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40 Places to Brunch Like You Mean It

Our recommendations for the classics and newcomers making a statement in San Diego's morning scene

By Erica Nichols and Marie Tutko, with Roxana Becerril, Jeanette Giovanniello, Helen I. Hwang, Kai Oliver-Kurtin, Carlos Rico, and Hoa Sanchez | Photography by Kimberly Motos, Anne Watson, James Tran

40 Places to Brunch

40 Places to Brunch

Who’s hungry?

Whether you’re coming off a late night out or an early morning hike, the remedy to your cravings is served between 10 and 2, on the weekends, with bottomless bloody marys or coffee. Here are over 40 of our favorite brunch dishes and drinks to try, from classic institutions to new morning destinations, when a basic breakfast just won’t cut it (and yes, there is a difference!).

Brunch Classics

Brunch - Mamakat's Biscuits and Gravy

Brunch – Mamakat’s Biscuits and Gravy

Mama Kat’s

Must Order: Biscuits and gravy

Indulge in a taste of the South with Mama Kat’s biscuits and gravy, whose recipe was passed down from three generations. Owner Michael Herrera says his eatery serves over five gallons of his appetizing gravy every morning. Take your pick from buttermilk or loaded biscuits, top with sausage gravy, and you’ll taste what all the fuss is about. Pro tip: Don’t let the long lines deter you; Mama Kat’s owns the arcade next door to entertain patrons while they wait.

950 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos

Brunch - Le Papagayo

Brunch – Le Papagayo

Le Papagayo

Must Order: Jamiaca Short Rib Tamales

Tamales may be a holiday staple, but Le Papagayo offers this delectable dish with a twist year-round. Their signature Jamaican short ribs are stuffed inside steamy housemade tamales, then served alongside chile verde, roasted pasilla peppers, and a sunny-side egg to satisfy any spice lover’s cravings. 1002 North Coast

Highway 101, Leucadia

Brunch - The Cottage

Brunch – The Cottage

The Cottage

Must Order: Avocado Smash

There’s a reason The Cottage has been a brunch mainstay for over 25 years, and we think the secret lies in dishes like their Avocado Smash. It’s a simple, straightforward dish executed perfectly with ripe avocados smashed on Sadie Rose rosemary and olive oil bread, and topped with customizable fixings like mozzarella and tomatoes, or smoked salmon and capers.

7702 Fay Avenue, La Jolla

Brunch - Cody's La Jolla

Brunch – Cody’s La Jolla

Cody’s La Jolla

Must Order: French Toast

Expect generous slices of rich challah bread served with candied walnuts, sweet and fresh strawberries, and homemade mascarpone honey butter at this La Jolla favorite. Guests can enjoy their French toast stacked high with lots of syrup and miles of Pacific Ocean views.

1025 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Great Maple

Must Order: Fruity Pebble Pancakes

Fulfill your childhood cravings with Great Maple’s colorful, cereal-topped silver dollar pancakes. Butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup are also part of this rainbow-colored dish that’s available only during weekend brunch.

1451 Washington Street, Hillcrest; 8675 Genesee Avenue, La Jolla

Brunch - Eclipse Chocolate

Brunch – Eclipse Chocolate

Eclipse Chocolate

Must Order: Drinking Chocolate

Level up your brunch beverage with Eclipse’s drinking chocolate, made with frothed, fair-trade couverture (high-quality chocolate) and your choice of milk and cacao. These rich, decadent drinks come in dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties, with unique flavors such as cinnamon curry, chile and burnt caramel, and orange peel vanilla. Top things off with vanilla bean marshmallows for an extra-decadent sip.

2145 Fern Street, South Park

Hob Nob Hill

Must Order: Coffee Cake

This Bankers Hill institution has been serving up classic diner food since 1944. You don’t have to wait until the weekend to enjoy their filling brunch—it’s served all day, every day. While there are many popular dishes, like eggs Benedict, omelets, and biscuits and gravy, it’s Hob Nob’s coffee cake that remains a crowd favorite after all these years. Served warm with icing on top, it pairs best with a hot cup of coffee.

2271 First Avenue, Bankers Hill

Tobey’s 19th Hole

Must Order: Housemade Corned Beef Hash

This lovably no-frills, family-run restaurant delivers on two of the most important aspects of brunch: good food and an unbeatable view. The menu is straightforward, with quintessential morning dishes like omelets, steak and eggs, and a corned beef hash made in house and topped with eggs your way. Take a seat outside, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the green and the San Diego skyline.

