222 Island Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Saturday morning is one of my favorite times to walk around the Gaslamp. It’s not crowded, there’s parking, and the old buildings have grandeur in the a.m. sunlight. Except for the occasional jogging conventioneer, you have downtown to yourself.
Until you walk over to Cafe 222, a breakfast-and-lunch place on Island. The cafe is a cozy nook, not great for large groups but perfect for that one-on-one meal, like the kind I’ve been doing with my wife recently while the kids are rehearsing for a play.
For such a small place, Cafe 222 has a national reputation. Their waffles have been featured in Gourmet magazine and the Food Network, and with good reason. My wife and I are fans of the Blueberry Cornbread Waffle ($7.95), a crunchy creation with a light touch of sweetness and tanginess from the berries. Cafe 222 does upcharge for real maple syrup (at least they’re being honest about it), and I’d opt for that over the regular syrup.
On the other hand, no syrup was needed for the Banana Bread French Toast ($10.75), which comes with caramelized bananas on top. I am not a fan of banana bread, but this has a crispy exterior, soft interior, and sweet banana flavor throughout. It’s so sweet that a little goes a long way. I’d get it on the side as a coffee cake to split the next time.
The sweet dishes are the stars at Cafe 222, but the savory dishes have a lot to offer. The Huevos Rancheros ($12.95) come with Mexican gravy, a variation of enchilada sauce that includes real meat. The eggs over easy blend nicely with the sauce and the tortillas. The dish comes with griddled red potatoes and some really spicy refried beans. It’s a lot of food, even if you’re sharing.
The Pork Tamale with Gravy ($3.75 or $12.25 with eggs, potatoes, and beans) is a pretty tamale filled with pork and also topped with the Mexican gravy. Believe it or not, it pairs well with the fresh squeezed orange juice (if you take sips).