Written by: Kristal Docter and Nicole Fera
Good morning, San Diego! It’s time to wake up and smell the bacon and bennies with a trip to this city’s best breakfast spots. Whether you wish to awaken with hash and eggs or a mile-high pile of pancakes, San Diego is booming with fantastic breakfast eateries. We discovered that this morning meal may also be the most fun of all. Plates are larger, menus are more radical and the world seems just a little brighter at the start of the day. Our breakfast expedition stretched from Encinitas to Downtown San Diego and uncovered lively communities of people gathering together in the A.M. for fantastic sunrise food. For our premier San Diego edition of LOCALE, we’re focusing our friendly food competition (aka VS.) on breakfast, because we think this area’s got the best breakfast haunts in all of Southern California.
1. Isabel’s Cantina966 Felspar St. San Diego, CA 92109 858-272-8400 www.isabelscantina.com
Wake Up With: The Margherita Scramble Egg whites scrambled with basil and jack cheese. Served with brown rice and topped with marinated chicken, Parmesan, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions, avocado sauce and a pesto drizzle. Winner: BEST HOSPITALITY
Isabel’s Cantina is located right on Felspar St., only a few blocks over from Garnet, in the heart of Pacific Beach. It’s large windows in the front of the building open up to create a free flowing space and let the light in each morning for breakfast. This creates a relaxing, cheerful vibe in the restaurant, which is a great way to start out each morning near the beach. Their menu houses some amazing scrambles, burritos, pancakes, Breakfast Tacos or French toast – all with a Mexican flair- and each one more delicious than the next. Isabel’s also offers a range of delicious coffee and tea drinks and if you can’t decide try my personal favorite, the soul bowl. This drink contains black vanilla tea, espresso, cinnamon, steamed soy milk, vanilla, honey and a whole lotta lot courtesy of their warm and friendly staff.
Native Knowledge: Whether you’re hungry enough or not, make sure you get an order of the Coconut French Toast to either share or selfishly indulge yourself with.
2. Fig Tree Café5119 Cass Street San Diego, CA 92109 858-274-2233 | www.figtreeeatery.com Wake Up With: Breakfast Sushi
The Fig Tree Café has multiple locations here in San Diego, but my favorite has to be the one located in Pacific Beach, a little farther down Cass Street & North of Garnet Avenue. Not only are they serving up some delicious breakfast, but the atmosphere is also really amazing there. Sitting outside on the patio will have you enjoying your breakfast surrounded by foliage and canopies of trees and different plants, which always brings a nice vibe to any kind of morning. While there make sure you order their Wally Burrito which contains their house made potatoes, which are ALWAYS the right choice. Pair this breakfast with one of their house-made antioxidant mimosa and you’ll be sue to have the perfect start to your day. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Try their breakfast sushi, something I can almost guarantee you won’t find anywhere else.
Native Knowledge: The Fig Tree now offers the option to sub out their house made potatoes for their new arugula, truffle oil and parmesan cheese potatoes and it’ll be the best $2 upgrade you’ve ever made in your life.
3. Urban Solace
3823 30th St. | San Diego, CA 92104
Neighborhood: North Park
619-295-6464 | www.urbansolace.net
Wake Up With: Paso Prime Grass Fed Beef Cheek Hash
Poached Eggs, Smoked Ancho Chili Hollandaise
Urban Solace is everything you would expect an ultra-hip North Park neighborhood eatery to be: charming, meticulously decorated and unique. It also possesses a charm and quietness of spirit that makes the name not only appropriate but self fulfilling. As you approach the restaurant by car you might pass it twice (as we did) if you are not extremely alert. Urban Solace is not a restaurant that is meant to be driven to. It is meant to be approached slowly on foot. The doors to this pale yellow, seemingly misplaced, New Orleans mansion open slowly on their massive hinges. Rich colors and wood dominate the interior just as sunlight and wrought iron do on the patio. We took a seat at the latter and awaited our order of beef cheek hash. The presentation, upon its arrival, was jaw dropping. The melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek hash was placed atop a clean white plate and then garnished with colorful carrots, potatoes and red peppers. Topping the toppings were two precariously positioned, perfectly poached (four p’s in a row, yes!) eggs. The restaurant is known for an amazing mac ‘n cheese, hand-made cocktails and a “classy” poster of Ron Burgundy. We believe that their brunch should be just as notorious, as it provided us comfort and solace, and we feel it will do the same for you.
