15 Essential Women-Owned Restaurants You Should Know in San Diego

Support the women shaking up San Diego’s restaurant scene.

While women have made some progress toward equality, even holding the second-highest elected office in the land, it’s troublesome to learn that less than 25% of chefs in restaurants across the US are women. Even more shocking—women chefs/owners number in the single digits, despite making up nearly half of culinary school students at the Culinary Institute of America. In addition to the same general challenges that their male counterparts in the industry face (COVID-19, anyone?), women chefs and restaurant owners bear the additional burdens of traditional gender norms, which can affect everything from being able to secure financing to raising children in an industry that’s notorious for not providing vacation leave or sick time, health insurance, child care, and other typical employment benefits.

Yet, San Diego’s culinary scene has a long history of influential women in charge of the kitchen, from Urban Kitchen Group’s powerhouse Tracy Borkum and dessert guru Karen Krasne to young guns like Priscilla Curiel, whose years honing her craft in her family’s restaurants have culminated in stellar venues that attract national attention. Mentorship programs and educational groups, such as the Mujeres Brew Club, the Pink Boots Society, and San Diego Women in Food, provide support, education, and resources for novices and experienced entrepreneurs alike, but they need your help too. It’s easy to do—support our local women chefs and restaurateurs by eating in their dining rooms, which span Mexican and Filipino cuisine, exciting newcomers, breweries, and more. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite woman-owned restaurants, breweries, and bars in San Diego, for you to enjoy not only during March but all year long.

Bivouac Ciderworks
Photo by Jamie Southerland, courtesy of Bivouac Ciderworks

Former federal prosecutor Lara Worm left her career in law and founded Bivouac Ciderworks in 2018, bringing a SoCal spin to the traditional beverage. Made from both apples and pears, four core ciders make up the base of the tap list, with seasonal and limited releases rounding out the nearly two dozen choices on the rotating menu. Pair your beverage with its award-winning comfort food, including snacks, such as a forager board of cured meats, cheeses, homemade jams, and pickles, or more substantial taco flights, burgers, or steak frites. Future plans include Bivouac Adventure Lodge, a members-only private tasting club and in-house general store featuring local, chef-driven pantry goods for build-your-own charcuterie boards and other provisions for purchase, including outdoor gear, apparel, gifts, and more, with an anticipated opening in Fall 2023.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

The Bohemian Alchemist
Photo courtesy of Bohemian Alchemist

Sarah Jaeger’s coffee shop, Bohemian Alchemist, isn't your typical coffeehouse. Boasting the first and only sand-brewing system approved by San Diego’s health department, the base of the drinks is Turkish coffee, a smoother, silkier counterpart to traditional espresso. If you’re not familiar with sand brewing, a cezve (Turkish coffee pot) is placed on very hot sand, which heats your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to barely boiling, producing a rich taste and pleasantly thick mouthfeel. French press, pour-over, and cold brew options are also available, along with coffee and tea blends, herbal beverages, and seasonal iced teas. The space itself is inspiring with a low Turkish seating area with a colorful silky tent roof, and handmade Art Nouveau tables; antique and eclectic pieces repurposed to serve as counters and shelves are inviting and serene. Since coffee and tea just beg for a sweet treat, you’ll want one of the lovingly baked cream scones, muffins, shortbread cookies, fruit tarts, caramel apple hand pies, and more. Sign up for email news and updates online.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Photo by Jasmine Fitzwilliam/Let's Frolic Together, courtesy of Communal


North Park & South Park & and Oceanside

Communal, the brainchild of Jen Byard, who opened the first location in 2016, offers a complete craft coffee and drink menu, seasonal food dishes, fresh flowers, and curated goods in an inspired space that fosters community and creative thinking. In Oceanside, it’s the anchor of Tremont Collective, a community of like-minded businesses. It has a private patio, a designated flower shop, and a home decor shop next door dubbed “The Annex.” All three locations have bagels, breakfast sandwiches, bowls, and latte flights. North Park and Oceanside also feature a toast bar, pizzettas, salads, and entrees, plus craft cocktails and beer and wine by the glass.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order online from your favorite location.

