Lick the Plate: Going big at Senor Grubby’s

Lick the Plate: Going big at Senor Grubby’s
Senor Grubby’s co-owner Justin Juchura. Photo by David Boylan

My first experience with this place was as few years back after I had completed the Carlsbad 5000 in a fairly decent time if I remember correctly. What I remember more distinctly was the hunger that I built up on that very fast course. And really, as a serious eater, I will admit that I start thinking about the meal after races like that as soon as the training begins. It’s one of the few times in life that I feel I really deserve the feeding frenzy that builds up after such physical exertion.

I’m jealous of all the intense athletes in our area not so much for their beautiful bodies, but for their guilt-free eating that is made possible by such a lifestyle. This could also be applied to the late-night drinkers who build up similar appetites but that’s not really something to be envious of or aspire to.

My point here is that my friend who I ran the race with insisted that Senor Grubby’s was the place to hit up after for just this reason and I was not disappointed. I can’t recall exactly what our breakfast consisted of but it was immensely satisfying. Fast-forward a few years and Senor Grubby’s is more popular than ever.

I had a chance to get to know co-owner Justin Juchura recently when we recorded a Lick the Plate radio segment. Turns out he has Detroit roots as he spent the first nine years of his life there before his parents made the move to Carlsbad and he scored a prime summer job in high school at the Dairy Queen at the Oceanside Pier. 

As he mentioned, it was just a job at the time but something resonated about the restaurant world and that stayed with him until he opened his first Los Tacos in 2005 followed by Senor Grubby’s in 2008. According to Justin, Grubby’s was “started by a group of local guys looking to put a twist on the local Mexican fare. After many trips to Mexico and local Mexican and American breakfast spots, we noticed some missing elements that we wanted to highlight.”

That’s a pretty good way to put it, as there is definitely a mix of influences happening on the Grubby’s menu. Basically, it reflects a place where Justin and his buddies would want to hang out themselves and quell an after-surf or after-bar appetite. I should note that the kitchen is open until 11 p.m. most nights and 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. On top of that, they now have beer, wine and liquor and a crafty cocktail menu is coming soon.

In hindsight, I probably should have made my way around to some Carlsbad Village bars prior to my research meal as I ended up there at lunch midweek having to go back to work after. I did make the smart move of bringing my serious eater friend Brooks Venters along to ensure all would be eaten. And there was a lot to eat as we went from the Street Tacos (of which we sampled them all), to the Spicy Surf & Turf Burrito with their famous Shrimp Diablo and chopped sirloin and a basket of wings.

A word of warning on anything on the menu that has a red hot pepper next to it, they bring the heat on these dishes, big heat. It was to the point where I could not take it and Brooks was sweating profusely yet continued to power through. There are tortas, rice bowls, ceviche shrimp by the pound and some fabulous chicken wings that are smoked in-house. Most of the lunch and dinner menu is in the $8-$12 range except for some sides and the street tacos that are $2.25. There is a quality aspect to the ingredients that justify the slightly higher than taco joint prices and the portions are sizeable.

Breakfast is a whole other world at Grubby’s and is served from 7 to 11:30 a.m. with some items available all day. Scrambles and omelets, classics like chicken friend steak plus Mexican favorites like Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquites and of course breakfast burritos make up a big fat breakfast menu. Their slightly obnoxious “Stackers” allow you to do just that. You stack your choice of protein, carb and egg and if you plan accordingly, they will roll you out to your vehicle in a wheelbarrow. Kidding on that last part, but that one might have to wait until after my next Carlsbad 5000.

Grubby’s is a fun place that makes perfect sense in Carlsbad Village. Get that appetite built, however you see fit, and give it a try.

Find them at 377 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad or www.eatgrubbys.com 

Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com

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