Native Knowledge: Branch out from the scrumptious savory breakfast selections, and try their amazing hot, freshly baked buttermilk cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing and butter pecan sauce, which are served on Saturdays from 10:30 am – 4:00pm, but only while they last.
4. R-Gang Eatery
3683 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
619-677-2845 | www.rgangeatery.com
Wake Up With: The Cowboy
2 pork sausage patties, scrambled eggs and roasted pepper sausage gravy layered on top of a house-made biscuit
Winner: BEST TASTE
The plate is massive. The waiter dares us to heft it. It is heavier than it appears. House-made biscuits crowd the base of the plate to the corners in a full inch of flaky, buttery colored thickness. Fluffy, yellow, scrambled eggs attempt to retain their airiness while two massive sausage patties hold them down. The entire plate of food is then covered ever so gently with rich, savory and spicy roasted pepper sausage gravy. Chef Rich Sweeney knows exactly what he is doing. The season five participant (and fan favorite) on Bravo’s hit food show, Top Chef, has brought his energetic culinary genius to this multi-level converted house in Hillcrest. Notorious for their hand rolled, flavor-infused (and sometimes cheese-stuffed!) tater tots and a passion to make something “More O-damn-a” than Ore-Ida,” as Chef Sweeney explains, this purveyor of a killer dinner menu and solid brunch sells his expertise short in our opinion. R-Gang Eatery is making a killer breakfast and their “Goodness by the pound” motto should be taken literally.
Native Knowledge: Ask for the “So good it should be illegal” sauce made with foie gras and offered complimentary so as not to actually sell the banned product.
5. Hash House A Go Go
3628 5th Ave. | San Diego, CA 92103
619-298-4646 | www.hashhouseagogo.com
Wake Up With: Griddled French Toast
Dipped in banana cinnamon cream with pecan maple syrup
Hash House A Go Go is the “Famous House of Twisted Farm Food.” That’s what their corn cob-flanked sign says, anyway. This perpetually packed house could be considered farm-chic. Its walls are covered with photos of John Deere tractors, and their tables are topped with wheat. We were lead through the already-crowded interior rooms (this place is packed even on weekdays, but the wait on the weekends can be up to two hours!) to the outdoor patio. Once seated, we found out why there is always a wait. Our mouths dropped to the floor when we witnessed the first plate, excuse me, platter, come out of the kitchen. This is one place where the phrase “eat with your eyes” definitely holds true. Keeping with the farm theme, Hash House serves their brilliant breakfasts on plates the size of troughs, simply because some of the menu items are bigger than your kid sister. Executive Chef, Creator and Founder Andy Beardslee grew up in Indiana, and wanted to transport a bit of his upbringing to the streets of sunny San Diego with Hash House A Go Go. Beardslee wanted his food to be fun and reminiscent of his experience on the farm. It is truly a genuine family restaurant that has been astonishing eaters for 12 years, earning awards nearly each of those years for Best Breakfast. Hash House has also been featured in several local and national publications as well as TV shows like Man vs. Food and Rachel Ray for its fantastic food. We were anxious to taste our way through one of the dishes that made them so famous. We were served the monstrous griddled French toast, which was profound in both appearance and taste. Hash House uses Amish milk bread (the thicker the better) for their French toast. They grill whole bananas – with the peel still on – and serve those atop the toast. Trust us, it’s worth the wait. For lunch and dinner, Hash House uses this sacred bread for savory sandwiches. No matter what meal you make it through those doors for, you can’t miss this French toast.
Native Knowledge: Add their jam of the day to the fluffy French toast instead of syrup. We had the chunky mango/strawberry jam, and it elevated the griddled toast to an entirely new level for this classic.
