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The Food Hit List: March 2023

SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month

By Jackie Bryant, Mateo Hoke, Troy Johnson, Nicolle Monico, and Amelia Rodriguez

We eat. And drink. A lot. As a magazine staff we’re constantly poking our heads into kitchens across the city. We tell the stories of the people in them. And along the way, we taste some pretty remarkable things.

This month, for our Brunch Issue, we decided to orient our food hit list toward all things café and bakery. A café meal isn’t quite brunch, but under the right conditions it totally could be, and each of these spots is worth a leisurely, lengthy stop, as if one were sipping and munching in Europe. We think it will bring you decent, if not great, amounts of joy. Turn it into a bingo card. Go nuts.


Wayfarer Bread

Kouign Amann

You know when you go to pronounce something and you can’t, then you just kinda mumble it, hoping the other person understands what you mean? That’s how I feel about kouign amann, which is a Breton name (an old Celtic language historically spoken in northern France). The labor-intensive, caramelized, buttery, sugary, and salty puff pastry–layered cake shows up at a few places around town. Bird Rock’s Wayfarer makes one of the best. –JB


Nutmeg Bakery and Cafe

Bananas Foster French Toast

Bananas Foster was wrongly left on the side road of American desserts in the ’80s. Nutmeg is a star of the North County inland scene (Sabre Springs, Scripps Ranch), and it resuscitates its greatness with this toast. Local brioche soaked in cinnamon-ginger custard with spiced ricotta filling, topped with bananas flambéed in brown sugar and spiced rum—it’s the perfect pre-nap food. –TJ



Sour Cherry Pistachio Cream Tart

Vivian Hernandez spent years in the fancy baking world creating at Claridge’s in London and then Loews Resorts in Miami. She opened this tiny little Cuban pastry shop in O.B., and it’s catnip for bread people. Her scones hog all the fame (deserved), but, oh, this tart—puff pastry laminated in sugar, pistachio cream base, macerated sour cherries, and pistachio crumble—is a pretty good reason to exist. –TJ


Relic Bageri

Baklava Babka

Baklava gets the breakfast pastry treatment at Miramar commercial bakery Relic Bageri, which pops up weekly at its kitchen site so the everyday person can get a taste straight from the Danish-French-influenced kitchen. The baklava babka is buttery, flaky, and adorned with pistachios and rose petals—perfect with-coffee munching. –JB


Hilda’s Mexican Bakery


I had to stop by an ATM to visit this cash-only panadería hidden behind a blooming jacaranda in City Heights, but the conchas, fresh-baked and airy, outweigh the caveats. Grab tongs and load a tray with a dozen marranitos (pig-shaped gingerbread), fruit empanadas, and—my favorites—crunchy, puff-pastry banderillas for less than a buck per bun at Hilda’s Mexican Bakery. –AR


Rikka Fika Café

Yuzu Shokupan

Popping up two or three times a month in Miramar (right next to Relic Bageri) is Rikka Fika Café, run by a couple that, thank god, is obsessed with excellent coffee and Japanese baked goods. In particular, the café is known for shokupan, which is milkbread served in cubed loaves intended to be sliced thick and toasted. –JB


Scrimshaw Coffee

Brekkie Sandwich

In the land of breakfast burritos, passable breakfast sandwiches can be hard to find. Too often, they’re too fancy and messy, which kind of negates the point of something that should be grab-and-go but still satisfying. In College Area, Scrimshaw Coffee’s sandwich is perfect: Chives and aioli are slathered on a scrambled egg patty with a choice of sausage patty, bacon, or nothing (the aioli is fat enough) and pressed between a brioche bun. –JB

Parisien Gourmandises

Parisien Gourmandises

Nutella Danish

Located inside Floral Palette, a La Jolla boutique, is the quietly legit Parisien Gourmandises, a French-style bakery serving beaucoup Nutella and carbs. The Nutella Danish pastry is balanced with a creme layer beneath. It’s buttery, flaky, and defs worth a walk through the shop. Grab a coffee and pretend you’re in Paris. Inside, of course. Good for a rainy day. –MH

lofty coffee

Lofty Coffee

GF Organic Acai Bowl

Since developing a gluten intolerance this past year, I’ve been hunting for a solid GF acai bowl to fill my morning cravings. And, man, did Lofty Coffee in Little Italy deliver. Made with peanut butter, house-made gluten-free granola, toasted coconut, chia seeds, cacao nibs, seasonal fresh fruit, and hemp seeds—it just may be my favorite in the city, gluten-free or not. –NM

barrio donas

Barrio Donas

Guayaba Donut

As a kid visiting my abuela in Mexico, I used to nab guavas off the neighbor’s tree (whoops) and eat them right there on the sidewalk. A sleeper hit at the Mexican-inspired Clairemont donut shop known for its horchata flavor, the guayaba donut has a fluffy, sugar-dusted exterior and a tart guava filling that tastes just like those purloined treats. –AR



Mazapan Latte

Mural-decked City Heights shop Cafeina offers a coffee menu that pays homage to Mexican childhood favorites. I got the mazapan latte (unlike the much-maligned almond paste marzipan, mazapan is a crumbly peanut candy akin to the inside of a Reese’s) and was pleasantly surprised to crunch a few chopped peanuts with each sip. I like it half-sweet with oat milk, but you do you. –AR

Mujer Divina

Mujer Divina

Bean and Cheese Burrito and the Iced Pistachio Latte

Mujer Divina in National City serves two things only: breakfast burritos and coffee. It’s run by Tuétano Taqueria’s Priscilla Curiel and her husband. To drink are a variety of specialty coffees, like a pistachio latte and a latte with a mini concha on top. To eat, it sells thin burritos with fillings like machaca, chorizo con papas, birria, and, my favorite, simple beans (made in-house) and cheese. –JB

le parfait, paris

Le Parfait Paris

Crepe Citron

Le Parfait Paris’s Gaslamp location has a selection of sweet crepes perfect for breakfast. Those who like to keep it simple and carb-forward will love the citron version, which comes with whipped cream and lemon zest, offering a good balance of sweet and savory minus all the other add-ons that sometimes overwhelm the delicate, thin pancake. –JB

secret sisters donuts

Secret Sister

Sourdough Donuts

Sourdough palace Secret Sister adds its signature yeasty component to the sweet breakfast staple. Owned by the same folks as the adjacent The Rose Wine Bar, the South Park bakeshop always has sourdough donuts with rotating seasonal glazes: Tart peach, goat milk and rainbow sprinkles, apple cider, and fresh fennel seed are some examples. –JB

Are you a restaurant or food- or drink-maker with something delicious that should be on SDM’s Hit List? Send the editors an email at [email protected] and tell us what you think we should try! 

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