Croissants from Rachel Caygill
You can get Rachel Caygill's croissants at Starlite during Sunday brunch, but it's better to order them directly from her, by the dozen. Rachel credits a three-day baking process and European-style butter for her croissants, but all you really need to know is they're the best in the city, hands down. The pastry is crisp and flaky without being dry, and the interior is rich and buttery without being heavy with oil. The minimum order is a dozen, but you can mix and match flavors. Plain croissants are $3.25, chocolate and almond are both $3.75, and ham and gruyere are $4.25. With croissants this expertly prepared (and delicious), you'd be surprised how little of a problem having 12 of them on hand can be. Order them via email, contact info at rachelgoing.com
Lemon-Laced French Toast at Jsix
If you're feeling fancy and craving French toast, check out the lemon laced version at Jsix ($13). Thick slabs of house-made French baguette are dipped in an egg and cream mixture with lemon zest, brandy, and cinnamon, then browned up in butter. On top, there's a fluffy mound of vanilla whipped cream, fresh berries, and a drizzle of lemon curd (plus more on the side). The toast is perfectly executed: it's moist in the middle, crisp on the outside, sweet, eggy, and deceptively light, with refreshing pings of citrus throughout.
Muffins at Mystic Mocha
This coffee shop/cafe in University Heights makes a mean muffin ($2.50). Flavors go quick, so snooze at your own risk. Some of my favorites are the mango-pineapple-coconut and the peach-blueberry-pecan. They're sweet, but still balanced enough that you can pair one with a mocha without going into sugar shock. The namesake drink really is the way to go, especially when you can choose from dozens of variations, including everything from white almond joy to Mexican mudslinger.
Acai Bowl from OB Smoothie Bar and Subs
The acai bowl from OB Smoothie Bar and Subs, right across the street from Hodads in Ocean Beach makes a great breakfast (or lunch, or snack). Frozen acai is buzzed up with apple juice or soy milk, then topped with granola, bananas, strawberry, frozen blueberries, and honey. Think of it as a portable quart of sunshine that's part fruit salad, part smoothie, and part parfait.
5001 Newport Ave., San Diego (map) 619-756-6265. Note: cash only.
Coffee and Doughnuts at Leroy's Kitchen & Lounge
Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge in Coronado has a great burger on their brunch menu, but the sweet eats are also commendable, especially the "Coffee and Doughnuts" ($9). A plate of beignets is served with raspberry compote, fudgy Belgian chocolate dip, and a good cup of coffee. The sugar-coated orbs of deep-fried dough are executed impeccably, with a slightly crisp outer layer that yields to a soft and fluffy interior. My only complaint is unlike the coffee, the beignets aren't bottomless.
Bananas Foster Belgian Waffles at The Red Door
The bananas foster waffles ($10) at The Red Door is a highly composed dessert... I mean "breakfast". A light and crisp golden-brown Belgian waffle is quartered and topped with caramelized bananas piped with banana cream, toasted macadamia nuts, and a bananas foster sauce—butter cooked down with maple syrup and rum, like a caramel, minus the cream. It's drizzled over the waffle, filling nearly every nook and cranny, then finished with a fine ribbon of chocolate sauce.
French Toast at The Mission
The Mission makes French toast ($8.95) worthy of a weekly pilgrimage, and waiting in line (which is practically a given.) Fresh baked cinnamon swirl bread gets portioned into meaty slices, dipped in an egg batter, and presented with berry purée. It's a bit like a cinnamon roll and traditional French toast hybrid, and all you need is a little shower of syrup to make it sing. It's a generous portion, but if you pair it with a side of scrambled eggs and bacon for an extra $2.50, it ends up being the perfect amount of food to split between two people, and you get some protein and savory flavors to round out the sweet.
Cinnamon Roll at Urban Solace
Urban Solace's buttermilk cinnamon rolls ($3.75) hold nothing back. The soft and fluffy rolls are intensely sweet and feature a fragrant cinnamon ribbon. They'd be excellent plain, but they're finished off with a mountain of cream cheese icing that's roughly the size of a baseball. If that's not enough sugar for you (and trust me, it really is), add butter pecan sauce for an extra buck. If you go that direction, make sure to split the roll with a friend (or two), or risk such an intense sugar high that you'll end up serenading the entire patio with Saturday morning cartoon theme songs.