Once again, it’s been a banner year for new drinking and dining experiences in North County. It seems a new restaurant, brewery, winery, coffee or spice shop is opening weekly in the area. That’s a good thing as there is never a shortage of topics to write about. That said, I still like to mix things up with a blend of established joints, trendy new hotspots, interviews with interesting culinary personalities, and the occasional look at where local businesses eat around town. It’s from that blend of plate licking that I came up with my top 10 overall plate licking experiences from the past year.
I’ll start with Native Foods Café who has succeeded in making Vegan cuisine appealing to the mainstream. Their innovative kitchen and vibrant atmosphere has been packing them in since they opened. They are doing this with a foundation of plant based “meats” that revolve around Tempeh, Seitan, Native Chicken, and Native Bacon that had me fooled.
On the far other end of the spectrum, Churchill’s Pub & Grille in San Marcos serves up traditional pub grub plus a huge selection of beers on tap and whiskey. Bangers and Mash is a favorite of mine and they serve it with two juicy pork sausages (bangers) with “lashings” of gravy, mash (mashed potatoes) and mixed vegetables. And of course, what kind of English pub would it be without Fish & Chips. Churchill’s does it right with flaky, moist Alaskan Cod in a beer batter and crispy chips, or French fries as we know them as. It’s a great mix of people, solid food, and no pretensions which is why they made my list.
Lobster West in Encinitas was another new addition to the exploding restaurant scene and a great option for plate licking. While the focus is on Lobster Rolls, they are proud to offer fresh crab rolls, shrimp rolls, seafood chowders, locally-grown organic salads and more. The lobster roll combined with their delicious cole slaw, a cup of New England clam chowder, Maine Root Soda and some Cape Cod chips was a perfect lunch.
The American Legion in downtown Encinitas was a fabulous discovery in 2013. With the proliferation of the trendy artisanal and gourmet food and brew scene in North County, it’s nice to have a place like this where you can check your pretensions and foodie snobbery at the door. The Encinitas post was formed in 1932 so the term old-school really does apply here and their breakfasts and dinners are worth checking out.
Back to the present with Revolution Roasters in Leucadia. Revolution Roasters shares a killer space and provides coffee to Café Ipe and takes coffee to another level. Stop in on a Saturday morning when owner Dan Scheibe is roasting beans and you will get an up-close look at the process and be completely overwhelmed by the wonderful aromas. I’d also highly suggest picking up one of the brown paper bags he packages his beans in and give it a good whiff, yes, go ahead, smell the bag, it’s amazing.
My wish for a local chopped salad fix was realized with the addition of Zig Zag to the Cohn Restaurant Group empire. It’s located next door to 333 Pacific, another Cohn restaurant at the Oceanside Pier. Their menu is simple, pizza and chopped salad, or chop – chop salad as they call it. Chopped salads rock!
I rediscovered Ki’s in Cardiff this past year and was glad I did. Barry and Lorraine have been practicing farm-to-table cuisine long before it became trendy and you can’t beat the amazing location. Their nicoise salad with Ahi tuna. Is one of my favorite salads period and Ki’s does it right.
I was pleasantly surprised by Savory Spice Shop in the Encinitas Lumberyard. It’s just a treat to spend time at this delightful store exploring spices and fun accessories. Cooking is all about flavor and this place offers hundreds of ways to enhance that while expanding your culinary horizons.
While Dos Palmas is not new, it was new to me this year and I’m stoked to have discovered their pan dulce, cakes, and savory delights. Their fish taco is as good as I’ve had locally and their burritos are right up there too.
Prontos’ Gourmet Market in Carlsbad Village rounds out my list. The market is filled with the highest quality foods and wines and their signature sandwiches and dinners to go have become a regular stop when I’m in Carlsbad.
As I wrap up this column, so many more great food experiences have come to mind. These 10 offer a nice variety that I hope you all can check out at some point.<< Back