2600 Golf Course Drive, South Park

Brunch - Adelaide

Brunch – Adelaide


Must Order: L’Auberge Benedict

Chef Nick Green is adding creative pizzazz to traditional brunch favorites like eggs Benedict. His take, L’Auberge Benedict, incorporates big chunks of fresh red crab, miso-infused hollandaise sauce, heirloom tomatoes, and sauteed spinach with perfectly poached eggs that don’t drown the other ingredients when your fork takes the first stab.

1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar

Brunch - Cafe 21

Brunch – Cafe 21

Cafe 21

Must Order: Mimosa Flight

One of the greatest perks of brunch: bubbly, for breakfast. Mix things up with a mimosa flight from Cafe 21, which comes with six different juices for those who aren’t afraid to venture beyond orange. The flavors change frequently but have included ginger, kiwi, pear, tangerine, and watermelon.

802 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter; 2736 Adams Avenue, University Heights

Mister A’s

Must Order: European Style Pastries and Donuts of the Month

Pastry Chef Erin Steidley introduces new handmade pastries each month with this shareable brunch starter at Mister A’s. Diners can expect an assortment of muffins, croissants, Danishes, donuts, cinnamon rolls, biscotti, and jams. Pastry flavors change seasonally—this winter she’s been working with apples, pears, pomegranate, squash, and different types of winter citrus.

2550 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill

The Westgate Hotel

Must Order: Black Truffle and Leek Quiche; California Cheese Platter

One of the voids the pandemic left in San Diego’s dining scene was the end of the Sunday brunch buffet at Le Fontainebleau at The Westgate Hotel. The Versailles-inspired decor; elegant table settings; and colorful lineup of caviar, macarons, and flowing chocolate fountain at the buffet stations made guests feel like they were French royalty for a few hours. It was a celebratory Sunday morning destination for more than four decades, but in 2020 the hotel had to suspend the buffet. Now, brunch is back on the menu in a reimagined à la carte experience in The Westgate Room and on the veranda, Saturdays and Sundays. Share the California cheese platter, which highlights umami-rich and lighter cheeses from NorCal, before perusing the entrées—everything from dim sum to ricotta pancakes, a rich black truffle and leek quiche, and Baja prawn tacos. Sip some Champagne or a Bellini while relaxing to live jazz from Rob Thorsen & Friends to stretch out the weekend.

1055 Second Avenue, Downtown

94th Aero Squadron

Must Order: Prime Rib from the Sunday buffet

Calling all History Channel watchers, aviation enthusiasts, and lovers of antiques: This brunch spot is for you. The nearly 50-year-old restaurant is a local institution, named after a famous US Army squadron that fought in World War I. Everything about its design is a nod to that era: The exterior is a replica of a French farmhouse, while the interior is decorated with military and aviation memorabilia (there are even vintage planes on the property). The best part is the patio that overlooks Montgomery Field’s runway, where you can watch small planes and helicopters land and take off right from your seat. The Sunday brunch buffet is a family-friendly event that includes Champagne, sushi, crab legs, build-your-own nachos, and a carving station with classic prime rib. Book a table before 10 a.m. for a $5 discount. Sunday brunch served 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (Ed. Note: 94th Aero Squadron have announced they’ll be on a temporary hiatus.)

8885 Balboa Avenue, Kearny Mesa

Brunch - Snooz

Brunch – Snooz

Snooze A.M. Eatery

Must Order: Bacon Sensation Sandwich with Hash Browns

Snooze may not be local, but it’s become a locally beloved spot for brunching all week long thanks to their extensive menu of customizable Benedicts, pancakes, sandwiches, and more. You can order the Bacon Sensation sandwich as is—tender belly bacon, an over-medium egg, arugula, and Green Goddess cream cheese in a brioche bun—but we suggest upping the ante and requesting your side of hash browns be served inside the sandwich. Crispy, creamy, filling—everything you want for the first bite of the day.

3435 Del Mar Heights Road, Carmel Valley; 3940 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest; 8861 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla

Brunch - The Henry

Brunch – The Henry

The Henry

Must Order: Strawberry French Toast

The Henry puts an elevated twist on brunch classics, like their strawberry French toast. What makes this weekend dish stand out is its toppings—fresh strawberries and toasted coconut shavings that, together, taste like a fresh, gooey strawberry Pop-Tart.

1031 Orange Avenue, Coronado

The Little Lion Cafe

Must Order: Fruit Bowl

When the cravings hit for something a little lighter on your stomach than pancakes or eggs, the fresh fruit bowl at OB’s Little Lion Cafe is the antidote. It’s a simple, humble dish of fresh, seasonal fruit served with whipped cream and a tangy passionfruit curd. Now that’s a palate cleanser!

