Restaurant News & Reviews

Looking for a new hangout? This SLO coffeehouse offers espresso with a vintage vibe

A cappuccino is made with Guatemala Fatima coffee at Scout Coffee Co. on Foothill Boulevard in San Luis Obispo.
A cappuccino is made with Guatemala Fatima coffee at Scout Coffee Co. on Foothill Boulevard in San Luis Obispo.

Seeking a spot in San Luis Obispo with locally roasted coffee and fresh housemade baked goods? Set off in the direction of Scout Coffee Co.

Your GPS will guide you to two locations: the original coffeehouse on Garden Street and the new Scout Coffee Co. spot at Foothill Boulevard and Highway 1. The former has a classic downtown vibe with exposed bricks and high ceilings, while the latter has a bright, sleek, slightly industrial look.

Both locations offer all the drinks of a typical coffeehouse: espresso, macchiato, cappuccino and so on. Other beverages include cold brew on a nitro tap, sparkling organic tea and seasonal sodas. Flavoring syrups are made in-house and range from raw sugar and whiskey to a holiday-inspired tangerine and cinnamon.

Scout Coffee Co. also features select flavors of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams from Santa Barbara. (Only vanilla is at the downtown location; six flavors are available at the second.) Order a milkshake with salted caramel syrup, a soda float or an affogato — a scoop of vanilla ice cream with hot espresso poured over it. (For a special seasonal treat, get the affogato with butterscotch syrup.)

While each of the coffeehouses has its own personality, co-owner Sara Peterson described both as having an underlying ambiance of “vintage camp(ing).” That vibe is a nod to the backpacking hobby she used to enjoy with her husband, Jon Peterson, before they opened the two retail locations, started a commercial roasting company — HoneyCo Coffee Roasters, also in San Luis Obispo — and became parents to two toddlers.

It’s a busy schedule the couple relishes.

“Ever since I’ve known Sara, she’s always wanted to start a coffeehouse,” Jon Peterson recalled. “It was always part of our plan.”

The Petersons gained valuable experience in the java world by working at the then-fledgling Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz. Sara Peterson was regional operations manager, while Jon became the marketing director. The company now has eight locations: four in Santa Cruz, three in the Los Angeles area and one in Tokyo.

“We all kind of grew up together, and are still really good friends,” Jon Peterson said.

Opening Scout Coffee Co.’s first location was the result of serendipitous events. While still living in Santa Cruz, the Petersons took a day trip in the spring of 2013 to San Luis Obispo. They spotted a location that had been vacant for several years, and — after a lot of pieces fell into place — the coffeehouse opened the following January.

At first, the couple sourced baked goods from other local companies, especially since the “kitchen” at the coffeehouse consisted only of a small convection oven, a mixer and minimal counter space.

“Baking was always my hobby, and Jon convinced me to do a few scones,” Sara Peterson said. “Then it just took off.” Soon, dozens of freshly baked scones, cookies, shortbread and other goodies were streaming out of the tiny space.

The coffeehouse itself was also getting busier, so the Petersons began to seriously entertain the thought of a second Scout Coffee Co. spot. Again, opportunities presented themselves, and they were able to open the University Square location in August.

In addition to being larger, the new space was built with a full-size kitchen where the baking for both coffeehouses is done. (Back Porch Bakery in Atascadero still makes the croissants and morning buns.)

“I really am so happy how it all turned out — with our staff, our customers and the community,” Sara Peterson said. “And we get to make people happy by serving them coffees and cookies!”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at

Scout Coffee Co.

1130 Garden St., San Luis Obispo

880 East Foothill Blvd. San Luis Obispo, in University Village Plaza

805-439-2175 (Garden Street) and 805-439-2823 (Foothill Boulevard) or

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily at Garden Street; 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily at Foothill Boulevard.

The scene: Both warm, welcoming locations have a vintage camping vibe. The smaller downtown coffeehouse offers cozy, exposed brick, while the larger Foothill spot has a bright, slightly industrial feel.

The cuisine: Classic coffee drinks, plus freshly in-house baked goods such as scones, cookies, shortbreads and muffins. Croissants and morning buns are available as well.

Expect to spend: Drinks range from $3 to $7, baked goods from $3 to $4.50.