5 suggestions for a tasty breakfast in downtown San Diego, including the Gaslamp Quarter, the East Village, and the Marina district, plus suggestions on what to order and a few insider’s tips.
The Mission ($)
Hands down, my favorite spot for breakfast in San Diego. The Mission’s got it all: great coffee, excellent French toast, vegetarian-friendly options, even gluten-free bread. Better yet, everything is affordably priced, and the portions are ample. On weekends, it’s busy around brunch time, so arrive early to beat the rush. 1250 J St., East Village (menu) Open at 7 a.m.
Recommended dishes: French toast, blueberry cornmeal pancakes, Mission Rosemary, papas locos (with eggs)
Insider’s tip: You can add eggs and bacon to one of the sweet options for a couple extra dollars. It’s the perfect complement of sweet and savory, and just enough food to split between two people.
Zanzibar Cafe ($-$$)
If your first thought upon waking up is “coffee”, Zanzibar is a great option. Grab an espresso-based beverage (the mochas are my favorite) and take a seat outside. Or, if you’re looking for a more “complete breakfast”, there’s a full menu with slightly more upscale takes on the classic egg preparations, including scrambles, omelettes, and bennys. They also offer acai bowls, something every visitor to San Diego should try at least once. Think of it as a thick berry smoothie/fruit salad hybrid.
707 G St., East Village (menu) Open at 8 a.m.
Recommended dishes: Cowboy’s eggs, Southwestern omelette, The Californian (bagel platter), acai bowl
Insider’s tip: If you arrive early enough, you can score a day-old baked good for $1. They’re located in a basket by the cash register closest to the espresso machine (on the window side).
Cafe 21 ($-$$) Located in the center of the Gaslamp Quarter, Cafe 21 is a good option for a more exciting first meal of the day than what you’ll find elsewhere. It’s a place where French toast is stuffed with mascarpone and ricotta cheese and topped with fruit (banana, strawberry, or peach), and omelettes are dressed up with lamb sausage, goat cheese, and filet mignon. Pancakes and French toast are under $10, other dishes top out at $15.
750 5th Ave., Gaslamp (menu) Open at 8 a.m.
Recommended dishes: stuffed French toast (“Azeri style”), spicy Monte Cristo sandwich, chicken curry cakes
Cafe 222 ($)
This quirky cafe is busiest on weekends, but the cheap eats are worth the wait. Settle in for plenty of coffee and one of the dressed up waffles, like the peanut butter waffle, topped with sliced bananas, or try the other house specialty: pumpkin waffles. They’ve also got more lunch-like fare, but for me, this place is all about the sweeter side of the menu.
222 Island Ave., Marina (menu) Open at 7 a.m.
Recommended dishes: pumpkin waffle, peanut butter waffle, peanut butter and banana stuffed french toast
Insider’s tip: Bobby Flay praised the stuffed french toast on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”.
Brooklyn Bagel & Bialy ($)
One of the simplest breakfast options is a toasted bagel with cream cheese, and Brooklyn Bagel has got a lot of flavors to choose from, both in the bagel and schmear departments. Personally, I’m boring and stick to sesame and plain cream cheese, but they’ve also got flavors like blueberry, cinnamon raisin, jalapeno cheddar, and asiago bagels with veggie, garlic herb, and cinnamon raisin walnut cream cheese (among others). Service can be frustratingly slow, so if you find yourself in a long line, it’s probably best to stick with something that can be put together quickly. Aside from basic bagels and cream cheese, they also offer a full line-up of breakfast sandwiches, with everything from bacon to hot pastrami.
1000 Island Ave., East Village (menu) Open at 7 a.m.
Recommended dishes: toasted bagel with cream cheese
Insider’s tip: If you’re feeding a large group, or are in town for multiple days, the bakers’ dozen bagels and two schmears special ($15) is a cost effective option.