With the proliferation of the trendy artisanal and gourmet food and brew scene in North County, it’s nice to have a place like the American Legion, Post 416 in old Encinitas where you can check your pretensions and foodie snobbery at the door. The Legion takes me back to Michigan, where service organizations like this were on every corner and it seemed like all my friend’s dads were either Elks, or Masons, Moose or similar. They were all places where parents could enjoy a drink with their kids around and food was always part of the scene. The Encinitas post was formed in 1932 so the term old-school really does apply here.
The Encinitas American Legion, located at 210 W. F Street between Second and Third in downtown Encinitas, is just a block away from the hip eateries and watering holes on Coast Highway. For me at least, the Legion is a refreshing change of venues, with a group of down-to-earth folks who are very welcoming. My dad was a Marine Corps veteran who served proudly on Guadalcanal in WWII so I was able to join as a Son of a Veteran. It should be noted that even if you don’t have immediate family that served, they have a fairly liberal membership policy that counts grandparents and aunts or uncles and the public is welcome to pop in.
My first experience with the Legion was at an after parade party we held there with some co-workers. There was a killer bluegrass band playing and solid food coming out of the kitchen. And the kitchen is impressive with a six burner Wolf range with a flattop and plenty of prep area. The band was jamming, kids were dancing, cheap drinks were flowing, and I was immediately taken by the realness of it all. No posers here. Besides the band there is a killer jukebox and a built in PA system so it’s easy for bands or DJ’s to set up. There is a regular Friday night jam session that is full of good musicians and it should be noted that local hipsters have discovered the Legion as a place to host company events and birthday parties. It was bound to happen but hey, that adds some variety. Besides the bar area, there are tables and a spot for a full band to set up plus an attached hall that is used for bingo but is a perfect spill-over area for larger events. Just remember, this is a service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of programs in our communities while advocating patriotism. That is reflected in the theme of the military and patriotic décor. At $50-$100 to rent it’s a heck of a bargain for a fun event space in a great location.
Of course food plays a big role at the Legion with dinners every Saturday night and Sunday brunch. Members cook up their specialties including some of those home style favorites like pot roast, spaghetti, sauerbraten, chicken parmesan, and some tasty desserts like the one that Cris Hicks, wife of Legion Commander Bill Hicks gave me the recipe for. It’s a lemon torte pie and given the lemon tree I have in my yard, I had to give it a shot. This is a world-class pie folks.
Start by making the graham cracker crust with 1.5 cups ground graham cracker crumbs, 2-4 tablespoons of butter, and 1/3 cup sugar. Mix it together then press into pie tin and refrigerate. Separate 3 eggs, beat yolks with a fork then add 1 can sweetened condensed milk. Mix and add grated rind of one lemon and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice. Beat the egg whites until they stand in peaks then add to the other mixture and fold together. Pour into crust and bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees. It’s a delightful pie for this time of year.
The crew behind the bar includes Rosie Harrison, Cris Hicks, Kristen Rock and Stephanie Ullman and they are the friendliest in town. This is not a place to find the latest craft brews but come on, give that a break for a change and their variety works just fine. I’d also like to give a shout out to Don Tennille, the Cowboy who is a regular and a heck of a nice guy. You can’t miss him so say howdy when you pop in. The public is welcome at the Saturday dinners or Sunday brunch or to stop in for a drink to inquire about membership, which I would encourage. Also remember the Legion as a great location for your next event. Bill Hicks is the Legion commander and the guy to contact with any questions or check them out at www.calegionpost416.org