Even though it’s in the center of San Diego, University Heights is a neighborhood that offers cozy small town vibes. Food is at the core of every community – and this hip area has no shortage of fantastic all-day dining options.
This swanky dinette serves up elevated brunch classics with seasonal ingredients. One of the most popular menu items is their monthly doughnut, ranging from light and airy peach churro to ultra decadent s’mores flavors. There are plenty of health-focused options on the menu at Great Maple: kale & quinoa salad, a tofu breakfast stack, and a market seasonal zucchini scramble are just a few items that make a great morning meal. You’ll also find a few unique dishes that are definitely worth a try, like the english popovers served with house smoked beef brisket, fried goat cheese squash blossoms and veggies, or sausage and shrimp. This award-winning restaurant has a laid-back sixties feel with a fun menu (including classic cocktails) to match.
This converted home on the neighborhood’s main drag is a longtime local favorite. Parkhouse Eatery is best known for their giant – and we mean giant – pancakes, made with your pick of blue cornmeal, lemon ricotta, berries, or cinnamon sugar. The rest of their ‘Way Wild & Wicked’ breakfast menu includes oversized benedicts, chilaquiles, a grilled breakfast pizza, a rice bowl and even linguini! You can also enjoy one of their many egg dishes and sandwiches on their outside patio, or in the cozy living room or hearth room inside. In case you didn’t get the hint – this is one place you’ll want to bring a friend to share a meal…or maybe just keep the leftovers for yourself.
What this restaurant lacks in size, it makes up for in taste – in a big way. The University Heights location has somewhat of a cult following in San Diego. El Zarape isn’t making any Mexican food out of the ordinary, they just do it really, really well. They’ve probably got whatever you’re in the mood for, too. Carne Asada? Shrimp? Lobster? Steak? Scallops? Yes, all of that plus plenty of veggie dishes and combination plates if you just can’t decide.
This much-loved vegetarian restaurant is so popular, they finally opened a second location in North County. Dedicated to serving fresh Thai food with high-quality ingredients, Plumeria’s entire menu is meat-free, with many vegan and Gluten-free options as well. Fill up mid-day at this casual spot on spicy wok dishes loaded with vegetables, and creative curries including a pumpkin version – perfect for Fall! Soups, salads, fresh spring rolls, noodles, fish entrees and more round out their healthy menu. You really can’t go wrong here!
Arguably one of San Diego’s most Instagrammable restaurants, Madison just happens to have an excellent food and drink menu, too. A mix of Mediterranean fare with a few pasta dishes thrown in for good measure, Madison has a variety of dishes that will satisfy just about anyone. Start off with a shareable plate like beet-cured salmon crudo, skirt steak, hummus, or a half wheel of brie with apricot habanero jam. The main plates feature simple yet elevated classics, like chicken with wild mushroom bread pudding, and a burger with pickled shallots. Experience it all under the dining room’s funky yet classic wooden half dome ceiling, which really makes for a memorable meal.
This beloved local favorite just got a major facelift. So in addition to enjoying the bar’s infamous burger and a brew – of which they have more than 30 on tap – you’ll have it in a bright and airy space. While Small Bar has maintained its relaxed atmosphere, the new craft cocktails and menu additions add just the right amount of sophistication. Sure, there’s buffalo wings and tater tots, but there’s also fried cauliflower and dynamite shrimp with eel sauce. While not great for the waistline, it’s one of the best places to unwind.
A newer addition to the neighborhood, Kairoa snagged a coveted spot on Park Avenue – complete with a rooftop bar right next to the University Heights sign. The New Zealand-inspired bar and restaurant has a fun, cheeky drink list; like their Business Time IPA, which ‘pairs well with baggy team-building exercise t-shirts and business socks.’ Kairoa also features guest beers, hard kombuchas, and wine to enjoy around an outdoor fire pit with friends and good conversation.
Park & Rec
For those simply not content to sit around and chat, Park & Rec is for you. With multiple bars throughout their indoor/outdoor space, Park & Rec has bands, DJ’s, and plenty of games. Pair your cocktail with some ping pong, your pinot with pinball, or straight bourbon with a serious round of shuffleboard. There’s always something happening at this hot spot – arrive thirsty!