By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Few cafes in San Diego are entrenched in the residential sections of the neighborhoods they call home. Mama’s Bakery & Deli on Alabama Street and El Comal on Illinois Street come to mind, although both sit a stone’s throw away from commercial thoroughfares.
Mystic Mocha takes you deeper into an area lined with houses, trees and sidewalks. It’s a colorful little place with a Bohemian feel famous for its crafty, homemade muffins and assorted coffee drinks using beans from Café Moto.
Breakfast fare is also a major draw. It’s served from 6:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, and has been for at least a decade under two previous operators. Although it wasn’t until current owner Francis Weidinger and his wife, Natalie Buczkowski, took over in 2015 that the menu morphed from its original Southwestern slant into a contemporary one using organic sugars, jams and some produce.
Free-range eggs have also hit the skillets, and most everything is made from scratch — sausage, salsa, gravy and a toothsome line of sweets.
On a recent Sunday visit with a devotee of Mystic’s “Maui sweet cream” coffee and their biscuits and gravy, which he says sets the gold standard for the dish, we found easy seating from a number of tables and picnic benches perched along the sidewalk. Just as well that seating inside is rather limited. Who wants to miss out on the gentle morning sun and lovable wide-eyed pooches sitting often at the feet of other customers?
Our first order of business was to seize a gluten-free pineapple muffin winking at us from the pastry case. The fruit on top was marvelously caramelized and the muffin was exceptionally moist, albeit super crumbly to the touch.
My companion ordered his usual: two eggs on top of buttery tasting biscuits smothered in gravy, which Weidinger spikes with his house-made sausage and several spices that bring nutmeg and black pepper to the fore. Be assured, it’s not the white, insipid goop served in most other kitchens.
I chose the applewood bacon omelet in lieu of others folding in chorizo, roast chicken, sausage or veggies. All of them incorporate bell peppers of various colors plus fresh spinach and a judicious mix of cheddar and jack cheeses – just enough to add tang and creaminess without turning the omelet into a stringy mess.
The sweet-smoky bacon throughout was abundant, although I could have withstood less spinach, preferring it either only on top or with just a little inside. This featured it rather heavily in both.
The dish included cubed potatoes with appealing crispy edges and a scone-like biscuit that readily sucked up an entire ramekin of strawberry jam served alongside.
We shared a plate of almond French toast, which was actually a mini, sliced loaf of brioche tenderized by almond milk and egg custard and flavored with hints of cinnamon. The texture was superbly juicy rather than monotonously bready.
A few versions of chilaquiles with scrambled eggs are carryovers from the café’s previous incarnations. They remain crowd pleasers based on the number of customers I saw eating them. Available with a choice of chorizo, chicken or veggies, they’re swooped up with black beans, Mexican squash, cotija cheese, avocado and other garnishments.
Other dishes include an egg-crowned burger, eggs Benedict Florentine, breakfast tacos and the “barabolya,” a Ukrainian-inspired medley of fried potatoes, eggs, bacon, sour cream and green onions.
Coffee drinks run the gamut from “raspberry truffles” and “peanut butter cups” to mint mochas and Viet hazelnuts, not to mention lattes, espressos, hammerheads, Americanos, and you name it.
Mystic also serves mimosas, bloody marys (made with Han rice vodka), craft beer, and wines from California and Europe. And in addition to daily breakfast, the regular menu and small plates priced at $7 are available from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.