The dining scene in coastal North County showed no signs of slowing down this year with plenty of new restaurants and more to come in the first quarter of 2013. Options are plentiful and the choices are enabling foodies to keep it local rather than trekking to San Diego for quality meals.I’ll start with one of my favorites, and one that filled the biggest void in the area, Nosh Deli on El Camino Real in Encinitas. Given my propensity to explore new restaurants for this column and the radio show, it’s tough for me to find a place that appeals enough for me to become a regular. Nosh hooked me on my first visit with their “Boss” sandwich with corned beef, pastrami, Swiss cheese and special sauce on rye bread. It is just one of many deli staples that has me coming back. With the recent addition of a great looking breakfast menu, the temptation grows.
While Baker & Olive has been open for more than a year in Encinitas, “Lick the Plate” had a chance to meet Paul and Marion Johnson, the dynamic couple who own, it this year. That meeting led to a column and an appearance on LTP Radio that really opened my eyes to the world of high-quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars and the big difference they can make in the kitchen. Their stores, which also feature specialty foods, fresh bread, and kitchen accessories, should be a regular destination for any cook who values quality products.
The spectacular new Pacific Coast Grill has to be on this list for the simple fact that it fits into its coastal location better than any oceanfront restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s like walking into an upscale beach house that is casual enough to welcome everyone. Every seat has a view and the menu is a solid mix of PCG favorites and seasonal specials.
While on the topic of new, ocean view restaurants, Chandler’s at the Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort and Spa was another nicely designed opening. While we mourned the loss of Savory, Chef Pascal Vignau brought his world-class talents to Chandler’s and the result is definitely worth a visit. While not ocean front, its location across from the campgrounds on Coast Highway 101 is a perfect place to catch the sunset over a great meal.
My interview and lunch with the crew at the Encinitas Fire Station No. 3 in Cardiff provided some great content when my son Quinn and myself were treated to a ride-along when the alarm when off in the middle of the interview. Racing through the streets of Cardiff in a fire engine with John Gonzalez, Tom Heers and Duke Harbin proved to be a thrill of a lifetime. The post adventure meal was just as good when we sat down to some of their delicious cooking.
Wade and Kristi Hageman from Blue Ribbon took their culinary magic to the other side of I-5 with the opening of Craftsman New American Tavern in the old Savory location. Their hand-crafted comfort food hit the mark on just about every level. Craftsman has since added lunch and a Sunday brunch that is on my short list to check out.
The Kebab Shop gave the area our first taste of California Mediterranean with a Euro Turkish influence. Loosely based on the traditional kebab shops of Europe, the Kebab Shop has taken that concept and broadened the appeal, scaling it a bit by adding freshly prepared salads, shish kebab plates, Iskender kebabs, saffron rice, falafel and delicious baklava.
The Leucadia Farmers Market continued to expand and offer even more dining options. Susan Sbicca with her vegan gelato was a welcome addition and the line at Annel & Drew’s Kitchen got even longer with their best-I’ve-ever-had, new breakfast sandwich and other seasonal delights. Seriously folks, if you have not tried it yet, trust me, I would not steer you wrong.
After 17 years of providing great times and live music, Calypso Café closed their doors for good on Dec. 22. Calypso was one of those places I would always take guests from out of town for that quintessential California, Highway 101 coastal experiences. The sound of Jack Tempchin singing the classic “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” a song that he wrote for the Eagles, in the intimate environs of the Calypso Café, will forever be engrained in my memory.