Friday, July 29, 2005 | There’s something comforting about the morning ritual of taking coffee in a favorite neighborhood haunt where a good cup of java is as important as the daily schmooze with other regulars. But what if you’re out of your ‘hood and Starbucks isn’t your thing? On a recent Saturday morning, I found a handful of off-the-beaten-track places for coffee and a little something to eat.

In the heart of historic South Park is Grant’s Marketplace, a gem of a store on Beech Street, just off 30th Street, at Dale. Owner Joe Grant loves good wine, so in addition to his grocery items of fresh produce, cheeses and breads (from Bread & Cie), his wines include Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, Provenance and Reds from Laurel Glen. There is espresso from Lavazza and deli sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats. He even has a variety of daily newspapers for sale: Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and of course, The San Diego Union-Tribune. Grant’s Marketplace, 2953 Beech St., South Park, (619) 231-0524. Opens at 6:30 a.m.

All over town people rave about Rebecca’s and her scones. The problem is Rebecca only makes 16 at a time so you’re likely to have to wait for a batch … especially on the weekend (I was lucky to get the last walnut scone). Otherwise, I would have waited another 20 to 30 minutes for another batch – and a different flavor. Hot from the oven, they are good and much lighter in texture than the leaden ones most coffee places sell. Her baking forte also includes muffins, quick breads, cookies and, at Thanksgiving, pies. Rebecca’s personifies funky at its best, and her long awaited expansion to the corner of Juniper and 30th will finally happen in about a month. Rebecca’s, 3023 Juniper St., South Park, (619) 284-3663. Opens at 5 a.m.

Up in University Heights and only a month old is Mystic Mocha, just off Park Avenue at Mission Avenue and Alabama Street. This corner café features Wi-Fi as well as pastries and quiche baked on the premises. I had a perfect double shot of espresso in a proper small cup and a yummy cinnamon-sugar scone. At home, I reheated a piece of cheese, chicken sausage and artichoke heart quiche, which had a mouthful of flavors and wasn’t overly rich. The large slice could easily feed two. Mystic Mocha, 2105 Mission Ave., University Heights, (619) 688-0858. Opens at 6 a.m.

A pal in Carlsbad goes daily to Vinaka where she says she always leaves with a smile and a good coffee. She loves the place because no matter how harried she might be, she has to slow down because every person who works there takes the time to say hello and converse … and they know her name. Vinaka, Carlsbad Village Faire, upper level, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, (760) 720-7890. Opens at 7 a.m.

In Mission Hills, Espresso Mio dispenses coffee to the residents of the area. Located in a residential stretch of Ft. Stockton Drive, it is a sweet place to relax after a morning walk. They feature breads and cookies from local baker Abigail’s. Espresso Mio, 1920 Ft. Stockton Drive, (619) 296-3037, Mission Hills. Opens 6 a.m.

The Point, a standing-room-only sliver of a space, just off Scott Street in Point Loma Village, is a favorite with locals. Salty old (and young) dogs, fresh off the nearby boats and yachts, love the coffee, smoothies and sandwiches. Drink a latte or have your espresso, as I did one morning, in a breakfast smoothie with banana and nonfat yogurt. The Point, 2841 Canon St., Point Loma, (619) 222-1730. Opens at 5 a.m.

Tidbits: Residents of Santa Luz, Fairbanks Ranch and environs will soon have a place for coffee, homemade gelato and desserts at Café Verrazzani, due to open around Sept. 1. A few months later, in the same area on Via Bettona, just off Camino del Sur, look for a restaurant with a La Jolla chef at its helm. Watch this column for future details.

Art buffs with a love of good food should mark their calendar for the Aug. 24 through November show of seven local female artists at Star of the Sea restaurant. The exhibition is part of the restaurant’s ongoing art program that highlights local artists. Star of the Sea, 1360 Harbor Drive at Ash Street, (619) 232-7408, www.starofthesea.com.

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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