Looking for a new brunch place to add to your rotation? We turned to 11 San Diego chefs to find out where they like to fuel up come Saturday and Sunday morning and what they like to feed their faces with before they get back to feeding yours.
Chef Chris Gallo of Masters Kitchen and Cocktail
His pick: Breakfast Republic (address and info)
North Park’s newest breakfast restaurant earns praise from Chris Gallo for “huge and delicious” coffee drinks and a “great selection” of eats, including items that are more complicated to pull off, like shrimp and grits. His favorite dish is the breakfast bacon mac 'n cheese, topped with crispy Parmesan bread crumbs and three eggs, any style.
His pick: Pan Bon (address and info)
The chef behind one of the most anticipated new restaurants in San Diego likes how you can watch bakers and chefs going about their business at this new spot in Little Italy, located steps from Bracero. His usual order is the Pan Bon Breakfast, featuring a trio of eggs (scrambled, sunny side up, and poached), plus bacon, a sausage patty, a small salad, a potato cake, and toasted bread... though sometimes he’ll order something simple, like bread and cheese. He also loves the mini dessert cakes. Clearly, this is a man who knows how to live.
Consulting chef Nick Brune of Local Habit and chef/co-owner of Eco Caters
His pick: Toronado's monthly brunch & beer event (address and info)
Brunch items change with every event, but Nick Brune says organizer Nate Soroko “does a great job of putting everything together” and attendees can count on “at least six different chefs cooking something amazing.” One of his favorite dishes from a recent event was a cashew cream-braised carrot with butter-poached turnip, paired with AleSmith's My Bloody Valentine.
Chef/owner Isabel Cruz of Coffee Cup, Isabel’s Cantina, and Barrio Star
Her pick: Whisknladle (address & info)
Isabel Cruz is a fan of Whisknladle for brunch because it’s walking distance from her house and the food is simple, seasonal, and made from scratch. Her typical order is the chilaquiles with chipotle-braised chicken and eggs, a plate of seasonal pancakes (to share), and a michelada. FYI: if you don’t live close enough to Whisknladle to arrive on foot, both of the brunch dishes she mentioned are available at all three Prepkitchen locations (Whisk’s slightly more casual sister restaurant).
Executive Chef Donald Lockhart of Cusp Dining & Drinks
His pick: Cafe Chloe (address & info)
On Sunday mornings when he’s not sleeping in, Donald Lockhart is digging into a caramelized onion tart or poached eggs with wild mushrooms at Cafe Chloe. He says the inviting atmosphere makes it feel like being at his mom’s house (presumably without the pressure to help with the dishes).
Chef de cuisine Meredith Manee of 1500 OCEAN at Hotel del Coronado
Her pick: Mister A’s (address & info)
Meredith Manee loves Mr. A’s for brunch, noting features like “an amazing view of the city, well-executed dishes, great drinks, consistently excellent service, and surprisingly reasonable prices” make it difficult to go anywhere else. The croque-madame (with thick slices of brioche, Gruyere, prosciutto, arugula, and a balsamic-fried egg) is her go-to order.
Culinary director/partner Ryan Johnston of Whisknladle Hospitality
His pick: Great Maple (address & info)
A fortifying brunch at Great Maple followed by a visit to the Hillcrest Farmers Market is Ryan Johnston’s idea of a perfect Sunday. He can’t say no to a maple bacon donut fresh from the fryer (and neither should you).
Executive Chef Jon Sloan of Juniper & Ivy
His pick: Fig Tree Cafe (address & info)
Hillcrest, Liberty Station, and Pacific Beach
The chef that heads up one of the most exciting restaurants in the city digs the “quiet and charming” vibe of Fig Tree Cafe, noting it’s “always a go-to” for weekend brunch. Chances are good he’s ordering the granola topped with fresh fruit and house-made strawberry yogurt, or the stuffed French toast (with mascarpone cheese, strawberries, and mango), so you know his stance on the age-old sweet vs. savory brunch conundrum. And good news for anyone who has the occasional weekday morning free: you can order these dishes any day of the week.
Executive Chef Karrie Hills of The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar and The Wellington Steak & Martini Lounge
Her pick: Cardamom Cafe (address and info)
Sundays are Karrie Hills’ "eating day" -- a time to relax and indulge. One of her favorite ways to kick back is with a coffee and a croissant or a quiche breakfast at Cardamom Cafe in North Park. The charming spot gets bonus points from the chef for its “rustic, laid-back” vibe. It should also be noted that in addition to sweet croissants like almond and chocolate, you’ll find unique savory options, like Black Forest turkey and Asiago (arrive early for the best selection).
Executive Chef Dave Warner of Bottega Americano
His pick: Draft (address and info)
“Draft in Mission Beach is my go-to brunch destination. Besides a decadent brunch menu, they have ocean views and a huge craft beer selection,” says Warner. He definitely takes full advantage of the restaurant’s indulgent offerings. The French toast BLT with poached egg, bacon, and hollandaise is his favorite dish.
