Must Order: Waffle Churro Sticks
There are places with brunch, and then there are BRUNCH places. Normal Heights’ Madi holds down the latter title with a strong coffee, mimosa, and griddle game, as well as lunchy favs like a divine chicken pesto sando and build-your-own-bowl options. The waffle churro sticks are a crowd pleaser. Served with jalepeño-blackberry compote, maple cream cheese, and fresh berries, they might have you and your brunch date licking the plate.
The Rose Wine Bar
Must Order: Carnitas Hash
Surprise! Your nighttime Hinge date standby should also be your go-to for brunch with buds. Unexpected brunch options abound at South Park’s The Rose—think Thai curry chilaquiles, a vegan yogurt parfait, and a magical marriage of carnitas and kabocha squash. If you’re with a group (or drowning out last night’s rendezvous), order 28 ounces of grapefruit mimosa for the price of three singles.
Must Order: Not Avocado Toast
A brick-walled North Park joint with a shifting seasonal menu, Verbena shines for its commitment to in-house everything: sausage, pickles, even hot sauce. Instead of a standard avo-on-sourdough situation, the eatery stuffs California’s national fruit with poached eggs, mushroom hummus, bulgar wheat, and vinegary pickled shallots.
Must Order: Huevos Rancheros
For a comfort food brunch, look to Common Stock on Hillcrest’s Fifth Avenue. The evolving daytime menu hosts flavor-packed dishes like its take on huevos rancheros: bacon-infused beans and a fried egg topping crispy house-made tostadas, brightened up with a zingy lime crema. Pair it with the Ventura 75 cocktail, which combines local You & Yours Sunday Gin with grapefruit, lemon, and Angeleno Amaro, topped off with cava.
Flap Your Jacks
Must Order: THE CUBE
Mix it. Flip it. Top it. Drench it. The name of the game at this North Park family favorite is interactivity. Each table boasts a hot griddle to FYO (Flip Your Own) flapjacks. Pick from batters like Oreo, banana bread, and red velvet, and add toppings and syrups for truly unique p-cakes suited to your mood. Don’t feel like working? Order THE CUBE, French toast filled with choco-hazelnut ganache and other delicious stuff.
Must Order: Carne Asada Benny
Sweet and savory are both covered at North Park’s Crushed (also in PB). Pancakes in various forms do much of the heavy menu lifting, like the cinnamon rolled cakes and Daddy Cakes (think breakfast egg tacos with a p-cake shell). The Bennys and salads are legit, and the sliders come correct with chicken parm, portobello, and vegan meat options. The cocktails don’t disappoint but can take a minute if the bar is backed up.
Hash House A Go Go
Must Order: Wild Boar Chilaquiles
Hash House A Go Go invented brunch. Might have invented eggs, too. And sugar cereal. Hash House in Hillcrest is the OG, Johnny Rivera and chef Andy Beardslee’s first hit single—sage fried chicken and waffles, hashes the size of whoa, Cap’n Crunch cinnamon flapjacks, a 24-ounce can of Budweiser in a brown paper bag served with a fistful of bacon. Twenty three years later, it is…still…awesome.
The Seventh House
Must Order: Blue Corn Pancake
Named for the astrology concept associated with cosmic connection, The Seventh House—a relatively fresh addition to North Park’s restaurant scene—serves French-adjacent cuisine amid funky, tarot-inspired decor. It lays down several inspired options for just about every brunch category imaginable, including Benedicts, crepes, and a ricotta- and honey-crowned blue corn pancake.
Lavo Italian Restaurant
Must Order: Wild Mushroom Benedict
We resonate with the arc of Lavo. Started as a really wild young thing in New York, never met a 2 a.m. it didn’t like or a table it wouldn’t dance on. The San Diego location in the Gaslamp is in its serious food phase—still lively, just more into umami than seeing the sun rise. For brunch, it still has got the classics (chops and branzinos and that globesized meatball), but it also has things like the wild mushroom Benedict on toasted focaccia and truffle hollandaise. (And still, cocktails, both wild and refined.)
Must Order: Pork Belly Fried Rice
Rustic Root benefits from a rare setup. Almost all rooftops in downtown are sky high—great for recreational vertigo, but they remove you from the action of the streets. Root’s second-story perch puts you up, but also in the scene. Get the pork belly fried rice with kimchi and furikake and the monkey board to share—like croissant muffins drizzled with caramel and powdered sugar.
Must Order: Morning Glory Fried Rice
There is nothing subtle about Morning Glory, an unapologetically pink icon in Little Italy beaconing brunch goers. Skip the Champagne vending machine and instead dive into its inspired cocktail list. For your meal, try the fried rice with pork belly, a rich and balanced dish decadent enough to stand up to the over-the-top decor. Share the soufflé pancakes for dessert and take your time savoring the expansive view and comical details crammed into every corner of the restaurant.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Motos
Must Order: Prosciutto Hash
First order of business at muraled Mission Hills chophouse Cardellino: Get the cinnamon roll to share. Doctored up according to the chef’s current mood (past versions include Cap’n Crunch and a maple bourbon with poached pears), the pastry always sells out early. Chase it with prosciutto hash and caffeinated martinis on draft.