Tuétano Taqueria
Photo courtesy of Tuétano Taqueria

Owner/chef Priscilla Curiel’s first shop in a tiny yellow taqueria just this side of the border had barely opened its doors when she started getting rave reviews both locally and nationally, including glowing articles in Food & Wine, the Michelin Guide, and GQ. In 2021, she moved the restaurant to the Old Town Urban Market, a new collective in the heart of Old Town. One bite of her slow-braised, succulent birria piled into house-made flour or corn tortillas or tucked into a bolillo roll, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. Be sure to order the tuétano, a thick hunk of roasted marrow bone on a stick to slather over the juicy birria, and a cup of consommé to dip the whole thing into. And yes, you’ll want to pick up a jar or two of that addictive Échale Macha to take home and put on everything you eat.
How to order: Go in person or order online for pickup.

Okay, we’re cheating a little here because Priscilla Curiel also owns Mujer Divina Coffeehouse. She turned her popular Naturale Deli in National City into a coffee and burrito shop that serves Tijuana-style burritos de hielera, using the same excellent birria that goes into Tuetano Taqueria’s tacos. They’re available in flavors like machaca ranchera, chorizo with potatoes, chicharron in salsa verde, and a weekly specialty burrito. Coffee drinks using organic beans from Chiapas, Mexico, include café de olla, drip brews, an array of flavored lattes, and a nice selection of conchitas, toasts, and scones.
How to order: Go in person or order online for pickup.

Mujeres Brew House
Photo courtesy of Mujeres Brew House

Mujeres Brew House

Barrio Logan

Mujeres Brew House, San Diego’s first Latina-owned brewery, opened in 2020 with a handful of collaborative brews and guest taps. Since then, they’ve been pouring every Tuesday through Sunday, with daily events like Thursday Loteria Nights, Mujeres y Musica Fridays with live music and DJs, Saturday farmers markets, and monthly pop-ups like Sunday Low and Slow Day Market featuring local vendors, food items, and lowriders. Check Facebook and Instagram pages for info on what’s pouring and what’s happening.
How to order: Go in person for patio drinking or takeout.

Laura Johnson, founder and distiller at You & Yours Distilling Co., toured her first distillery at age 18 and immediately knew that this was the industry for her. In 2017, she realized her dream when she opened San Diego’s only urban distillery in the East Village. Just six years later, she’s bottling vodka and two different gins, a citrus-forward American style, and a traditional London dry gin. She’s also launched a popular canned cocktails line and offers distillery tours and cocktail-making classes. Relax in the stylish tasting room and sip one of the craft cocktails, some of which feature limited-edition, barrel-aged gins. In 2021, Johnson implemented a new bar program at Liberty Station’s revamped Loma Club.
How to order: Go in person, order online, or buy at bars and retail stores.

Photo courtesy of Azúcar


Point Loma

Combining her Le Cordon Bleu credentials with her Cuban heritage, Vivian
Hernandez-Jackson created Azúcar, a pretty, cozy little place to satisfy your sweet, savory, or caffeinated cravings. Go for pastelitos de carne at lunchtime; the all-butter puff pastries are stuffed with picadillo, a soft, fragrant stew of ground beef, tomatoes, and olives. But really, the desserts and pastries are the stars here, and none satisfies a sweet tooth like Divina, a spectacular combination of white chocolate cake, passion fruit curd, and raspberries under a blanket of toasted marshmallows.
How to order: Go in person or order online for pickup.

