Isabel’s Cantina (Pacific Beach)


Happy Friday!! We recently were invited to visit Isabel’s Cantina. It has been four years since our first visit and I’m not quite sure why it has taken so long to visit them again. Last time I was blindfolded and led into the restaurant, only to find a table filled with friends and family there to celebrate my birthday. Surprise! Maybe I compartmentalized that into a whole other part of my brain, away from the “normal” places to go. The outside of the restaurant sticks out like a sore thumb. It sits tucked away from the main stretch of Pacific Beach, sheltered by residential and other businesses. Parking in PB can be a hassle, but we were able to find free street parking on Cass St. right away. It is one of five restaurants owned by Isabel Cruz which includes Barrio Star and Coffee Cup Cafe. Here she fuses her Latin roots with Asian flavors she was exposed to while living in Los Angeles. Fun fact: Isabel created the original Mission restaurant in Mission Beach but later sold it in 1996.

Isabels Cantina Collage

Once you walk in your eyes scan for something to hold onto. But they bounce around like a ball to a calming corner and then again to an aged, but very much alive bar area. With a wide open dining area, there is plenty of room for large parties.



Michael and I both needed a shot of caffeine so he got an Iced Coconut Mexican Mocha while I ordered a Thai coffee. His looks a little fancier than mine but both did the job. Michael enjoyed the sweetness and the hints of coconut. Mine was more straightforward and mixed condensed milk with regular coffee. We were awake and ready!


They offer a variety of breakfast and brunch options to choose from, many of which have a lot of the same ingredients but with some slight differences. The Omar Special comes with egg whites, tomatoes, green onions, and jack cheese, served with brown rice, grilled chicken, mushrooms, basil pesto, onions, cilantro, avocado sauce, and Amalia’s sauce. The portions are fairly large. Amalia’s sauce is made with arbol chiles and packed a nice punch. All the ingredients came together forming a fresh and vibrant taste. Usually to my detriment when given sauces, I ration them in a stingy way which results in me having leftover sauce. In hindsight I should have asked for a little more pesto here. My only gripe was the chicken being a little overdone.

Michael went with the Avocado Scramble with Carnitas. Our server was raving about the carnitas and many of the offerings I was eying had that as an add on. His came with scrambled eggs, avocado and jack cheese, flour tortillas, black beans and rosemary potatoes topped with sauteed tomatoes, green onions, jalapeños and a side of salsa cruda. They also gave him Amelia’s sauce on the side. While his didn’t have the brown rice, it made up for it with tortillas, beans, and potatoes. The dish was a little heavier, but quite pleasing. I had the same gripe about the meat being slightly dry with the carnitas. Other than that, all the components were a nice combination of flavors.


They were kind to give us a few samples on the side so we could get a taste of their sweet selections. This is a Very Berry Pancake with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberry puree, and powdered sugar. How can you go wrong with berries and pancakes?


Ah the Coconut French Toast! Maybe my most favorite bite of the day. They made coconut bread in house and it is grilled with fresh coconut flakes, bananas, pineapples, with raspberry puree and powdered sugar on top. Anh has made coconut bread before and it was dee lee cious! This brought back those memories and hit me with the perfect blend of tropical sweetness, nuttiness, and comfort. A whole order of these would disappear from the plate in an instant.
Isabels Cantina Collage 2

All in all we enjoyed ourselves and were happy to be reacquainted with Isabel’s Cantina. We didn’t quite venture into the Asian flavors as much this time. Some of them incorporate noodles, coconut milk, peanut sauce, lettuce wraps, etc. Maybe next time! For those of you who like specials, they do change their menu often. Looking back to our first visit, the menu has changed a little bit but the core of what they do is the same. Hope you get to relax and find some good San Diego food this weekend everybody!

Isabel’s Cantina
966 Felspar St.
San Diego, CA 92109

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About Darren

Fooood! I love it if you can't tell already. I love everything about it. The taste, the smell, the look, the feel, the satisfaction, the gratification, and ultimately: the fun! I've been in San Diego for about 10 years now and it amazes me that there are still places to uncover. Traveling, eating, and taking pictures of food has always been a hobby of mine. So naturally Michael and I thought it made sense to share what we found with all of you. I tend to side with the savory but never shy away from a knock out dessert. If you have a place you think we haven't tried let us know! We're always on the lookout...

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