There are many good cafés and coffee houses in San Diego, but not many café lounges. Claire de Lune at the northeast corner of University Avenue and 29th Street in North Park (across the street from Birch North Park Theatre) is one of the latter. You don’t go there to have a quiet mug of latte while reading a book or surfing the internet on your laptop – the place doesn’t have Wifi connection. Rather, you go there to socialize and enjoy live music while munching on a sandwich or cheesecake and coffee.
As a matter of fact, I dropped in here for the first time because a local musician tipped me off about her gig at Claire de Lune via MySpace a while back. I don’t care much about the area (actually, this stretch of University Ave is quite nicer than the rest of North Park is, I think… though I still wouldn’t like to drop in late at night). The lounge itself is pretty spacious and homely. Maybe a bit too homely in term of cleanliness also (I wonder if the sofas had been cleaned since WW II… If only the espresso I was sipping wasn’t so burnt I might have smelled something from the pre-color-TV era sitting in one of them).
I must confess that sweet-toothed me is quite drawn to the bakery counter and all its cakes, tarts, and muffins (go for the blueberry cheesecake if there’s any left when you get there), though. I’ve never tried the sandwiches here, but they look large and inviting enough for their price.
The place is pretty ambitious about its live music schedule… Perhaps they’re targeting folks who also patronize the Birch Theatre across University Ave. If you aren’t a fan of pop music from the late 70’s to late 80’s or the Sarah Mclaughlin-ish type, however, this place probably won’t be a good hang out for you (they play the music so loudly here even a deaf-mute could hear it walking in the door). The place is open until midnight most days, being quite busy in the hours when the other coffee houses in the area are closing. Perhaps that draw some unwanted elements in… The service here can be pretty suspicious. They even set it up so that you have to ask the clerk to buzz the door when you need to use the restroom there. Pretty unusual for a friendly neighborhood coffee lounge, eh?
So… if you are in the area looking for a quiet cup of decent espresso or to spend a few minutes on your laptop before catching a show at the Lyric Opera at the Birch Theatre in North Park, I have to say that Starbucks at the theatre is a better choice. If you are looking for a ‘lively night out’ while nursing a passable coffee and good cheesecake, though, Claire de lune is the place for you.
Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge (in North Park):
- 2906 University Avenue (at 29th St), San Diego, CA 92104 Tel (619) 688-9845
- Sun-Thu: 5AM-Midnight,
- Fri-Sat: 5-1AM
Major credit cards accepted. Handicap friendly facility.