Must Order: Kimchi Chaufa
Reimagining the rooftop of a historic Gaslamp building as a sun-kissed sushi spot from a Michelin-starred chef who used to be a pro snowboarder? Sounds like a vibe, and it is. Lumi by Akira Back is A-plus sushi—with Peruvian roots—and its spring brunch returns in late March. Souffle pancakes, yuzu avocado toast, pork belly– smoked salmon latke, kimchi chaufa, karaage, nigiri, sashimi, and craft cocktails aplenty.
Must Order: Roasted Bone Marrow
Bone marrow for breakfast. Yep. A charred, split bone, herb butter, salsa verde, pickled Fresno chiles, toasted French bread. Add two sunny eggs. Or try the venison and goat tamale. Skirt steak stuffed with parm and basil in porcini butter. It has plants, too—we’re just a little fixated on the omnivore treats. And Nolita’s parklet in Little Italy? With the domes and the lights and the foliage? Kinda fairytaley.
Must Order: Savory Dutch Baby
Sundays are a showcase for this Bankers Hill mainstay’s pastry chef, Amy Simpson, and her decadent creations like seasonal scratch-made donuts. The Dutch Baby, however, is a special addition from executive chef Stephane Voitzwinkler using a crepe batter recipe passed down from his mother. The savory dish features European chanterelle mushrooms like the ones Voitzwinkler used to harvest in France as a child, along with caramelized onions and cave-aged cheddar, topped with a poached egg from Hilliker’s Ranch.
Must Order: Wood-Grilled Burger
While Trust‘s sticky buns often steal the show, savory lovers can look to another set of buns to fulfill their brunch cravings. The burger, grilled on red oak and topped with asiago, bacon-tomato jam, and pickled onions, is sandwiched between signature TRG buns. If it doesn’t feel brunch-y enough for you, order the burger ‘the Trust way’ and add on house-braised bacon and a sunny side up egg. Or forget it’s a.m. and select some of the standouts that carry over from Trust’s dinner menu, like the phenomenal cauliflower with golden raisins, mint, serrano aioli, and curry vinaigrette.
Cocina de Barrio
Must Order: Sopes Benedict with Lamb Birria
Cocina de Barrio in Point Loma boasts one of San Diego’s best Mexican brunches. Chef Jose Flores—originally from San Luis Potosi—crafts comida inspired by central and southern Mexican cuisine. Dishes include a Oaxacan tlayuda with eggs and a decadent sopes Benedict with birria de borrego (lamb) in chipotle hollandaise. It also offers American classics with a Mexican twist, such as arroz con leches pancakes. Brunch is seven days a week, so one doesn’t have to wait until Sunday.
Must Order: Everything Fry Bread & Lox
Provisional is special. The airy, modern, immaculate subway of it all, right in the heart of the Gaslamp. Chef Brandon Sloan is now doing a five-course brunch tasting menu (a long overdue concept). The Everything Fry Bread with house-smoked salmon and cream cheese is five-star Jewish deli food; for sweets, it’s the ricotta crepe with citrus cream, dark chocolate chip, and crystallized pistachio. Keep an eye out for when it serves the ostrich egg (what a wild, massive show that is).
Must Order: Tequila Sunrise (why not?)
Somewhere around the multilevel arena of baked goods…tarts abutting sticky cinnamon rolls, under the shadow of croissants…maybe on your second visit to this particular part of the almighty breakfast buffet (an art form not lost)…that vague annoyance at the email from your boss finally breaks loose. All you can hear from the patio are the boats lightly slapping the docks at the downtown marina (a few feet away), and the tiny come-hithers of danishes.
Must Order: La Bomba Chilaquiles
Most brunch restaurants dabble in the chilaquile arts these days, but Cocina35 is a house of chilaquiles—specialists, experts, obsessives. Owner Paulina Chaidez, who grew up cooking in her parents’ restaurants in Mexico, opened the first Cocina35 in Otay Mesa in 2012. It boomed. Now, also with a downtown location, Cocina35 has omelets, tortas, toasts, flautas, everything. Get the La Bomba (creamy habañero-cilantro) and the Los Rancheros (ranchero salsa and chorizo).
Photo Credit: Shannon Patrick
Craft & Commerce
Must Order: Duck Hash
If you’re serious about your midmorning cocktails, Little Italy’s C&C has been geeking out on the perfect drink for over a decade. With broken mirrors on the walls, books asunder, violent nature-channel taxidermy, the literature graffitied on the furniture—it’s still one of the most creative rooms in the city to do anything in. Good news is that “anything” includes eating a duck confit hash with potatoes, roasted peppers, pickled onions, duck gravy, and a couple eggs. With nerd-level good coffee.