I’ve never been one to head out of town with the masses on holiday weekends, especially in Southern California where the potential traffic nightmares can test even the most patient of us. That, and the fact that we live in such a desirable area that people travel long distances to visit here gave me an idea to create a staycation by booking a local hotel and experiencing Encinitas as a tourist.
I checked in to the Best Western Inn & Suites in Encinitas, situated on a bluff at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Vulcan in Encinitas. I pass by this hotel daily and it’s less than a mile from my house so there was not even a highway involved in getting there. As mentioned, the Best Western sits high upon a bluff so the views are spectacular. I checked into my room that overlooked both Cottonwood Creek Park, Coast Highway looking north, and a big whitewater ocean view. As a fan of trains, it was also cool to have a nice look at the Coaster, Amtrak, and occasional freight trains passing through town. The rooms were nicer than expected with a huge balcony, high quality sheets, nice workstation and a big flat screen TV. The view from the balcony was so nice I was tempted to order some delivery and spend the evening there. We stayed until just before sunset, then set out exploring our hometown before the dinner we had scheduled later at Tomiko, the restaurant situated next door to the hotel.
There is a trail that winds down from the hotel and empties out on to Vulcan, then a short walk to the heart of Encinitas. It was a Wednesday evening and the Farmers Market was in full swing so a stroll through that was in order. The new Bier Garden had just opened next to Whole Foods so that was our next stop for a beer and to check out another one of the many new dining and drinking establishments in downtown Encinitas. More on Bier Garden in a future column. It’s interesting how when I checked into a hotel in my hometown, my perception of everything changed. Walking around without a sense of purpose enabled me to really take in the coolness that is Encinitas and gain a whole new perspective on it. After a few more stops and some shopping, we made our way back to Tomiko and our dinner reservation.
I can best describe the atmosphere at Tomiko as “Asian ski lodge” with a killer view. And, while I’ve never been to a ski lodge in Asia, this is how I would imagine it. Tomiko is the proprietor and there are hints at her background that includes experiences living in Taiwan, Turkey, Korea, and even in the south. Then there are the ski lodge elements of Tomiko, which are found primarily in the lounge area. The exposed logs and stone combined with altitude and panoramic views looking west just gave me a feeling that I was in a lodge in the mountains with an ocean view. As odd as it may sound, the whole thing works in its own unique way.
On the food side of things, Tomiko hosts a full sushi bar serving up sustainable fish and creative rolls. The menu also includes lamb chops, Asian beef wraps, stir fry noodles, and one of the best filet mignons in North County. Tomiko uses sustainable fish whenever possible, rice bran oil for all their cooking, their sushi rice is gluten-free, soy sauce is a light mixture, and their meats are natural with no hormones added. Their happy hour has been known by in-the-know locals for years and the lounge fills up with folks feasting on some of the best sushi and roll specials anywhere. It happens from 4:30-6:30 pm daily and they have all-night happy hours twice monthly. Follow them on Facebook to find out what days those are happening. We sampled a nice variety of their offerings and while we missed happy hour, the prices were still very reasonable.
After dinner we headed back up to our very nice room at the Best Western and had a nightcap on the balcony looking out on to a beautiful Pacific ocean. And while this was a one-night adventure, I came away from it with a new appreciation of my home town and would recommend it to any local. Book your room at www.bestwesterncalifornia.com or 760.942.7455. Check out Tomiko at www.tomiko.com or 760.633.3587.