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. Claire’s on Cedros Bakery & Café

246 North Cedros Ave. | Solana Beach, CA 92075
Neighborhood: Solana Beach
858-259-8597
www.clairesoncedros.com
Wake Up With: Enchiladas and Eggs
2 Eggs, 2 cheese enchiladas, homemade enchilada sauce, black beans, grilled green onions, guacamole and salsa fresca
Winner: BEST HOSPITALITY

Claire’s on Cedros feels like home. This café resembles a country house, so maybe that’s the reason it felt so inviting and neighborly. The interior is decorated with over-sized, silver spatula art, dairy cow paintings and iron bird nest light fixtures above each table. But it also smells like home — Claire’s has a bakery inside the restaurant, which sells everything from Claire’s own pancake mix to granola and jams and cookies. That aroma will draw you through her doors. But once you get the chance to meet Claire Allison herself, then you’ll surely know you’re at home. She moved from the Midwest, procuring savoir-faire in pastry making along the way. With the skills she honed, she created the recipe for America’s favorite Milton’s Multigrain Bread while running their bakery for more than a decade. Now, she runs her own bakery and café at Claire’s on Cedros. Claire said, “I like driving my own boat.” And, we can’t imagine her anywhere else. She’s the only cook that needs to be in that kitchen. Claire cooks comfort food in a place that she intended to “feel like coming home,” and that’s just how we felt. Her spirit and her sentiment for food are infectious. Her customers come for breakfast, and they remain through lunch, and finally dessert, because this restaurant is so comfortable. Her approachable menu contains dishes that are made with simple, yet extraordinarily fresh ingredients. Everything is made from scratch, because that’s how Claire was taught. We eagerly devoured her recommendation of the classic Enchiladas and Eggs, which you may have ordered at other eateries, but Claire’s Enchiladas and Eggs are packed with so much care and freshness, that this traditional Mexican comfort food felt light and wholesome. Frankly, we think that anything Claire serves is good for you and your soul. Breakfast is served all day and can be enjoyed inside the adorable converted cottage or on the large garden patio where “dogs are welcome.”

Native Knowledge: Claire tells us that 90 percent of the restaurant’s landscaping is edible! So, you know you’re getting fresh flavors in their breakfasts and baked goods.

2. Coffee Cup Café

Coffee Cup Cafe

1109 Wall St. | La Jolla, CA 92037
Neighborhood: La Jolla
858-551-8514 | www.isabelscantina.com
Wake Up With: The Omar Special
Egg whites scrambled with cheese, green onions & tomatoes, topped with grilled chicken & mushrooms with brown rice, pesto and avocado sauce

A tiny diner on a bustling street, Coffee Cup Café stands out among the crowds. Red umbrellas cover the cozy patio that you enter through, and colorful art and booths occupy the one-room restaurant. The Coffee Cup is a place where the coffee has a kick and the food is always fun. Recipes can be read from the upholstery on the booths, and a giant vibrant mural shrouds the space with hearts and coffee cups, sunny-side-up eggs, chickens and salt and pepper shakers. It all makes you feel like sunshine and rainbows in the morning. You can see even more mural art in the bathroom, too! Latin splashes touch each corner of this little joint, and this influence really brings the tiny eatery to life. The food is as colorful as its surroundings. The menu is printed on bright pink paper and offers items like Double Happiness and the Zen Breakfast. It also boasts more than 30 sides to add to any meal. The Breakfast Tacos with home-made corn tortillas were delicious, but the plate that won our prize was Chef de Cuisine Omar Guzman’s very own creation: The Omar Special. A picturesque plate of eggs, chicken and rice, topped with farmer’s market veggies and a divine pesto and avocado sauce, Omar’s Special didn’t last long. Our team of taste-testers couldn’t get enough of the fusion of flavors in the seemingly simple breakfast dish. A blend of Latin, Italian and Asian essences made this morning meal a standout on our eight-stop breakfast bonanza.

Native Knowledge: You may have noticed a similar stamp in other Chino-Latino-style restaurants throughout the area, and that’s probably because the Coffee Cup’s owner is Isabel Cruz who owns five other eateries around town. She was also the original owner of The Mission Restaurant. We love that her Latin flavors have become a legend in San Diego.

3. Urban Solace

8 Places to Get Some of The Best Breakfast in San Diego

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

R Gang Eatery

3683 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Neighborhood: Hillcrest
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

Hash House a Go Go

3628 5th Ave. | San Diego, CA 92103
Neighborhood: Hillcrest
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

snooze-am-eatery

3940 Fifth Ave. | San Diego, CA 92103
Neighborhood: Hillcrest
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.

7.The Mission

8 Places to Get Some of The Best Breakfast in San Diego

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. Union Kitchen & Tap


1108 S. Coast Hwy 101 | Encinitas, CA 92024
Neighborhood: Encinitas
760-230-2337 | www.localunion101.com
Wake Up With: Breakfast Flatbread
House-made bacon, sausage, egg and cheese on a flatbread

Devoted to the craft. The motto of this utilitarian decorated North County eatery is a reminder to both employee and patron that things built by hand and with care are naturally better. With the attention to well made comfort food, locally sourced brews and an inviting interior, it would be easy to categorize Union as one of the many freshly minted “gastro pubs” sprouting up in our towns. Union, however, has seemed to capture an atmosphere that is magnetically attractive to all segments of community and is fast becoming “the” spot to gather for food and drink, trumping any stereotypical tags. This was our last stop on our Tour de Breakfast through San Diego. We had devoured mountains of Benedicts, towers of pancakes and gallons of syrup. We wanted something different, and their recommendation did not disappoint. We were served a breakfast flatbread. What genius had decided to combine my two favorite food groups? Cold pizza had often served as my breakfast. Why didn’t I heat it up? Why didn’t I add an egg? Genius! We all agreed that this toasty warm, egg, cheese and bacon-covered flatbread could be enjoyed at any time of day but was exceptional for breakfast.

Native Knowledge:  Do your weekend morning a favor and finish your breakfast with breakfast shots: One shot Jameson and butterscotch schnapps combined, one shot OJ and one piece of crispy bacon (used as a chaser). Consumed properly, this flavor revelation tastes exactly like pancakes, syrup, and, of course, bacon.

8 Places to Get Some of The Best Breakfast in San Diego

About The Author

Kristal Docter

A writer transformed by the beatniks before her, Kristal Docter headed west after earning a BA in Literature and Creative Writing with a journalism concentration from Southwest Minnesota State University. Her career has been driven by diversification as a newspaper editor-in-chief, copy editor, corporate advertising professional, non-profit marketing maven, and brand contributor to a venture capital firm. Throughout her journey, Kristal continued asserting an appetite for all things linguistic, and now contributes a fresh voice at LOCALE.

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