6. Snooze, an A.M. Eatery
3940 Fifth Ave. | San Diego, CA 92103
619-500-3344 | www.SnoozeEatery.com
Wake Up With: Chilaquiles Benedict
Barbacoa Beef, ranchero sauced tortillas, cheese, poached Niman Ranch eggs, smoked cheddar hollandaise, pico de gallo and cotija cheese
Winner: BEST VIBE
Snooze is one of those cheerful eateries that inspire a smile simply by setting foot in the place. It reminded me of scenes from Scooby Doo with its green and orange color scheme (seen on pendant lights, walls and booths). Everywhere you look is embellished by prints of toy jacks! Its a nod to the ‘50s, and the brightly colored, retro-industrial design put us in our happy morning place. Established in 2006 in Colorado, this contemporary take on a coffee shop quickly spread west and now boasts six locations. Robert Butterfield, the Big Kahuna (his actual title on his business card), explained that Snooze has always been a pioneer in its presence and in its ability to help re-establish once-cool neighborhoods by making them hip again. They accomplished this in their first Colorado location and are cultivating that same vibe in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood. We think they’re also succeeding at being visionaries in the food department. Snooze offers their inventive morning menu, starting at 6:30 a.m. on the weekdays and 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. From eggs any-style and breakfast burritos to a full selection of benedicts and some crazy (but oh so yummy) ideas for pancakes, Snooze has put its twist on any breakfast item you could crave. Executive Chef Ryan Devereaux (aka Chefereaux) said there’s nothing he won’t create for his customers. If you want rice crispy treats in your pancakes, he’ll do it (and he has), even though it’s not on the menu. We were blown away by his version of a Benedict with Mexican flavors. Who would have thought of making a Benedict out of chilaquiles? So tasty! The ranchero-sauced tortillas (in place of the traditional Benedict bottom-layer, the English muffin) are a genius concept. All of the Benedicts are also served with a perfectly crisp hash brown cake. And don’t miss their Barista! espresso menu. Their mocha is presented like a work of art.
Native Knowledge: Snooze is progressive in its dishes, but it’s also progressive in its ambition to be environmentally friendly. With one of the area’s largest recycling and compostable programs, Snooze composts nearly 85 tons of garbage a year, keeping it out of our already full-to-the-brim landfills. They’re also working to inspire the rest of the Hillcrest neighborhood to join them.
3795 Mission Blvd
San Diego, CA 92109
Neighborhood: Mission Beach
858-488-9060 | www.themissionsd.com
Wake Up With: Strawberry Granola Pancakes
Three pancakes with fresh strawberries and grain cereal
Maintaining long lines of passionate fans is difficult for even the most popular of rock bands. Maybe they should be serving pancakes. The original Mission location (situated in both the city and on the street’s namesake) has been churning out beautifully decorated plates of thick wonderfulness since 1997. Known locally for their piles of French toast and stacks of super thick pancakes, it was difficult for us to pick our sampling. We decided as a group on their strawberry and granola cakes. All of the Mission pancakes start out identical. Thickly poured batter steaming on a griddle with the patron’s chosen ingredients meticulously hand placed. Our pancakes are served piping hot on a plate garnished with swirls of blackberry sauce. The decoration is applied with a cake maker’s precision. The strawberries are visible on each layer of the cake and the granola is protruding generously and visibly through the batter. The pancakes are sweet and only made tastier when generous amounts of a true maple syrup are applied in swaths. Get up early or wait in a line. You will not be disappointed.
Native Knowledge: Get there early on any Monday through Friday and order a 2+2+2 (2 eggs, 2 bacon and 2 cakes) for only $6.
8. Café 222222 Island Avenue San Diego, CA 92101 619-236-9902 | www.cafe222.com Wake Up With: Corned Beef Hash Real corned beef shredded and griddled with onions, garlic, bell peppers and shredded potatoes. Topped with two eggs and served with toast.
Café 222 is located right in downtown San Diego, just a few streets up from the Harbor. The café is small and cozy with a unique menu and extremely friendly and attentive staff. If it’s your first time dining at Café 222 make sure you order the corned beef hash since it is one of the best I have ever eaten. They offer a large portion, made fresh every morning, which will leave you full and ready to take on the day. If you happen to have a dog, the café has a patio that you and your furry friend can sit outside at after a morning walk, which is always a bonus in my book. The whole restaurant has a very charming feel due to it’s size and all of the people that work there and give the café it’s sweet vibes.
Native Knowledge: The Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast was featured on Food Network as Bobby Flay’s pick for “the best thing he ever ate,” so it wouldn’t hurt to get an order of that as a sweet treat for the table.
8 Places to Get Some of The Best Breakfast in San Diego