Take a look below at our Explorer staff picks on some of the best spots for coffee, meals, and small bites in Balboa Park:

The Flying Squirrel at The Natural History Museum 

This cafe offers everything from espresso drinks from local roaster James Coffee Co., wine and beer to freshly prepared soups, salad and sandwiches. The Flying Squirrel also offers vegan and gluten-free options.

Here are some of our favorites:

“The Nat’s Flying Squirrel Cafe has this firebird sandwich, it’s delish.”

“The Veggiesaurus Rex from the Flying Squirrel! It’s fresh, veggie-packed, and gourmet!”

The Flying Squirrel has a great selection for all. Also, all purchases help support The Nat’s exhibits, research, and educational programs!

Panama 66 – The San Diego Museum of Art

Panama 66 is an open-air restaurant located in the San Diego Museum of Art’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Court. The restaurant offers locally sourced handcrafted food and a great variety of local craft beers. Their menu includes vegan and vegetarian options! Make sure you ask for a blanket and watch the sun go down at the sculpture garden.

Check out what our staff loves:

“Fries from Panama 66…THEY’RE SO GOOD and they usually give you a good aioli with the fries.”

“Panama 66 has a tasty Thai wrap!”

“Panama 66 always uses fresh and local produce/food. I love their cheese board and fries! “

Insider tip: Visit Panama 66 on a Wednesday evening and you will be sure to enjoy live jazz presented by nationally renowned composer and educator Gilbert Castellanos and the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory!

Daniel’s Coffee

In need of a creamy espresso beverage made from Cafe Moto beans? Or how about a delicious fresh bakery item? Maybe a smoothie made using real fruit?

Here’s what our Explorer team recommends:

“White chocolate mocha!”

“I love the cold brew from Daniel’s because they use Cafe Moto coffee which always does its job for me! ”

Follow the colorful tile path at the Spanish Art Village Center and you will find one of the friendliest coffee shops in the park!

Mingei Cafe at the San Diego Art Institute

This awesome mini pop up coffee shop features coffee from San Diego’s WestBean Coffee Roasters.

“Favorite beverage in the Park would be the Mingei Cafe’s latte”

They have a delicious selection of handcrafted beverages, both hot and iced! And for any tea lovers out there, you might like to try:

“The Iced Mint Green Tea with 4 sugar packets. It’s refreshing and super sweet.”

WorldBeat Cafe

The WorldBeat Cafe offers healthy, natural and vegan food made with fresh ingredients from their garden! And the best part: Nothing is over $10! Their menu includes delicious curries, sandwiches, burritos, salads! Additionally, for drinks, they offer smoothies, kombucha, and coffee on tap!

“The WBC food is tasty, vegan, and some fruits and veggies come from their organic garden!”

“Curry plate at WorldBeat. Super fresh ingredients and the fried plantain is the bomb.”

The Tea Pavillion at the Japanese Friendship Garden

The Tea Pavillion offers a variety of traditional Japanese teas, sushi, delicious noodles, and rice bowls. There is also a variety of yummy snacks like sweet bean cakes, rice candy, and dry fruit snacks.

“You can’t go wrong with the soba noodle salad (plus chicken)! It’s a light, but filling meal. “


“If you happen to feel like having Thai Tea, you have to try the one here!”

The best part of grabbing a bite here, you can sit in the outdoor patio and enjoy the view of the Japanese Friendship Garden!


Do you have a foodie favorite? Let us know!


By Zia Sinclair Hance |  Balboa Park Explorer  | October 10