Holsem Coffee has been a neighborhood mainstay since opening in 2015, when co-owner Salpi Sleiman swapped her coffee cart concept for a brick and mortar location in the shadow of the iconic North Park sign. The swoon-worthy decor immediately garnered attention from media and Instagrammers alike, but it’s the drinks that set Holsem apart from run-of-the-mill java huts.

Inspired by the cocktail craze, some Holsem’s signature drinks do have booze, like their espresso martini that combines the best of morning and evening beverages, but even Holsem’s non-alcoholic drinks capture the spirit of mixology through innovative concoctions like the cappuccino with rose petals and strawberry malt latte.

San Diego weather means iced drinks are appropriate all year round, and that’s a good thing, because I’ve always found their banana bread cold brew to be one of the most fascinating drinks on any coffee menu.

The banana bread cold brew is savory and rich—perfect over ice—but I’d wager it would be lip smackingly thick if steamed. I shudder to think of the sugar content, but the proprietary beverage is a universally seasonal treat. In summertime, it’s a cool and tropical option, while in cooler months, the honey and cinnamon pop with festive flavor.

A tasty reinvention of a homemade treat best served warm from the oven, don’t be surprised if little bits of soft sediment crumbles get through the straw; it’s just a reminder of its namesake baked delicacy.

Those who seek a laid-back coffee shop of yore (complete with mismatched armchairs and oil paintings of cats) will find Holsem a little stuffy, with everything from the Eames chairs to minimalist fixtures making the space one of the most well-designed in the city, but for those who want unique, flavorful, and creative coffee drinks that are ethically sourced and always worth the price, Holsem is hard to beat.  

Visit Holsem Coffee

2911 University Avenue, North Park


Hours: Sunday through Wednesday, 7am-8pm; Thursday through Saturday, 7am-10pm

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