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The Coast News

Where Surfers eat in North County

David Boylan

Lick the Plate Hansen's Surfer Eats Survey

The correlation between surfing and food has always been a strong one. It was portrayed with some degree of accuracy by the Spicoli character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when he had pizza delivered to his classroom and was forced to share it with the entire class by Mr. Hand.

But seriously, there really is nothing like a post-surf session feeding frenzy. Something about being in the water and the sheer emotional high of catching waves, then gathering around food with friends recounting the “wave of the day” greatly enhances the eating experience. Sure, going to the gym makes me hungry, but the after workout meal is not quite the same as that of a surfing fueled one.

I had this surfing and food conversation with Josh Hansen from the iconic Hansen’s Surf Shop in Encinitas recently and we thought it would be fun to survey area surfers to find out the top 5 post surf session chow-down spots in North County. We received hundreds of responses that included a huge variety of eateries. Surfers tend to be passionate about their food and that showed in the survey response comments. The top 5 vote getters came as no surprise as I’ve had satisfying meals at all of them. It also made sense that all of these are coastal locations, since instant gratification is essential to the post-surf experience.

Pipes in Cardiff garnered the most votes, by a wide margin. Word has been out for years about the huge portions at pipes that really do take a surf fueled appetite to finish. The times I’ve been to pipes after surfing and finished one of their gargantuan breakfast burritos, I found myself in a rare mid-morning food coma. It’s a solid menu all-around though and a great location in the heart of Cardiff.

About a block away is Seaside Market whose world-class deli counter enabled it to crack the top 5 vote getters. Value is a key part of the surfer food equation and the Seaside Market deli is full of hearty, gourmet meal options at very reasonable prices. I’ve written about their satisfying and customizable breakfast bowls and their daily lunch specials tend to combine dishes you would find in a killer restaurant with great prices. Besides the food, Seaside has a cool little seating area out front that makes for great people watching and live music happens there on the weekend.

I’ve devoted a column to Bull Taco in the Cardiff Campgrounds and as far as location goes, it really can’t be beat. It literally sits on the bluff in the campgrounds with solid surf breaks just below it. The word spectacular comes to mind when I think about where they reside. And it’s not just about the incredible spot; Bull Taco has some seriously good grub as well. Self-described as “inauthentic Mexican” that gives them the freedom to do what they want on the menu. The best bang for your buck are the hearty burritos.

Swami’s Café is up Coast Highway 101 right across from the Self Realization Fellowship, or Swami’s as it’s called, the famous surf spot. Talk about another spectacular location. Swami’s Café was doing smoothies and wheatgrass shots long before they were trendy but their menu goes far beyond that. They have a full breakfast menu, burgers, great salads and other healthy entrée’s. Its diverse menu makes it the perfect place to go with a group of hungry surfers who need some variety. Swami’s is also the perfect place to take in the parade of humanity running and biking by on Coast Highway.

We had a tie for 5th place between the Beach Break in Oceanside and Fish 101 in Lecuadia. Beach Break is another one of those super large portion places with a location accessible to any of the surf spots in Oceanside. It’s a huge menu that has over a dozen omelet selections, sandwiches, burgers, salads so again it’s one of those places that has something for everyone in the group.

Fish 101 has gained a strong following among the surf industry folks who lean towards the healthier side of eating after a day in the water or an evening session. Nothing like super fresh oysters with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino to get your taste buds back into the ocean. Follow that with their amazing chowder a fresh fish entrée or po' boy, and dessert from their top-notch pastry chef.

As I mentioned, we received hundreds of responses including many for Roberto’s, Juanita’s, and other similar Mexican joints. VG’s donuts, Potato Shack, and Encinitas Café also made the list. There is no shortage of places to eat along the beautiful North County coast and those options continue to grow.

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