allowing on Girard Avenue since pandemic-related restrictions kept most operations outdoors in 2020.

The cafe also has begun reopening an indoor space for customers to sit in the afternoons.

Pannikin La Jolla recently reopened an indoor cafe space in the afternoons.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Regardless of the changes Pannikin La Jolla continues to make, Morrow said visitors can still rely on the approach to food and drink begun when the cafe first opened in 1968 — “being conscious of the Earth and the people and what you’re putting in people’s bodies.”

She said she and Serna, who does all the gardening on the grounds, work hard at “creating a feeling of a place where you want to hang out.”

“Some customers call this place an institution because it has really been a place of learning for a lot of people — staff and customers included,” Morrow said.

“You just learn so much about people’s stories and who they are because they’re sitting here. Our job is to give them something worth coming back for.”

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