In the heart of La Jolla Village sits a small, red-brick building that houses one of the area's most popular coffee houses and bakeries, Brick & Bell Café. Colonial-style bells mounted on the inside and outside add to the charm of this neighborhood gathering place.
On any given day, a steady line of customers extend out the door into the patio, where residents, students, seniors and working professionals meet for business, studying, socializing, or simply to grab a quick drink, meal or fresh-baked snack.
Only a few small tables are inside, with umbrella-covered tables occupying most of Brick & Bell's patio space. Free WiFi is offered.
"We serve 1,000 guests a day and roasted 9,000 pounds of coffee beans in 2011," owner Peter Schumacher said.
While the line of customers waiting to order can extend to 20-30 people at peak times, the Brick & Bell staff works fast, knows frequent customers by name, and memorizes food-and-drink orders of its regulars to speed up service.
As a testament to the friendly nature of its staff, Schumacher said four Brick & Bell employees got married in 2007 to customers they met while working there.
Schumacher and his staff also have a sense of humor as evidenced by signs hanging above the order counter: "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy" or "Brick & Bell — 120,000 scones sold. 10,000 bad jokes told."
Brick & Bell's draw is its coffee and fresh-baked goods. "We really believe that we have the best coffee," Schumacher said of its Kéan-brand specially prepared by Master Roaster Martin Diedrich.
"Our coffee is roasted lighter. Coffee is getting over roasted — you taste too much of the roast and not enough of the coffee. Martin Dietrich is one of the pioneers in this country moving us to roasting a little less dark; you taste the coffee but not the burn."
Brick & Bell offers just one kind of coffee, under the Kéan Coffee brand, as its base for drinks like Americano, café au lait, caramel macchiato, latte, mocha, and espresso. “It appeals to those who like strong coffee and also those who like lighter coffee," Schumacher said.
Brick & Bell sells about 800-1,000 pieces of pastry each day, with scones as the top seller. To meet the daily demand for scones, Schumacher starts baking at 3:30 a.m. and opens for business at 4 a.m. on weekdays. "Our scones use a recipe from England; they're very moist and very good," he said.
Large scones are about the size of one's fist and mini scones are also available in various flavors: raspberry, cranberry, blueberry, apple cinnamon, chocolate chip, raisin, maple walnut, and orange almond.
Other pastries include croissants, cinnamon rolls, apple turnovers, Scottish shortbread, and cookies (chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and seasonally decorated cookies).
Among its basic breakfast items, Brick & Bell's granola and açaí cups are very popular. The house granola is baked twice a day and made with Canadian maple syrup, canola oil, almonds, dried cranberries, and raisins for a sweet and crunchy combination.
Açaí cups serve the Southern American fruit known for its antioxidant and health benefits with house granola, strawberry and banana slices. "We serve pure açaí and don't mix in fillers," Schumacher said.
Lunchtime crowds also seek out the café's sandwiches and salads. Sandwiches are served on a choice of breads, but the Italian ciabatta is most in demand. "Our ciabatta is very authentic; crusty on the outside and soft in the middle," said Schumacher, who added the turkey and avocado sandwich is the top seller.
He also recommends the Mediterranean sandwich with hummus, feta cheese, sun-dried tomato, onions, cucumbers, black olives, and sliced tomatoes. "It's a vegetarian sandwich, but even meat eaters love it, and the spread is so delicious," Schumacher said.
Chicken Caesar is the most popular salad, especially when it is accompanied by Brick & Bell's homemade croutons, which are made daily from cubed bagels and baked with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. "People love the croutons and ask to buy it by the pound," Schumacher said, even though it is not listed as a separate item for sale.
Brick & Bell Café
• Address: 928 Silverado St., La Jolla
• Phone: (858) 344-5928
• The Vibe: Neighborly, casual, friendly
• Signature Items: Kéan-brand coffee, scones, house granola, home-made croutons, açaí cups, ciabatta bread
• Open since: 2003
• Reservations: No
• Patio Seating: Yes
• Take Out: Yes
• Happy Hour: No
• Hours: 4 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
•••• On The Menu Recipe: Brick & Bell Café's Croutons
• Olive oil
• Lemon pepper
- Cut bagels into cubes.
- Float cubes down a river of olive oil!
- Add salt and lemon pepper at the end of the river.
- Bake 10 minutes at 295-degrees F. Enjoy!