Churros and French toast, topped with fruit, caramel sauce, and dulce de leche ice cream
Twenty-dollar bottomless mimosas were behind the decision to go for Saturday brunch in Hillcrest. Everyone had endured four frustrating nights without election results and hoped to temper our collective anxiety. But by time we head out to Cocina de Barrio, a new president had been announced.
3707 Fifth Ave., San Diego
The entire neighborhood likewise erupted; cars honked as they drove past, some waving Biden flags out their windows. They drove up and down streets in hours-long parade circuit. Whenever a cluster of cars passed the restaurant, the dining patio burst into ovation. Several customers wore American flag themed outfits for the occasion. One brandished his “I voted” sticker.
Cocina de Barrio's Oaxacan style chicken in black mole
Though Cocina de Barrio is a Mexican restaurant, principally inspired by Oaxacan cuisine, we found it a more than suitable venue to cheer on democracy.
Its brunch menu, at least, ranges from authentic Oaxacan dishes to more broadly Mexican fare to fusion. At the Oaxacan end, you can get chicken smothered in black mole ($22), for example, opt for more widely known desayunos: either red or green chilaquiles ($16)
Green chilaquiles with beef birria
A more intriguing option is a breakfast tlayuda. Tlayudas are often referred to as Oaxacan pizzas, and here, the crispy flour tortilla spread with refried beans and Oaxacan cheese, is topped by fried eggs and a choice of chorizo or beef birria ($17).
Breakfast tlayuda — a.k.a. Oaxaca pizza — with eggs and birria
I’ve found that one to be better on paper than in application, but I found a worthy replacement on the griddle menu. There, basic pancakes are supplemented with blue corn pancakes, marzipan pancakes, and pineapple upside-down pancakes (ranging from $9-13).
The indoor dining room at Cocina de Barrio — will indoor dining close this week?
But I had my eye on the French toasts. After briefly deliberating between coconut and crème brulee options, I settled on the French toast topped by churros, berries, bananas, caramel sauce and dulce de leche ice cream. Cinnamon and sugar mad my multicultural brunch choice sweet and memorable, while the fruit offered red, white, and blue to meet the occasion.
The brunch crowd was thicker than I’ve seen it during the pandemic, and even the inside dining room was lively (though likely to be closed again if San Diego enters the state’ no-indoor-dining purple tier this week, as expected).
A mimosa, bloody mary, and cold brew coffee cocktail
To be honest, the patio’s more fun anyway. And the drinks wind up being more important than the food. Like those bottomless mimosas, which include tamarindo, Jamaica, mango, and cranberry juiced options. There are also breakfast-friendly $11-12 cocktails including mezcal bloody marys, popsicle margaritas, and “el cold brew,” a satisfying blend of cold brew coffee with mescal and the liqueur Frangelico.
A few drinks in, I surveyed our table, and saw a group of friends relishing the moment after a long year of pandemic fears. As I looked around the restaurant, I saw similar happiness repeated on faces. And even a couple families enjoying the moment with their young children.
And that’s when I realized: don’t bring kids to a bottomless mimosa brunch in Hillcrest. The conversations will get loud, and some speech is too free for young ears.