OK, so I know I recently wrote extensively about fried chicken in my Crack Shack column but I should note that I recently came across a version by chef/owner William Eick at 608 in Oceanside that has cracked my top 3 list. It’s a bit more of a gourmet presentation but the basic concept is the same. When I heard it was a breast I almost passed, as I tend to prefer dark meat when going fried on my chicken but had to give it a shot. They brine it in a buttermilk overnight, which makes it moist and tender with a delicate crunch on the outside. It’s placed on cornbread with local honey, jalapeno, green onion and their own twist on potato salad and it’s delightful. More on the food later but I had to get that one out there.
I can’t really call the Oceanside restaurant scene resurgent any more as it’s become a dining destination — one that I find refreshing in its diversity and non-pretentious vibe, while still a bit rough around the edges. Give me a bit of grit over polished and gentrified any day. In the center of it all is 608, on Mission Avenue just east of Coast Highway 101. It’s a restaurant known for its adventurous, yet familiar approach to food. Eick, executive chef-owner, opened it in 2016 and at 28 can easily be labeled one of San Diego’s rising culinary stars.
Eick hails from San Jose and learned to cook for himself at a young age. What started as a necessity turned into a passion; Eick enrolled in culinary school to pursue a career in cooking, but found the costs prohibitive and the kitchen training that was becoming available to him a very suitable route. Smart move William! His calling was clear and he joined the popular Tomiko restaurant in Encinitas as a line cook in 2012. Over the next few years, he gained an extra layer of culinary aptitude working at Bistro West in Carlsbad (where he met his wife, Jessie) and George’s California Modern, where classical technique and responsible sourcing influenced Eick’s own standards. In May 2015, Eick became executive chef of Solana Beach’s Real Bar and Bistro, and was promoted to executive chef in June. After a year in the role, his culinary stars aligned quickly so to speak and an opportunity presented itself to open his own place and 608 came to be.
There are numerous influences in Eick’s style at 608 — Japanese and Italian come to mind for sure. But the beauty of this restaurant is that Eick is one of those really talented chefs who have a style all their own, so let’s call it 608 style. It’s a given that when you have a chef of this caliber at the helm, the menu is seasonal and local when possible.
His signature dish is being called the braised short rib, though in my opinion his menu is full of standouts. He marinates the rib in soy and rice wine, and then plates it with roasted carrots over a panang curry sauce. It’s another example of him taking a dish that can be found on just about every menu these days and making it his own with delightful results.
A dish that he described to me during our radio interview but I’ve yet to try is his 608 Burger. It just happens to be dry aged with fermented chili aioli, crispy onion, pickles and sharp cheddar. Who is using dry-aged beef for burgers these days? And yes, there is plenty of marbling in that blend. I will probably have been back to try this before this column goes to print.
Another cool 608 thing worth noting is the first Thursday of every month: $35 multi-course meal featuring chef’s whim — everything goes. Tasting Thursdays feature an experimental — and experiential — completely surprise four-course meal for $35 per person. Guests become the driving force behind the ever-rotating menu that highlights locally sourced ingredients and playful platings. Calling all foodies looking for something new and exciting … give this one a try for sure.
I will admit I was a bit hesitant going in thinking this was another gastro-public house kind of joint with all the standard offerings but 608 is nothing like that. I really liked this place and will be back to explore more.
Find it at 608 Mission in Oceanside or www.608oceanside.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