Hanna's Gourmet

University Heights

Chef Hanna Tesfamichael has been a mainstay of the Adams Avenue culinary scene for over a decade. Pre-COVID-19, her menu rotated weekly, featuring dishes from Tunisia one week, Ghana the next, and later in the month, perhaps Polish cuisine. These days, you can still get her beloved Sicilian Vegetarian Cannelloni With Spinach & Ricotta or Ghanaian Chicken & Sweet Potato Peanut Stew, along with a large selection of soups (the creamy Tomato Bisque is highly recommended), stews, and salads via Hanna’s@Home, her online pickup service, or visit in person for traditional Sunday brunch. Also, be sure to splurge on dessert. Carrot cake enthusiasts won’t want to pass up Hanna’s special version.
How to order: Sunday brunch seating is on a first-come basis. Order Hanna’s@Home online by Thursday for pickup on Sunday between 3 pm and 6 pm

Navy veterans Kathy Hansen and Barbara Jeanine learned about the coffee industry by trial and error when they first opened Industrial Grind in Hillcrest in 2011. Eventually, they opened a mini-chain of four shops before scaling back to concentrate on their popular Tierrasanta location. Along the way, they’ve brought in niece Crystal Jones as manager, who developed her own line of gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, pastries, brownies, and mixes, all of which are available for purchase at the shop. Check the website’s How To for Crystal’s gluten-free baking videos.
How to order: Go in person or order online for pickup.

Poor House Brewing Company
Photo courtesy of Poor House Brewing Company

North Park’s first nanobrewery, Poor House Brewing, has served suds and good times since 2012. Under co-founder Alanna Scheer and her crew, the brewery specializes in ales, and the beer menu runs the gamut from pale blondes to robust Imperial stouts that push the ABV into double digits. Check Instagram and Facebook for what they’re currently pouring.
How to order: Go in person for tastings and growler fills.

Cafe 222

Marina District

Terryl Gavre’s legendary peanut butter and banana-stuffed French toast may be the dish that won Bobby Flay’s heart, but there are also big, fluffy pancakes, waffles, scrambles, and other breakfast mainstays on the menu at Cafe 222, an award-winning cafe in the heart of downtown. A perennial on “Best Breakfast” lists for more than 20 years, they also serve classic diner lunches like melts, burgers, and chili.
How to order: Indoor and patio dining is on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup.

After co-founding the LA bakery Proof in 2010 and a stint at the famed Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, Crystal White opened Wayfarer Bread & Pastry in the cozy hamlet of Bird Rock. Naturally fermented breads form the menu’s core, but there are plenty of flaky croissants, buttery scones, cinnamon buns, and cookies to satisfy the most hardcore sweet tooth. Sandwiches, organic flours, yeast, and a few grocery items, including sourdough starter, are also available for purchase. Friday and Saturday are Pizza Nights featuring thin-crust pies that rotate monthly.
How to order: Go in person or preorder any bakery items or pizza.

CUCINA urbana

Bankers Hill

Tracy Borkum has been a powerhouse in the San Diego culinary scene since her days at the Kensington Grill and was one of the first to introduce the restaurant-within-a-wine-shop concept to Southern California, putting a fresh SoCal spin on traditional Italian recipes. Menu standouts include house-made pastas, pizza, and large shareable plates. More recently, her Urban Kitchen Group has grown from the three Cucina Italian restaurants to include Artifact and Craft Cafe in Balboa Park; The Kitchen @MCASD; Morena Provisions; Urban Kitchen @The Rady Shell; and Gold Finch, a modern Jewish delicatessen that combines Ashkenazi tradition with contemporary style Sephardic cooking.
How to order: Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order pickup online.

Extraordinary Desserts
Photo courtesy of Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts

Little Italy and Bankers Hill

From the mile-high layer cakes to creamy brulées, Karen Krasne knows that the little flourishes: a touch of gold leaf, a few perfect raspberries, or a scattering of fresh flowers, take her desserts from delicious to over-the-top stunning. In addition to perfectly crafted sweets, you’ll find a full menu of shareable boards, paninis, salads, and soup and grilled cheese combos.
How to order: Indoor seating is on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer.