Come one, Come all to Catalina Coffee Company
In 1999, Jeff Sallee and his mother, Ellen Brown, set up their coffee shop in a building along Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach. Roomy and filled with character, the historic building was the former home of a dry cleaning business, ideally positioned near the water and a growing residential area. These days, the unwavering popularity of Catalina Coffee Company, especially in the bloom of popular coffee chains, is testament to what Sallee and Brown originally had in mind when they opened the concept: “We call it the ‘Community Gathering Place,’” says Sallee, who’s run the place as sole owner since his mother’s retirement in 2012.
Stop by and you’re bound to find an eclectic yet authentic reflection of the local community. Groups of bicyclists recharging next to tables with mothers chatting over children in strollers. Students deep in study over books and laptops. And ladies playing cards over la
ttes. (As a local, I wrote a good deal of my first book there over iced coffees.) The interior is spacious and cozy with lots of couches and deep armchairs, plus a flagstone fireplace and library room filled with books. Head outside and there’s a patio to congregate year-round under the California sunshine.
Catalina offers a full spectrum of coffee drinks— from iced and whipped to foaming and hot, all sourced from small-batch, shade-grown beans they import and roast on-site and sell by the pound. A current customer favorite from the coffee menu is the house cold brew.
“It’s a secret mix,” says Sallee. “Two kinds of beans that we import directly. It’s about three times the caffeine of a normal cold-brew coffee.” But you don’t have to love or even like coffee to enjoy the menu. Catalina Coffee Company also offers a mix of just-baked cakes and pastries, from fruit muffins and buttery croissants to creamy chocolate brownies and tangy lemon bars. There are popular breakfast and lunch items too. Morning favorites include the hearty Egg-al Sandwich with cheese and tomato served on a toasted bagel. That and the breakfast burrito—with egg and roasted potatoes wrapped in a tortilla with onions, peppers, and cheddar—and a more calorie-conscious version, the Healthy Black Bean Burrito.
Lunch is when fresh soup is served—Italian wedding, split pea and minestrone are varieties often on the board—along with a lineup of sandwiches. Standards like roast beef and turkey are available, along with distinctive offerings like the curry chicken salad sandwich, with shredded chicken breast that’s spiked with subtle curry, plus slivered almonds and chopped carrots added in for texture. From the panini section comes the Jolly Spartan—thin slices of ham are nestled with apples, crispy bacon and cheddar cheese between sourdough bread.
In the end, the special lure of the place for nearly two decades is neither its coffee nor food, though both get high marks. It’s the unique draw of a friendly, laid-back place where Beach Cities folks can happen upon others they might not otherwise congregate with in the normal course of their day. “It’s all about the community,” says Sallee, describing the wide-ranging groups that come together under Catalina’s roof, from representatives on opposing sides of a local election initiative, to hosting Coffee with a Cop events, school gatherings and even water-lover events with Dive’n’Surf, which is headquartered down the street.
“It’s the reward we get from being here.”