The 10 Best Brunch Dishes and Drinks in San Diego

Where to go for the best French toast, international breakfast and Bloody Mary
April 25, 2016
by Darlene Horn

We take brunch in San Diego very seriously, and just about every restaurant serves its own version. So where should you go for amazing French toast topped with mascarpone whipped cream or what should you eat when your appetite can't decide between breakfast and lunch? We have you covered with all that and more.

Most Decadent French Toast: Baked French Toast at Bottega Americano

This East Village restaurant creates a masterful morning treat that even those who claim not to like French toast will submit to after the first bite. Served warm with a meld of custardy insides and crisp caramelized corners, this French toast (pictured above) comes topped with a crown of whipped mascarpone cream and fresh berries. Available on the weekends during brunch hours, this rendition is one of the most memorable in town.

Runners up: Breakfast Republic's S'mores French toast, The Mission's Mission French toast

Photo by Tiger! Tiger!/Facebook

Best Reason to Start Drinking at Noon: Tiger! Tiger!

San Diego is no stranger to beer brunches. One of the most popular belongs to this North Park bar, which hosts an extensive brunch-friendly menu that appeals to all tastes. Dig into chilaquiles, fried chicken with French toast and even housemade donuts. But beer isn't just an afterthought. Wash it all down with a rotating tap featuring local and regional breweries such as Ska Brewing, Monkey Paw and Modern Times.

Runner-ups: Toronado, Waypoint Public

3025 El Cajon Blvd.; 619-487-0401

Best Thing to Eat When You Hate Brunch But Love Lunch: Tacos at ¡​Salud!

Eggs, bacon and pancakes may not be everyone's ideal way to start the day. If that's you, try your luck with tacos. These friendly Mexican handhelds can be found with a breakfast spin at ¡Salud! in Barrio Logan, which packs housemade flour tortillas with chorizo, bacon, an over-easy egg, cheese and avocado. Of course, if you're looking for options that don't include breakfast meats, this funky restaurant also serves tacos filled with flamed grilled chicken, shredded pork, fish and beef. It's open every day except Monday.

Runners-up: Galaxy Taco, Luche Libre

2196 Logan Ave.; 619-255-3856

​Photo by Darlene Horn

Best Donut and Donut Variants: Nomad Donuts

Donuts rule the breakfast pastry world with their fried goodness, and there's no lack of choices in San Diego. One of the best in the county comes from this North Park spot that melds unique flavors like coconut and taro or savory-sweet creations like corn cheddar jalapeño cake with rosemary and bacon. A rotating selection of other mouthwatering flavors are featured daily on Instagram, and they're sure to delight and satisfy those looking for something out of the ordinary.

Runners-up: Donut Bar, Donut Panic

4504 30th St.; 619-431-5000

Best Bloody Mary: California Greenin' at Cafe 21

Cafe 21's bartenders mix up delicious tomato juice-based cocktails to match with the crafty bites served up at both the Gaslamp and Adams Avenue eateries. For the restaurant's California Greenin', the Bloody Mary gets an infusion of flavor from housemade tomatillo mix. A seasonal selection of veggies and a three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich makes a nice foil.

Runners-up: Great Maple's One-Armed Mary, Small Bar's Bar Bloody Mary Superior

802 Fifth Ave.; 619-795-0721
2736 Adams Ave.; 619-431-5000

Photo by StreetCar Merchants/Facebook

Best Fried Chicken and Waffles: StreetCar Merchants of Fried Chicken, Waffles and Doughnuts

If chicken and waffles are in the name, you know it has to be good. And at this North Park hot spot, the dish is made-to-order featuring your choice of wings, Nashville hot boneless tenders or thighs, all available for brunch. The waffle selection isn't shabby either, and the fried bird can be paired with your choice of an original waffle, a red velvet version served with cream cheese or one that resembles corn bread in waffle form.

Runners-up: Da Chicken Coop, Bruxie

4002 30th St.; 619-546-9010

Best Pancakes: Pineapple Upside-Down Pancakes at Snooze

Pancakes tend to be the plain Janes in the world of breakfast foods, but dress them up with caramelized pineapple chunks, vanilla crème​ anglaise and cinnamon butter and you have a sweet offering worthy of braving the masses. You can find this popular menu item at both locations (Hillcrest and Del Mar), available by the stack or as part of the restaurant's pancake flight.

Runners-up: Breakfast Republic's cinnamon roll pancakes, Cafe 222’s orange pecan pancakes

3940 Fifth Ave.; 619-500-3344
3435 Del Mar Heights Rd. D3, 858-703-5300

Photo by Hash House A Go Go/Facebook

Meatiest Brunch Dish: Pork Tenderloin at Hash House a Go Go

When bacon and sausage just isn't enough, this Hillcrest restaurant throws a curve ball by offering a roasted pork tenderloin alongside its crispy breakfast potatoes. Served as a hash, the pork is plated with charred tomatoes, corn, green beans and mozzarella. This plays like a lunchtime affair but you'll only find this meat-tastic offering from 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM.

Runners-up: Studio Diner's steak and eggs, The Brew Project's carnitas Benedict

3628 Fifth Ave.; 619-298-4646

Photo: Emerald Chinese Cuisine/Facebook

Best International Breakfast: Emerald Chinese Cuisine

Take your taste buds on a trip and explore China by way of dim sum. A long-standing institution in the Convoy District for its authentic Chinese fare, this restaurant recently dispatched with its dim sum carts and instead serves orders of BBQ pork tarts, shrimp shu mai, turnip cakes and more fresh from the kitchen. 

Runners-up: Ocean Pacific Grille (Filipino), Bali Hai (Hawaiian)

3709 Convoy St #101; 858-565-6888

Best Renditions of Avocado Toast: Eggs Whites and California Toast at Parkhouse Eatery

Toast topped with smashed avocado is a Southern California tradition that speaks to the region's lifestyle as well as its eating habits. This version in Hillcrest pairs eggs whites, fresh basil and, of course, locally grown avocado on whole grain toast. Seasonal fruit on the side keeps with the theme acting as a healthy, sweet accompaniment.

Runners-up: Toast D'Auzure at Le Parfait Paris, El Jorullo at Krakatoa

4574 Park Blvd.; 619-295-7275

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