ENCINITAS — Don’t let the name fool you. Death By Tequila in Encinitas may sound intimidating, but the Highway 101 hotspot is going for a different type of vibe.
“I think it’s an eye catcher — Death By Tequila,” Angelo Sosa, chef-partner at the restaurant, explained about the name. “The death is the drink, and the resurrection is the food.”
The Baja-style restaurant has artisanal food and drinks inspired by the culinary scene in Baja California in Mexico. Founded by Encinitas residents Jessica and Chad Mestler, the theme arose from the couple’s trips to Baja with their kids. They loved the farm-to-table coastal cuisine, and wanted to create a unique version of this experience in North County.
“We’re for locals by locals,” Sosa said. “Chad and Jessica dine out a lot, and they just felt like this kind of concept would fit the niche — and more importantly feed the locals.”
And Death By Tequila — also known as “DxT” — delivers on this pledge. A North County artist or business crafted everything from the dishware to the signage to the art on the walls. Additionally, all of the ingredients in the food and the drinks come from local farms, which Sosa said is one of the restaurant’s top priorities.
“We focus on the farm … it’s all about our sourcing,” Sosa said. “Building those relationships and nurturing them — we really take it to heart.”
As for the tequila, the bar is stocked with a wide variety of boutique, small-batch bottles. Head bartender Alonzo Albarran said he loves when people start to appreciate a drink they may have previously written off after one bad experience.
“Obviously, if you drank 10 shots of tequila, you’re not going to like it the next day,” Albarran said. “I like to change people’s state of mind.”
Often adorned with locally sourced flowers, colorful salts and other garnish, the drinks’ aesthetic, Albarran said, gets customers excited to taste them.
“If you see something visually pretty, that’s a plus,” Albarran said. “You know you’re going to like it because it’s pretty.”
As more Baja-style restaurants pop up around the county, Sosa said it’s a trend that just makes sense, given San Diego’s proximity to Mexico.
“I don’t know why it took so long, but I think it’s like an inevitable transformation,” Sosa said. “We’re just so close.”
On the horizon for Death By Tequila is a new brunch, which has a soft debut on Sunday, Oct. 28. They’re also launching tequila flights and a more experimental menu, and are discussing a composting effort. Sosa said many of these moves are influenced by what the locals want to see.
“We’re listening to what the demand is, what the need is, so we can constantly evolve and weigh how we can be better,” Sosa said.
At the end of the day, the Death By Tequila staff wants to create a unique vibe that Sosa and the other owners felt was previously missing from the Encinitas downtown. They strive to foster a chic, hip atmosphere, while also designing an incredible culinary experience.
“If the music is a little pumping, and it’s a little bit more high energy — that’s what we want to do,” Sosa said. “We want to offer a humble experience with good food and good drink and we sincerely believe that.”