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Where to Get Brunch Near the Beach

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


JRDN Restaurant

Must Order: Chorizo Chilaquiles

For decades, PB has been the place where the city’s young and shiny live their best semi-clothed beach lives, crushing breakfast burritos and somehow growing yet another ab. Then Tower 23 and JRDN had the gall to throw art, architecture, and good food into the mix—with a patio overlooking the whole boardwalk scene. The chorizo scramble chilaquiles with guajillo salsa, pico, and lime crema are great, as is the meal-on-a-stick bloody.


Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters

Must Order: Prime Rib California Burrito

Trey Foshee is one of the best chefs who gives a damn (about local farms, about sustainability, about flavor), and this is his team’s offshoot of George’s at the Cove. New chef Marty Fay is overseeing the oysters-and-woodsmoke concept. Far more casual than George’s, but still in La Jolla, with the same topnotch purveyors. The Prime Rib California Burrito is the breakout star, but don’t sleep on that corn cake—the vessel of vessels, fluffy and savory-sweet, topped with ham, Swiss, and a fried egg.


Breakfast Republic

Must Order: Shrimp & Grits

Breakfast Republic won breakfast in San Diego. A colorful, cheeky, wild success from local Johan Engman. While lines are long in Liberty Station, the pro tip is to go over the hill to the OB location—a second-floor industrial great room with less of a wait. If you’re ready for the light, sit by the roll-up window overlooking Newport. If you’re still shadow-gathering from last night, the back half is best. The pineapple upside down cakes affirm life, but the grits (rich, creamy with a kick) are a shocker hit.

Little Lion fruit bowl

Little Lion Cafe

Must Order: Farmers Market Fruit Bowl

The charmingest hobbit hole at the end of a golden part of San Diego earth—namely, Sunset Cliffs, that Mars-looking beach cliff walk. Lion is owned by three sisters who grew up in San Diego food (their grandparents owned a beloved ’80s bistro, and their aunt is one of the best bakers in the city). Their MO is simple: best ingredients, simply prepared. Order on whim, but the farmers market fruit (usually with whipped cream and passion fruit curd) is fantastic. Then walk the cliffs and marvel at your good luck.

Red O brunch

Red O

Must Order: Short Rib Benedict

The Golden Triangle has grown massively, but for a long while you had about 1.5 dining options if you truly liked food. Now you’ve got UTC Westfield, which is hauling in every top operator, and across the street is Red O, a massive, ornately designed modern Mexican outpost. It’s a regional chain that’s expanded because it “gets it” (invest in the food, invest in the bar, invest in the service). The braised short rib Benedict with Tapatio hollandaise on a crispy sope imbues Sunday with meaning.



Must Order: Spinach and Cheese Spanakotiropita

On March 26, Serẽa at the Hotel Del Coronado is bringing back its seaside brunch with a brand-new menu from chef JoJo Ruiz. While the beloved cruffin still holds court on the menu, it is joined by several new items like a decadent crab cake and caviar benedict. Ruiz highlights the Spanakotiropita, which he shares is a spun filo dough pastry filled with spinach and cheese, brushed with warm spiced honey. The dish is cut tableside with an audible crunch.

Nine-Ten Restaurant, brunch


Must Order: Bruléed Bread Pudding

Simply one of the best chefs in the city (and maybe the country). La Jolla’s Nine-Ten and Jason Knibb are about as sure of bets as you can find. The brunch menu gives you some riffs on bakery classics (pecan sticky bun, housemade lemon-glazed donut), plus that great Nine-Ten burger (add the sauteed mushrooms), grilled octopus, and a bread pudding with pumpkin spice and glaze.


The Fishery

Must Order: Smoked Salmon Benedict

The Fishery is a San Diego classic that got a highly successful overhaul during the pandemic. A fourth-generation local fisherman started this, and now it’s in his daughter’s hands. The Fishery runs the seafood distribution operation out the back (the day’s best go direct to kitchen). A whole new creative staff, including chef Mike Reidy (who worked at two-star Michelin, Melisse)—plus the GM from Juniper & Ivy and a barkeep from Whisknladle—is cranking in PB. If you’re one of those who love the seafood part of brunch, this is your spot.


The Cottage

Must Order: Eggs La Jolla

The Cottage is post-surf morningfood legend. Been at it 30 years, adapted just enough (hard kombucha spoken here), charming as hell. It’s best known for the brioche french toast and lemon-ricotta pancakes (plus Joe’s special scramble with that chicken sausage), and new-ish owner Jason Peaslee (a former employee) is breathing new life into the icon. The Eggs La Jolla is a riff on the Benny that wins with silky-tangy balsamic mushrooms.