Executive Chef Rose Peyron of Counterpoint
Her pick: Antique Row Cafe (address and info)
Straightforward, homestyle breakfast and lunch dishes served by caring and attentive staffers earn Antique Row Cafe a special place in Rose Peyron’s heart. Her go-to order is the Antique Values breakfast, a best-of-all-worlds combo plate with thick-cut French toast, two eggs any style, and two sausage links or bacon strips -- all for just $6.50, though she always adds a side of homestyle potatoes. Even with the extra starch, the bounty of delicious breakfast eats is still less than $10. Impressive!
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1. Breakfast Republic2730 University Avenue, San Diego
2. Pan Bon1450 Kettner Blvd, San Diego
3. Toronado4026 30th St, San Diego
4. Whisknladle1044 Wall St, La Jolla
5. Cafe Chloe721 9th Ave, San Diego
6. Bertrand at Mister A's2550 5th Ave. , San Diego
7. Great Maple1451 Washington St, San Diego
8. Fig Tree Cafe416 University Ave #100, San Diego
9. Cardamom Cafe and Bakery2977 Upas St, San Diego
10. Draft3105 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego
11. Antique Row Cafe3002 Adams Ave, San Diego
True to its name, Breakfast Republic is a morning hotspot whose dishes are all united in their eccentricity. Some of the unique menu offerings include a Vietnamese chicken wing breakfast bowl and breakfast hot dogs, plus more conventional recipes like chilaquiles and shrimp & grits. If eggs are your power breakfast of choice, order the Croque Monsieur Benedict or Mashed Potato Omelet. Meanwhile, sweeter plates like s'mores French toast and Oreo cookie pancakes aren't so much a protein-packed start to the day as they are pure dessert.
At this Italian joint, you can watch bakers and chefs going about their business while you wait for an order of Pan Bon Breakfast with a trio of eggs (scrambled, sunny side up, and poached), plus bacon, a sausage patty, a small salad, a potato cake, and toasted bread.
This San Diego offshoot of the famed San Francisco beer bar boasts over 50 taps, rivaled only by its extensive, delectable food offerings. Pair Russian River’s Pliny the Elder or a Belgian Blaugies D’Arbyste with snacks like jalapeno corn cakes, maple-glazed beet skewers, and sausage sandwiches (there’s an entire menu section devoted to frank varieties like smoked beer and jalapeno Cheddar). Toronado has dive bar deco down to a tee, with sticker- and button-plastered walls illuminated by neon lights and ventilated by antiquated ceiling fans.
Built around the need for a restaurant using farm-fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch, Whisknladle delivers delicious apps and entrees alongside a creative cocktail list.
This East Village French-insprired cafe offers bistro classics and tons of boutique wines. Be sure to try the delicious macaroni and pancetta gratin, with a creamy Béchamel made with a blend of mild blue cheese, Gruyère, fontina, and white cheddar cheese.
Located on the 12th floor, over looking downtown and the ocean, there's a wrap-around balcony where you can enjoy the view along with your chicken liver pate and escargots de Bourgogne. SD being the land of flippy-floppies, you can get away with wearing pretty much anything anywhere you go, however this place has a dress code. Because it's classy like that.
Not just a common compliment among syrup makers, Great Maple's a fancied-up '60s diner with a bit of European flair, coming at you from the guys who brought you Hash House a-Go-Go and The Tractor Room. This East Village spot offers extensive menu lineups, from brunch through dinner. Make a reservation if you can, because this place is constantly busy.
Fig Tree Cafe in University Heights is a cozy cafe with sleek wooden and metal accents. It operates as an on-the-go concept during the day and transitions to a slower pace for dinner in the evening. There's an open kitchen so diners can observe the culinary action. There's patio seating if you'd rather enjoy the outdoors while savoring well-prepared Californian fare. They're open for brunch as well, serving classics like Eggs Benedict and and fruit with granola.
Cardamom Cafe in North Park is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a quiche or croissant (sweet and savory options are available).
This Pacific Beach spot has approximately 70 beers on tap and over 50 bottles of beer, making Draft a great place to kick back on your way home from the beach. While you're sipping, try some snacks from the menu, which is comprised of sharing plates, like mustard dusted pretzel bites; grilled items, like the bison burger with poblano pepper and cumin mayonnaise; greens, like the seared ahi salad; and sweets, like key lime pie. Draft’s boardwalk patio is a picturesque spot to grab a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner bite with an oceanfront view, but if you want to catch the game, you’ll want to head inside to watch on one of the flat-screens.
This American cafe serves straightforward, homestyle breakfast and lunch dishes like the Antique Values breakfast, a combo plate with thick-cut French toast, two eggs any style, and two sausage links or bacon strips -- all for just $6.50.