Surf, sand, and brunch – San Diego has it all! There’s so much to see and do in America’s Finest City, from the world-famous Zoo to Balboa Park and more. Whether you live in San Diego or are just visiting, you can’t traverse the city on an empty stomach.
Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of genuinely fantastic places for brunch, making the “birthplace of California” one of my favorite cities for that delicious mid-morning meal. I’ve rounded up my favorite spots in San Diego, including family-friendly places, menus that cater to vegans, places perfect for a cocktail or two, and more. Check out my list of the best brunch in San Diego below!
Snooze, an A.M. Eatery
When you’re looking for more than just fuel for the day, stop in at Snooze, where they turn breakfast into a work of art. Their San Diego location is south of UCSD and east of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the intersection of Villa La Jolla Drive and Holiday Court. You can’t miss the orange-and-green décor on their outdoor patio!Their menu is all about culinary creativity. Try their Signature Pancake Flight, where you can pick any combination of their Pineapple Upside Down, Blueberry Danish, or Pumpkin Pecan Pie pancakes. They also have plenty of beverages to wet your whistle, including coffee, tea, juice, Bloody Marys, and cocktails.
Café 21 serves up contemporary and innovative breakfast dishes in a comfortable, down-home atmosphere. They have two locations – one in the Gaslamp Quarter at the intersection of 5th Avenue and F Street, and the other in University Heights near Idaho Street and Adams Avenue. All of their dishes, including brunch, focus on locally-sourced, organic ingredients. You can order a variety of pancakes, omelets, and other traditional favorites. They’re also a great place to go if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. Their Veggie Power Bowl is fantastic, with onion, scrambled eggs, green beans, zucchini, and more. I’m not even a vegetarian, but I end up ordering it practically every time I’m here!
550 W Date St, San Diego, CA 92101
What’s the story, Morning Glory? Let me tell you the tale of some of the best brunch in San Diego. Morning Glory is a fun and funky joint with indoor and outdoor seating, a vibrant art-deco style, and a tasty menu of creative, contemporary cuisine. They’re in Little Italy overlooking the Piazza della Famiglia at the corner of West Date Street and India Street. Their breakfast and brunch menu includes traditional favorites and inspired creations featuring seafood, rice, steak, and more. I love their Very Frenchie French Toast, which is thick, crispy, and covered with cream and berries.
If you’re familiar with the San Diego restaurant scene, you’ve likely heard of The Mission restaurants, as they’re incredibly popular among both locals and tourists. Chef Fay Nakanishi and his team use fresh, simple ingredients to craft healthy and delicious Mexican-inspired dishes. They have three locations in SD: Mission Beach, North Park, and SoMa. Their breakfast plates are often complex but always accessible, including local favorites such as their Desayuno Burrito, with rosemary potatoes and eggs, and the Power Plato Breakfast, featuring egg whites, apple sausage, and black beans. It’s a fun spot for foodies or anyone with an appetite.
Hash House a Go Go
3628 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Hash House a Go Go serves up always tasty and slightly crazy Midwest-inspired breakfast dishes. While they have spots throughout the country, their San Diego spot is the original, located along 5th Avenue between Anderson Place and Brookes Avenue. They’re known for big tastes and even bigger portions. Usually, when I brunch here, it ends up being the only meal I eat all day. Their dishes include Hashes, Scrambles, and their Famous Benedicts. If you’ve brought your appetite, try Andy’s Fried Chicken Benedict with chicken breast, smoked bacon, spinach, and more. I can share from personal experience that it’s guaranteed to fill you right up!
4622 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
If there’s a better outdoor patio in San Diego, I’d be surprised. Madison is perfect for hanging out with friends and enjoying breakfast foods and cocktails. They’re close to the Riverwalk Golf Course and the Handlery Hotel San Diego, near the Hotel Circle North highway. They offer a weekend brunch that includes shareables, brunch cocktails, desserts, and full breakfast dishes. When I’m hungry, I go for the Papas Locas, a dish consisting of eggs, potatoes, chicken, pico de gallo, and a house hot sauce. If I’m in the mood for a drink, I can’t resist their Blue Dream mimosas. This drink is a great way to start your day.
Richard Walker’s Pancake House
Richard Walker’s Pancake House is a true California original, with six locations throughout the state, and run by several generations of the founding family. They serve All-American brunch food in a welcoming, family-friendly environment. You’ll find their San Diego location downtown near the Pinnacle Museum Tower on Front Street. They have a great children’s menu, making this one of my top recommendations for folks with kids. But don’t feel obligated to bring them along for an excuse to visit! Their brunch selections include waffles, pancakes, and the Air-Merican Eggspress, which features two eggs in any style, along with three pancakes and your choice of meats. Yummy!
7702 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
Every time I step into The Cottage, I feel like I’m being greeted by family. This cozy, Victorian-style building is found on Fay Avenue and Kline Street, just a few blocks east of the La Jolla Tennis Club. For over 25 years, they’ve been a local favorite, serving up American and California cuisine. Their breakfast and brunch options include eggs, omelets, pancakes, French toast, and more. My favorite is Joe’s Special, which includes two scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, and veggies served in a scone. They also have a large selection of espresso drinks, perfect for starting the day right.