1424 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, Ocean Beach


Must Order: I Love NY Bagel

You can brunch to your heart’s content at Matteo, knowing it all goes for a good cause. The restaurant is a nonprofit that donates 100 percent of its proceeds to local organizations implementing community and youth education programs. Try their I Love NY Bagel. It’s an everything bagel made in house, smeared with cream cheese, and stacked with capers, red onion, tomatoes, chives, and a heaping amount of smoked salmon.

3015 Juniper Street, South Park

The New Scene

Breakfast Republic Mac and Cheese

Breakfast Republic Mac and Cheese

Breakfast Republic

Must Order: Breakfast Mac and Cheese

Yes, mac and cheese just got better. At Breakfast Republic, their buttery mac and cheese is topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs, chives, and eggs cooked just the way you like for an extra-indulgent breakfast. Go all in with a side order of their Jurassic Pork—bacon baked in paprika and brown sugar.

Nine locations in San Diego County

Brunch - Madison

Brunch – Madison


Must Order: Waffle Churro Sticks

Dessert for breakfast? You won’t hear any complaints from us. These waffle pieces are coated with cinnamon and sugar, stacked four high, and come with two dipping sauces: maple cream cheese and jalapeño blackberry jam. Due to popular demand, this shareable dish is now available anytime as part of Madison’s dessert menu, not just during weekend brunch.

4622 Park Boulevard, University Heights

Brunch - Arlo

Brunch – Arlo


Must Order: Chocolate Pancakes

These aren’t your average pancakes with a few chocolate chips thrown in. Arlo’s pancakes are made with a Valrhona dark chocolate batter to deliver sweet cacao flavor in every bite. The short stack comes with three flapjacks, plus caramelized strawberries and fresh mint to help round out the dish. A vanilla crème anglaise with emulsified goat cheese serves as the icing on top.

500 Hotel Circle North, Mission Valley

Brunch - Cardellino

Brunch – Cardellino


Must Order: Breakfast Cacio e Pepe

Kick-start your day with a hearty dish at Cardellino, where pasta prevails—even in the morning. The breakfast cacio e pepe is a rigatoni pasta meal topped with Parmigiano, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. Add chopped bacon or a perfectly poached egg to make it a truly savory meal.

4033 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills


Must Order: Whipped Ricotta Toast

The first bite of Vaga’s ricotta toast tastes like a spectacular explosion of refreshing fruit, creamy cheese, and crunchy bread. A thin spread of whipped ricotta spiced with turmeric covers the homemade toast, a generous portion of sliced succulent purple figs (or another fresh fruit of the day) is layered on that, and a light honey drizzle adds a subtle touch of sweetness on top.

2100 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia;

Brunch - Serea

Serea Coastal Cuisine

Serea Coastal Cuisine

Must Order: Lobster and Chorizo Scramble

This savory surf-and-turf dish combines butter-poached Maine lobster with Mexican chorizo for the best of both land and sea. The scramble is mixed with roasted peppers and served with warm flour tortillas, an avocado chimichurri sauce, and Serea’s rich patatas bravas.

1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Brunch - Breakfast & Bubbles

Brunch – Breakfast & Bubbles

Breakfast & Bubbles

Must Order: Pink Deviled Eggs

Once you’re done oohing and ahhing over the interiors—pinks, greens, golds, and plenty of flowers to inspire your Instagram feed—you’ll feel just as impressed with Breakfast & Bubbles’ equally colorful menu of plates and cocktails. Their deviled eggs, for instance, taste like the classic but are dyed a bright pink and garnished with a bright flower.

3831 Park Boulevard, Hillcrest

Herb & Sea

Must Order: Chef Laura’s Biscuit Basket

Brian Malarkey launched brunch at his Encinitas restaurant last fall, bringing some conviviality to the neighborhood on Sunday mornings. Grab a seat on the expansive patio and sip a guava Bellini before digging into a shrimp burrito seasoned with Old Bay, smoked salmon toast, or an East Coast–style lobster roll. No matter what you plan to order, start with the biscuit basket. Created by executive pastry chef Laura Warren, the warm biscuits are simple but perfectly baked, resulting in a soft interior enveloped by a golden crust. The biscuits are good on their own, but a dab of whipped butter flavored with Maldon sea salt or a touch of rosemary honey takes it from comforting to irresistible—we leave it to you to decide who at the table gets the last one.

