When I venture out of The Coast News territory for a bit of restaurant exploring, my travels usually take me down toward San Diego. I thought it was time to head in the other direction for a change and head out to Fallbrook. I heard Chef Eric O’Connor, who I knew from several of my favorite restaurants in Encinitas some big-name places since then, was at the helm at 127 West Social House so I made plans to get out there.
That said, I had also not ventured out to Fallbrook since I attended the Avocado Festival a few years back. This quaint town is situated immediately east of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton. Back in the day it had a stagecoach stop for the stage that ran from Temecula to San Diego. Fallbrook is known for its avocado groves and claims the title “Avocado Capital of the World.” It is a beautiful area and also home to a burger joint I’ve been hearing rave reviews about called Nessy Burger that I will have to make another trip back for soon.
So back to O’Connor, who spent three years at the iconic Calypso Café during the height of its popularity. Calypso was one of my favorite local food and live music venues and O’Connor was part of the culinary team of pirates who I would really like to get in one place and record some of their stories. It was also the place where you could find Jack Tempchin gigging on a regular basis singing the songs he wrote for the Eagles. I miss Calypso!
O’Connor’s culinary road also included stops at When in Rome, Tastes and Calypso Fish House, also in Encinitas. He also had stints at Santa Luz Country Club, Prep Kitchen, The Black Stallion, Ballast Point, Analog, Barbarella, Knotty Barrel, 83 Degrees and another one of my favorites, Firefly Grill & Wine Bar. He was also the catering chef at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. So yes, his style was shaped by some of the better restaurants in the area. He joined 127 West Social House in January 2018 and it’s been somewhat of a homecoming for him as he was raised in Fallbrook.
A fire gutted the restaurant in 2016 but it has since been renovated and it’s a great looking space that has plenty of indoor seating, a nice bar and a very spacious outdoor deck which is where we sat to sample some of their fare and record a Lick the Plate on 100.7 KFMB show where I learned a bit more about O’Connor.
The helicopters from Camp Pendleton flew overhead as we began our sampling. We started with their simple, yet delicious version of the classic Wedge with baby iceberg, house made pesto buttermilk dressing, beer vinaigrette, bleu cheese crumbles, applewood bacon and heirloom tomatoes. I will take a wedge salad like this every day of the week. Another fine starter were the Fried Green Tomatoes with Alabama white sauce and a corn-pepper relish. I’ve not had some good fried green tomatoes in a long time, and these hit the spot. Entrées came next and my eyes lit up when I saw they had pork schnitzel on the menu. It’s one of my favorite dishes ever and chef O’Connor did it right coated with house breadcrumbs, cooked to a moist perfection and sitting on a bed of cheesy grits topped with a pickled house slaw. And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds, a perfect combination of flavors and textures. The burgers are spot on as well and we sampled the “Fallbrook” with Fallbrook avocado guacamole (of course), applewood bacon, pepper jack cheese, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato on a brioche bun. Stone fired pizza is also represented and we went with “The Brook” with arugula pesto, achiote marinated shrimp, mozzarella, fresh avocado and fresh cilantro. It was a different combination of flavors but it somehow all worked together.
There is a full bar with crafty cocktails, beer and wine and plenty more on this menu that highlights the culinary road of chef Eric O’Connor. 127 West Social House is worth the scenic road trip to Fallbrook for sure.
Find them at 127 West Elder Street, Fallbrook, or www.127-west.com
Coast News Lick the Plate columnist David Boylan is celebrating 10 years and 500 columns with the Coast News in 2019! His feature covers the ever expanding North County culinary scene that includes restaurants, culinary personalities, trends, observations, tributes and his popular takeover column where area businesses, bands or teams contribute to the column. Lick the Plate has also been a popular radio show for the past eight years in San Diego on 100.7 KFMB, and on stations in Detroit, Michigan, Windsor Ontario and Traverse City, Michigan. Besides the column and radio show, David runs Tatonka Digital & Analog, a boutique marketing agency headquartered in Oceanside, California. Reach him with show suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lick-the-plate.com