Located a stone’s throw away from the Pacific Ocean in the heart of Oceanside’s revitalized downtown area, Steel Mill Coffee has served as a hangout and daytime dive bar alternative for North County residents since opening in 2018.
If you don’t skate, ride motorcycles, or have a lot of tattoos, the counter-culturally-leaning cafe can seem a little intimidating. But from what I could see during my last visit, the shop seems to universally extend its chill vibes to all patrons, tattooed and virgin-skinned alike.
A gang of long haired, heavily inked baristas greeted me at the counter, while early-era Nirvana blasted from the stereo. A stained glass Harley-Davidson light fixture added a gritty edge to the service area, which sat across from a small selection of curated vinyl records for sale.
A shiny chopper loomed over the space, along with the requisite greenery found in every Instagram-centric coffee shop.
And photogenic it is. Steel Mill’s social media game is strong, with plenty of skaters, musicians, and artists stopping by and getting snapped for the ‘gram. Still, it takes good coffee to keep people coming back.
The menu at Steel Mill is basic, but classic: cortados, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, cold brew and a smattering of teas. In true coffee shop fashion, a small selection of donuts are also regularly on hand. It’s not fancy, but then again, nothing at Steel Mill is.
I knew they sourced their beans from the equally edgy James Coffee Company, so I ordered an Americano to see if their skills behind the bar were as pitch perfect as their aesthetic.
Americanos are subtle and delicate when handled properly, and Steel Mill’s is no exception. Burnt, acrid flavors were nowhere to be found, and additional hints of blueberries, roasted nuts and chocolate emerged as the drink slowly cooled.
Steel Mill IG
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed witnessing Oceanside’s slow but powerful renaissance into a drinking and dining destination. With plenty of caffeine-fueled competition, Steel Mill has set themselves apart with simple, but solid beverages and a unique culture.