The Henry

Must Order: Roasted Artichoke Rillettes

Sam Fox is the West Coast answer to Danny Meier—a staggering track record of runaway restaurant hits. His home base is Phoenix, but he’s got a place in Coronado and a gem down the street in The Henry. Stark, white, casual-lovely. The menu stays away from sweets, offering pure savory. Order the spread of artichoke rillettes with black truffle and tarragon, housemade pretzel with provolone fondue, roasted turkey French dip with horseradish aioli, and a pomegranate-hibiscus spritz.


The Holding Company

Must Order: Ube Pancakes

The Yeng brothers are icons of these streets. First-generation Americans, raised in OB and by OB. After the massive success of OB Noodle Bar, they built this three-story concept (music venue, bar, restaurant, rooftop hang) for their neighborhood. Sit up top for brunch, order ube pancakes (ube buttercream, ube syrup) and a Morning Skrew (Skrewball Whiskey, invented by a Yeng brother, with coffee and whipped cream), and watch the morning surf wash over OB’s weird.

The Shores, brunch

The Shores

Must Order: Lobster Benedict

Best-kept secret for locals. The same culinary team as the famed Marine Room in La Jolla handles the other part of the property—The Shores. Chef Mike Minor’s* lobster Benedict gets a Baja spin with chipotle hollandaise (Minor spent years as exec chef of the famed Mexican restaurant, Border Grill). The bananas foster is vanilla-dipped challah bread soaked in pirate rum.


Bali Hai Restaurant

Must Order: Firecracker Pork Ribs

Call your skipper—Bali Hai is San Diego’s sole brunch spot with a private dock for diners arriving by boat. Even if you’re stuck driving the isthmus onto Shelter Island (us, too), ball out with an all-you-can-eat buffet of Polynesian-inspired bites, like bluefin tuna poke, Spam fried rice, and spicy spareribs. And a mai tai, obviously.

Little Frenchie

Little Frenchie

Must Order: French Herbed Rolled Omelet

The city moped when chef Matt Gordon closed beloved Urban Solace in North Park, but all turned out well in our world. As VP of ops for Blue Bridge Hospitality, he’s done things like Little Frenchie, in Coronado, a runaway hit of a bistro overseen by chef Matt Sramek. For brunch, it’s got cronuts and cruffins of the month. But also Burgundy escargot, croques, crepes, and short rib hash, plus a French omelet with boursin cheese, fine herbs, and optional add-on, Kaluga caviar.


Oceana Coastal Kitchen

Must Order: Waffle Romanoff

The Catamaran Resort’s California restaurant brought its Sunday Champagne Brunch back. Hi, friend. The Evans family (the Catamaran is one of the few family-owned resorts remaining in the world, and a San Diego classic) likes its food, and doesn’t skimp on it. Perched on the green, green grass of the bay on the Mission Beach side, the city’s toned and active set constantly stream by the patio. It’s a breakfast buffet with an A-plus cold bar (nigiri, crab, etc.), antipasta, and entrees like the Waffle Romanoff (topped with Grand Marnier-macerated strawberries).


Tom Ham’s Lighthouse

Must Order: Everything at the Raw Bar

Two words: Endless seafood. Stack a plate high with lobster claws, half-shell scallops, and other shellfish at Tom Ham’s brunch buffet, and inhale oysters with a bayside view from Harbor Island. If you ever drag yourself away from the raw bar, hit the meat station for Moroccan fried chicken.


Garage Buona Forchetta

Must Order: Tiramisu Brioche French Toast

Buona Forchetta started a decade ago with a brick oven, blustery-great dough, and excellent olive oil. A mini empire sprouted from that oven—so very Italian in its love of the bread and food arts. This is its Coronado house, with bomboloni (Italian donuts), toasts (try the Toscano with Italian sausage), tiramisu brioche French toast (with honey espresso mascarpone, oh dear), and paninis on housemade focaccia.


Vessel Restaurant

Must Order: Smoked Salmon

Kona Kai Resort is the brunch spot for boat people—so nuzzled in the marina is the resort that it nearly feels like dining on a superyacht or elaborate food pontoon when you’re inside the circular Vessel. Now it has former Cucina Urbana chef Joe Magnanelli. Get the Santa Barbara Smokehouse smoked salmon with whipped dill mascarpone or the coffee-rubbed grilled skirt steak with bacon-fried eggs.

*Editor’s Note: The print version of this story named Mike Reidy as the chef at The Shores. This has been corrected online to reflect the correct chef, Mike Minor.

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