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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

People looking to relax in San Juan Capistrano with a cup of coffee—and who want to grab a light breakfast or lunch along the way—can do so at Pacific Pearl Café, a new business in town.

The café is owned by Michael Campbell, an experienced culinary professional who started doing catering a little over a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of some businesses in which he was the culinary director. He opened the café in late March.

“I wanted to do something more than just catering,” Campbell said. “I wanted to have a little space for my friends and neighbors to come and hang out.”

Coffee and food connoisseur Michael Campbell (above) recently opened Pacific Pearl Café in the shopping center near St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. Photo: Collin Breaux

Pacific Pearl Café is in the shopping center near St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, located at 31654 Rancho Viejo Road in Suite G, next to Ball Park Pizza.

Menu items feature, as Campbell puts it, breakfast and lunch food that is “simple but thoughtfully done.” Customers might find oatmeal cookies and sandwiches when they walk in, and calming music often plays in the cozy space. Since it is a café, there are seats and tables and—of course—coffee. Campbell is a self-professed “coffee snob” and sipped on the caffeinated beverage when talking about the new venture.

Pacific Pearl Café also offers catering services. The switch to catering and operating his own café comes after Campbell had worked for hotels and “fancy restaurants,” sectors in which he no longer wanted to work.

“We usually have a couple of (catering gigs) a week,” Campbell said. “I’m still doing that. That’s fun. That’s the more creative side.”

Date and oatmeal cookies are some treats that customers might find when they walk into Pacific Pearl Café, a new business on Rancho Viejo Road. Photo: Collin Breaux

A lot of Pacific Pearl Café’s offerings are sourced from The Ecology Center, a community farm also in San Juan Capistrano. A scroll through the café’s Instagram account shows pictures of Campbell picking up Brussel sprouts from and cooking for events at The Ecology Center.

“The Ecology Center is halfway between here and home for me,” said Campbell, who lives in Laguna Niguel. “I get to stop there multiple times a week, find whatever they have growing out of the ground.”

Community and feeding people “good things” are important to Campbell.

“No one’s thrown any rocks through the window,” Campbell said jokingly when asked about how the community response has been. “We’re right next to St. Margaret’s here. They’ve very supportive.”

Pacific Pearl Café has opened in a soft way with no grand celebration or big announcements.

“It wasn’t, like, a big push to open up. It was kind of, like, let’s steadily open up,” Campbell said. “The neighborhood discovered us. I stand behind the coffee we serve, all the products we serve. I want people to know they can come here for high-quality ingredients.”

Campbell describes business as “mellow,” with people still finding out about the café.

“It’s simple done well, is the key,” Campbell said. “We’re going to start doing dinner to-go in the next couple of weeks. Definitely by May, I want to be able to offer that. People can kind of order ahead. It’s one of those things I’d like to sell out every night.”

Visit pacificpearlcatering.com for more information.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com

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