RecommendationHanis Cavin, Chef & Owner at Carnitas Snack Shack, recommends eating breakfast and lunch at Little Lion Cafe in San Diego as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide to San Diego.

San Diego, California

Little Lion Cafe

"It's the kind of place that when you walk in it just makes you want to smile."

Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle
Grand Ole BBQ y Asado
Carnitas Snack Shack

Little Lion Cafe

"It's the kind of place that when you walk in it just makes you want to smile."

"Delicious, with high-level execution."
Recommended by:
Hanis Cavin, Chef & Owner
Carnitas Snack Shack
Recommended in:
San Diego, California

Hanis' Take

"Little Lion has a huge restaurant history. Their aunt is probably the best pastry chef in San Diego, and it's her daughters who opened up Little Lion together. It's the kind of place that when you walk in it just makes you want to smile because it's so quaint and charming."

Anne-Marie and Jacqueline, Co-Owners of Little Lion

Our Story

"We're called Little Lion because my family used to own a restaurant in San Diego called Belgian Lion, just on the other side of the beach. So all our family heirlooms and things from that restaurant are strewn about the shop. We grew up there. Literally, as we got out of school, we'd go to work at the family restaurant, so we always dreamed of one day doing our own thing.

We grew up on Ocean Beach, so we used to always walk past this exact location. Anne-Marie, my sister who's the chef here, surfed on the end of the Sunset Cliffs and we always said, 'Couldn't you just imagine if that was a little location where you could get a glass of rosé and a cheese plate? Wouldn't that be so magical?'

We always had this really romantic vision of doing this European version of what we grew up doing at the Belgian Lion. Our goal when we opened this place was to have it feel like you’re in someone's home like you’re going to a dinner party at a friend’s house, and without advertising that, I’ve had people say that to me multiple times. 

We've been able to realize our dream, and that's pretty cool."
A Conversation with Fathom Bistro's Wise Sage, Dennis Tacos and Lessons from Hanis at Carnitas Snack Shack Beers and Coffee at Modern Times Brewing

What I Love Most about San Diego

"San Diego is perfect. It literally has everything. It's a big city, small town. You're 20 minutes away from any climate you could want, like mountains, desert, surf. Whenever I travel, no matter where I go in the world, every time I get on a plane to come home, I'm sad that my vacation is over but I'm stoked to come home to San Diego. I live in a place that people pay to come to see. I'm grateful for that."

My Perfect San Diego Day

"I'd start out in Little Italy and end up at Barrio Logan. Start your morning with coffee at James Coffee and have mussels for lunch at Iron Side. Then take the bridge south to Coronado, which is stunning. 

I love Starlite for drinks and dinner. You have to be 21 to go there, but that's definitely a hidden-gem in midtown. It's kind of upscale bar food, but they source locally like we do at Little Lion and they really care about what they're doing. El Pescador in La Jolla is awesome as well, with phenomenal food."

Little Lion Cafe


Little Lion Cafe
Little Lion Cafe
San Diego
Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle
"When I stumbled upon this location, it was fate, like the gods were shining upon me."
Grand Ole BBQ y Asado
"My dad's from Texas and my mom's from Argentina, so I'm kinda givin' props to both."
Carnitas Snack Shack
"Delicious, with high-level execution."
Little Lion Cafe
"It's the kind of place that when you walk in it just makes you want to smile."

Story Tags

Like what you see? Give it a share:

A NEW CITY delivered to your inbox each week

Thank you! You'll be hearing from us soon!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form
Woot! Woot!
Error! Try again.
Back to top
Oops! Something went wrong.