131 West D Street; Encinitas 

Brunch - MexiPino

Brunch – MexiPino

MexiPino Craft

Must Order: Mexipino Breakfast Sandwich

For the adventurous breakfast eaters, MexiPino Craft in Chula Vista has a sweet and savory cultural mashup to order. Their namesake breakfast sandwich is a blend of Mexican and Filipino flavors: slices of prime smoked beef, salty Spam, and spicy chorizo topped with creamy avocado and an over-medium egg, all sandwiched between two pieces of sweet Mexican concha bread.

1660 Broadway, Chula Vista

Brunch - The Holding Company

Brunch – The Holding Company

The Holding Company

Must Order: Kimchi Fried Rice

Skip the sugar bombs and go straight for a hearty fried rice at The Holding Company, a live music venue from the team behind OB Noodle House. A favorite on their brunch menu, the kimchi fried rice, combines crispy bacon, brisket ends, and onions with a flavorful kimchi gochujang and a sunny-side-up egg. Served on a sizzling cast-iron skillet, this dish is best enjoyed overlooking the Pacific from their rooftop lounge.

5046 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach


Must Order: Ultimate Sticky Bun

There’s no more telltale sign of the weekend arriving in San Diego than the scent of freshly baked sticky buns wafting from the kitchen at Trust. Served exclusively for brunch, Trust’s sticky buns are made in house with plenty of butter and brown sugar in each bite for that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth texture. But come prepared: Only a limited number are made each weekend, so get your order in before they sell out. Sticky bun first, drinks second!

3752 Park Boulevard, Hillcrest

Morning Glory

Must Order: Soufflé Pancakes and Chicken Katsu Benedict

Come for the interiors, stay for the food. Morning Glory’s bright, pink, velvety design provides the perfect backdrop for its menu of globally inspired brunch dishes. Don’t miss out on the soufflé pancakes (as made famous in Japan), served with pure maple syrup and whipped cream—every bite is what a good pancake should be: airy and sweet. Another must-try is the crispy chicken katsu Benedict, made with mornay and curry sauces. This is the place keeping Instagram’s food pic culture alive, so expect a wait—it’s open daily, but they don’t take reservations.

550 West Date Street, Little Italy

Fig Tree Cafe

Must Order: Breakfast Sushi

Fig Tree Cafe has been a beloved spot for breakfast and brunch dishes since it first opened in Pacific Beach in 2008. Since then, it’s expanded to two other locations, in Liberty Station and East Village, and expanded its menu to include the classics and the delightfully unexpected—case in point, breakfast sushi. Three thick-cut candied bacon “rolls” are topped with a mix of scrambled eggs, rice, and scallions, then finished with a sweet plum sauce and served with fresh fruit. They’re easy enough to share, but we suggest keeping them all to yourself.

695 Sixth Avenue, East Village; 2400 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station; 5119 Cass Street, Pacific Beach


Must Order: Shakshouka

A simmering skillet of tomatoes, peppers, and onion topped with poached eggs ain’t a bad way to start the day. You’ll see shakshouka popping up on a number of brunch menus across the county, but Medina should be at the top of your list for this Maghrebi dish. For a little extra kick in each bite, you can add their housemade merguez (spicy lamb sausage) to their specialty shakshouka. Hot tip: Leave no bread crumb behind here—they’re gold for dunking in the flavorful sauce.

2850 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park

Dija Mara

Must Order: Short Rib Rendang

Dija Mara needs only one day a week (Sunday) to wow you with their brunch menu of Balinese-inspired food. Order the short rib rendang—coconut rice topped with a generous helping of spicy beef short rib, fermented cucumber, peanut sauce, and yolky eggs. It’s as good to eat as it is to look at!

232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Brunch - Cocina 35

Brunch – Cocina 35

Cocina 35

Must Order: Chilaquiles

A plate of well-made chilaquiles is a beautiful thing to wake up to. Fried tortillas simmered in a flavorful salsa, then topped with more crunchy tortilla strips, queso fresco, and a fried egg hits the spot, especially the morning after a night out. While countless restaurants around San Diego offer chilaquiles at breakfast, Cocina 35 owner Paulina Chaidez specializes in them. Here, they’re served nearly a dozen different ways—with refried beans, spicy or mild salsas, and with toppings ranging from cochinita pibil to a vegetarian chile colorado. (Pictured: La Bomba.) There’s also a sampler plate with two salsas for when you can’t decide, or you can build your own. Try Los Rancheros, with a tomato-and-chile-based salsa, beef chorizo, avocado, and two sunny-side-up eggs. Wash it down with a cafe de olla (coffee spiced with cinnamon, cocoa, and cloves) or a freshly made agua fresca.

1435 Sixth Avenue, Cortez Hill; 9335 Airway Road, Otay Mesa

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