Sheldon’s Service Station
8401 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942
Sheldon’s Service Station is a great place to fill up! It’s a contemporary, casual spot located in the heart of La Mesa at the corner of La Mesa Boulevard and 4th Street. You can’t miss the large outdoor seating area adorned with umbrellas. The menu combines elegance and tradition, featuring comfort foods made with style. Sheldon’s Breakfast Bowl is popular among regulars. It’s packed with eggs, bacon, veggies, and cheese – and then smothered with their homemade chipotle salsa. I recommend Sheldon’s when you’re looking for a place the whole family can enjoy.
Luca Restaurant & Bar
500 W Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
The Luca Restaurant and Bar is inside the Guild Hotel, a local landmark found on Broadway between India Street and Columbia Street. It’s helmed by Chef Justin Vaiciunas, a superstar chef from Detroit who’s also made his mark on the San Diego scene. Enjoy the outdoor seating as you brunch on salads, eggs benedict, and other light dishes. If you’re looking for drinks, head over to the Guild Bar, also located in the hotel, where you’ll find another round of drink and breakfast options. Note that Luca’s schedule has been inconsistent due to the ongoing pandemic, so you might want to give them a quick call before heading over.
Breakfast Republic isn’t just good. It’s, as they like to say, “clucking good”. Plus, they’re easy to find, with multiple California locations, including seven spots in San Diego. They’re casual, family-friendly breakfast, brunch, and lunch spots that are open daily from 7 am until 3 pm, making them a reliable option if you’re sightseeing around town. Omelets, pancakes, French toast, scrambles, and more! Their menu is expansive, making the place a good choice for groups because everyone should find at least one or two options they’ll like. They also have many vegan options, such as the Jammin’ Bennie, made with plant-based eggs, blackberry-jalapeno jam, and other fresh ingredients.
Just a few blocks north of the San Diego Zoo, you’ll find the Great Maple restaurant. It’s a fun, comfy dinette with padded booths, seats at the counter, and a friendly, welcoming vibe. Their San Diego location is between Washington Street, Cleveland Avenue, and Lincoln Avenue. They’re open from 8 am until 2 pm most days and until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Some of their brunch hits include their Two Egg Breakfast, Hillcrest Toast, and Johnny’s Lolliwaffles. They also have lunch fares, such as the Great Maple BLT, Great Maple French Dip, and their Steak House Beef Burger. It’s a great place to stop for a tasty meal either before or after visiting the zoo.
222 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Café 222 is a San Diego institution. They’ve been serving up exciting and unique breakfast dishes for over 25 years and were even featured on Bobby Flay’s Best Things I Ever Ate. You’ll find them in the Marina district in downtown San Diego, on Island Avenue at the 2nd Avenue intersection. Their most famous dish is the Flay-endorsed peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast. Other local faves include their waffles (featuring in Gourmet Magazine), egg scrambles, and griddled cakes. They also serve up some tasty lunches with tuna melts and chili as two of their most popular options.
967 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
A few blocks east of Crystal Pier, you’ll find Crushed, a neighborhood bar and brunch spot with a relaxed, friendly, and decidedly San Diego vibe. They’re at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Cass Avenue. While they’re mainly known as a bar, don’t overlook their fantastic brunch options, which are available from 8 am until 10 pm from Sunday through Thursday and from Friday and Saturday from 8 am until midnight. Whenever I dine here, I eat what the locals eat, such as the Cali Fish Tacos, SoCal Turkey Omelet, and more. If you’re looking for something lighter, try their Brunch Bites, such as their Ducking Good Fries, Crushed Deviled Eggs, or Vegan Tacos.
Broken Yolk Cafe
The Gaslamp District is one of my favorite places in all of downtown, and whenever I’m in the area, I love to grab brunch at the Broken Yolk. They’re a cozy, stylish spot with a menu of healthy, fresh brunch and breakfast options. It’s a great place for families or even if you’re dining solo. Head a block north of the Hard Rock Hotel to the corner of J Street and 6th Avenue to visit their original San Diego location. The menu is vast, with skillets, omelets, benedicts, and even a section of Mexican-inspired dishes. I have an unhealthy obsession with their Breakfast Dogs, three sausage links fried in pancake batter then dusted with powdered sugar and served with syrup.
5970 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92008
At the Avenida Encinas and Palomar Airport Road, you’ll find Toast Gastrobrunch, home to expertly made and creative contemporary breakfast dishes. They’re due east of Legoland at the corner of Avenida Encinas and Palomar Airport Road. Their specialties are – you guessed it – toast-related. But you’re not just getting a piece of warm bread, you’re getting cuisine. Their Smoked Salmon toast includes fish, egg, capers, jalapeno cream cheese, and dill. You can also order eggs, pancakes, French toast, and other breakfast dishes.
Queenstown Public House
1557 Columbia St, San Diego, CA 92101
Queenstown is a chill, vibrant neighborhood spot where you’re always welcomed with open arms. They’re found in Little Italy on West Cedar Street and Columbia Street. They’re just one block south of Amici Park. With a rustic, cozy style, when you step inside the restaurant, you’ll feel right at home. It’s one of my favorite spots for Sunday brunch. The cuisine at Queenstown combines traditional New Zealand cooking with American classics. For brunch, some of the more unique offerings include the Cowboy Breakfast, with seasoned-flank steak, and the Queens Street Farmer, with three eggs, tomato, and toast. Ingredients are sourced locally and based on season, making their food some of the freshest in town.