There’s always something special about a restaurant that details its setting to fit the surrounding neighborhood, and the Fig Tree Cafe does just that with all of its locations.
Providing a spunky attitude and a welcoming vibe in various spots around the San Diego area, Fig Tree Cafe is a go-to brunch location for anyone wanting to experience brunch life like a true San Diegan.
With an eye for freshness and a product list sourced locally, Fig Tree Cafe lets you sit back, relax, and enjoy. Mural artwork and neon signs offer perfect getaways for wandering eyes, and the bustling atmosphere reminds you you’re in one of the most popular spots in town.
The first location for the Fig Tree Cafe began in Pacific Beach in the fall of 2008. Their mission was to create a genuine and inviting dining experience. After gaining some success, Johan Engman, CEO, and founder of the Rise & Shine Hospitality Group, opened up a Liberty Station location in 2013, followed by another in East Village and a fourth coming soon to Mission Valley.
Engman himself was born and raised in Sweden before he moved to San Diego at age 16 in 1997. He lived on his own while still in high school and worked as a dishwasher to pay his rent before being promoted first to a busser and then a server. When he hit 25, he realized his passion for the industry and gave himself two years to save and open his own restaurant.
With a shoestring budget of $45,000, he opened up the Fig Tree Cafe on October 9, 2008. The restaurant wasn’t an immediate success, and it wasn’t long before he faced the decision to either close the restaurant or figure out a way to keep the doors open. He persisted and three years later started turning a profit. That profit ultimately led to more locations for the Fig Tree Cafe and also helped conceptualize the Breakfast Republic, another of Engman’s popular small chains.
All of Engman’s restaurants fall under the umbrella of Rise and Shine Hospitality Group, which also houses favorites like Feast and Fareway, Eggies, Gaslamp Breakfast Company and California Taco Club. In 2021, Engman also won the San Diego Business Journal’s private large company CEO of the Year Award.
Each of the locations are specifically crafted to fit the niche of the neighborhood. With that, they also share a commitment to using fresh, local ingredients for all of their meals whenever possible.
On top of shopping local whenever the opportunity presents itself, they also select produce and eggs from a family farm in Ramona to keep with consistency. Being big proponents of the local community, there’s also a focus of giving back whenever they can.
The food is also inspired by Engman’s love for travel and integrates different countries, cultures, and cuisines.
Our experience at the Fig Tree Cafe took us to the original location in Pacific Beach. Sitting just a few blocks from the ocean, the overall theme definitely read as a casually hungover beach retreat. The neon signs here say things like “Good Vibes Only” and “I’m Not Yelling You’re Just Hungover,” which set the mood for a relaxed brunch space serving locally sourced food.
The branding for the cafe is also spattered across the coffee mugs, plates, trays, paper napkin holders, and anything else you can find. The designs are cute, and the coffee mugs and plates are available for sale. The coffee mugs, in particular, are ideal for a brunch coffee, as they hold around 20 ounces of the liquid glory.
The food also has a freshness that’s evident from the first taste to the final aftertaste. We ordered the Meatloaf Hash with house-made meatloaf, smashed potatoes, spinach, a house-made basil pesto, three eggs served any style (I went with scrambled), and a choice of bread (with English muffin). Under the Benedicts, we went for the Short Rib served with an English muffin, braised Angus beef short ribs, two poached eggs, and a house-made Hollandaise sauce topped with chives.
The hash was a wonderful mix of the ingredients served in a warm skillet. All of the flavors balanced each other out well, and the basil pesto sauce was a highlight of the dish. The potatoes are also mixed in with the rest of the meal, and the eggs hold their place on the top.
The Short Rib Benedict was also delectable, with the short rib finding a nice tenderness after the braised preparation. The Hollandaise sauce was also heavenly and well-proportioned across the plate to add a nice flavor to the overall meal.
Although we just went for a standard coffee, specialty coffees cover an organic nitro cold brew with a vanilla cream option, a Mexican mocha, chai tea latte, honey lavender latte, rose latte, and a specialty latte which, at the time of our visit, was a turtle latte with dulce de leche.
Drink specials include variations on Bloody Marys and mimosas, with flight options under the mimosas, as well. For those not looking for anything alcoholic, there’s also a flight of four adaptogenic antioxidant shots to help boost your immune system.
All locations are open daily from 7 am-3 pm. There are no reservations, so be sure to pepper in the wait time when you’re making plans. Likewise, they offer online ordering for pickup or delivery if you’d like to eat somewhere else.
For those with four-legged fur babies, dogs are welcome at the Pacific Beach location only, and there’s also a separate menu for dogs. There’s just a list of rules that come alongside bringing your pup, so just be sure you adhere.
As for parking, the Pacific Beach location has some parking nearby, but for the most part, you’ll have to park within a block or two and have a short walk to most of the locations.
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