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Where to Get Brunch in South Bay

Our annual guide to morningfood, featuring the best places to get brunch in each part of the county

By Troy Johnson, Amelia Rodriguez, Jackie Bryant, W. Scott Koenig, Michelle Stansbury, Mario A. Cortez, Mateo Hoke

Birriera Don Rafa

Birrieria Don Rafa

Must Order: The Drowned Quesadilla

In this case, drowning your food is an excellent thing. Don Rafa is a staple in Chula Vista, a birria emporium with a clay-tile dining room. The Drowned Quesadilla is a ridiculously delicious bit of food. The flour tortilla is browned with melted cheese and then served ahogado—swimming in beef broth and birria. Don Rafa also serves Jalisco-style menudo, white and red.


Talavera Azul

Must Order: Chilaquiles

The Curiel family recipe for chilaquiles keeps locals coming back to this Third Avenue institution. Crispy tortillas get tossed in two sauces of your choosing: chipotle, red, green, poblano cream, mole, or divorciados. Protein add-ons include shredded chicken, machaca, avocado, chorizo, chicken breast, or arrachera (skirt steak).


Farmer’s Table

Must Order: The Barn Yard Bloody Mary

Farmer’s Table is maybe the only spot in the county where a bloody mary doubles as a full meal—so it’s a good thing it has multiple locations, including a 10,000-square-foot outpost in Chula Vista. The Barn Yard pitcher weighs in at 10 pounds and comes topped with a butcher’s entire inventory, including corned beef, andouille sausage, a bacon-wrapped hot dog, and a whole roasted chicken. Plus, pickled veggies. Eat your greens.


El Rincon

Must Order: Huevos Divorciados

Just off the 5 within spitting distance of the border in San Ysidro is El Rincon, a popular restaurant boasting dishes from Guadalajara that gets packed out on weekends, and, sometimes, even on weekdays. Mole enmoladas are one popular choice, but for breakfast, it’s hard to go wrong with classic huevos divorciados, which come with spicy green and red salsas.

Ed Fernandez, brunch

Ed Fernandez Birrieria

Must Order: Queso Taco Extremo

Pretty sure the line starts sometime around 3 a.m. for this Imperial Beach icon. The Fernandez brothers started with a food truck and grew into this space (down the alley, near the church). It’s all based on mom’s birria recipe, which they serve various ways for breakfast (the Queso Taco Extremo—a melted cheese–laden tortilla with that birria). Menudo is offered on weekends to salve any morning-after concerns.


Sammy’s Restaurant & Bar

Must Order: Barbacoa Chilaquiles

Anyone who has been in San Diego more than a decade knows Sami Ladeki, one of the first in San Diego to harness the charry charms of flame pizza (Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza). It’s all about the patio at this Chula Vista spot, covered and shaded and hung with enough plants to resuscitate an ozone or two. Try the chilaquiles (beef barbacoa and chipotle cream sauce).

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