New neighborhood coffee shop picks up steam

Posted: December 15th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

A long overdue niche has been filled in the Lake Murray area with Brew Coffee Spot. The urban-rustic coffeehouse affords caffeine enthusiasts a spacious place to sip, eat and relax, if not spread out with school or work projects on roomy tables made of wood and metal pipes.

Anchored within the Big Lots shopping center at 6101 Lake Murray Blvd. in La Mesa, the business model was conceived in just over the time it takes to swig down a couple of frothy lattes.

(l to r) Owners Joe Paraiso and Ralf Wilkowski (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

“My wife and I had some friends over and we started talking on a whim about opening a coffee shop because of the need for one in this area. By the end of the night we had a name for it, came up logo ideas and even created a web page,” said Joe Paraiso, a graphics designer who runs the business with his wife, Heather, and their friend, Ralf Wilkowski.

The trio soon began looking for a location and eventually found two adjoining storefronts that previously housed a shoe store and Mail Boxes Etc.

After knocking down a wall to combine the spaces, they designed the 2,300-square-foot shop themselves. Their combined efforts resulted in stained concrete flooring, shiplap wood accents, an expansive brick wall, LED light pendants and live plants, which gracefully dissect the sleek, open space.

The shop’s pride and joy, however, is a high-end water filtration system installed specifically to spotlight the rich, natural flavor of the coffees — whether consumed hot or cold. Loose teas such as white rose, blood orange, peppermint, coconut-cacao and more are also made with the super-pure water.

A mug of cold nitro brew and a café au lait (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

“There’s no aftertaste to our coffee and tea drinks because of it.” Paraiso said. “The filtered water also extends the life of our La Marzocco espresso machine, which is the workhorse of the industry.”

Brew Coffee Spot uses organic coffee beans sourced from San Diego’s Café Virtuoso. The roaster provided guidance in equipment selection and barista training during the lead-up to the shop’s March opening.

“Going into this business can be very intimidating because there are a lot of people who are very particular about their coffee,” Paraiso added. “Café Virtuoso had everything we wanted from a roaster.”

Paraiso and his wife reside in nearby Fletcher Hills. She works for an online school, and both have maintained their established careers since launching the business.

Wilkowski previously owned a signage company in Pacific Beach. He now runs Brew’s kitchen, which offers a menu of hearty sandwiches and paninis using assorted breads from Bread & Cie.

The sandwich choices extend to turkey caprese with pesto; roast beef with provolone; ham with Swiss; a PB&J; and brie and butter on slim French-style ficelle baguettes.

Brie and butter ficelle sandwiches (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

Bread & Cie also supplies a variety of pastries although the shop’s cinnamon rolls are made by Paraiso’s sister and the baklava hails from Baklava King in Santee.

The coffee menu covers all bases, many of which were uncommon to this area of La Mesa until now. They include everything from pour-over Guatemalan coffee and café au lait to various lattes and a cold nitro brew that’s keg-aged for a few days. There’s also a crafty selection of espressos such as affogato with vanilla bean ice cream and Viennese spiked with honey and cinnamon.

Café au lait with a foamy design (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

“We’re still in soft opening and some things will change soon,” Paraiso noted, referring a likely extension of operating hours and a couple of blank walls that will make way for art.

Brew Coffee Spot is currently open from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and until 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. In addition, live jazz is held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and game night takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

For more information, call 619-713-6698 or visit

— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his career as a local writer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at

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