Culinary Director Teri McIllwain sets the tone for dining options at Chandler’s restaurant on the grounds of Cape Rey Carlsbad. Courtesy photo
Carlsbad Community Community Lick the Plate

Lick the Plate: A foodie focused staycation at the fabulous Cape Rey Carlsbad  

I am a huge fan of staycations and for North County residents, The Cape Rey Carlsbad, which is a Hilton Resort, is about as good as it gets. First off the location is amazing.

Cape Rey sits on eight prime ocean view acres across the street from the South Carlsbad State Beach and the legendary Ponto surf break so bring your board and make it a surfing-staycation if that’s your thing.

The property is located atop the crest of a series of gently rolling berms and takes full advantage of its western exposure and sweeping ocean panorama.

The California Craftsman-style design is oriented to take advantage of breathtaking views at every vantage point.

I should also note that the hotel and resort walls are filled with works by acclaimed surf photographer Aaron Chang and Jon Prud’homme.

Each guest room also features photography by local artist Roy Kerckhoff.

I got the feeling at Cape Rey of being on a vacation in a luxury hotel/spa with a world-class restaurant…that was 15 minutes from my Encinitas home.

To be honest, I would be fine with my staycation at Cape Rey focused primarily around the food at Chandler’s under the direction of the super talented Culinary Director Teri McIllwain, but there is a lot more to do in between the fabulous meals so I’ll touch on those first.

The heated ocean view saltwater pool was a huge draw for me along with the Jacuzzi and cabanas that are poolside.

The fitness center is well-equipped and open 24 hours along with bike rentals, which would be my preference to get out and do some exploring on the coast.  Cape Rey offers beach picnics to go which is another fun option if you do decide to venture off the grounds.

But for me though the staycation was all about keeping it at the resort and that included the fabulous spa.

The spa experience is one I’ve dabbled in the past and I’m a big fan. Cape Rey features Ocean Crest Spa that I suggest be a part of the staycation experience.

The intimate 5,600 square-foot spa features seven private treatment rooms including a spacious couple’s suite with tub and private outdoor area for the perfect romantic retreat.

The spa also offers men and women’s locker areas and indoor/outdoor relaxation lounges. Guests can choose from an array of massages, facials, body treatments and facials. Check out the details at

OK, so there is plenty to keep you occupied at Cape Rey in between meals at Chandler’s so let’s get to that part of the staycation.

McIllwain is a welcome addition to the resort and oversees Chandler’s, banquets and in-room dining. First off, Chandler’s is a great looking restaurant with a fun bar and seating indoors and out.

McIllwain’s fresh, coastal style is evident throughout the menu and will have me coming back to eat on a regular basis in addition to my recent staycation. Her small plates are fabulous from the Lobster Nachos to the Capeside Poke to my favorite the Texas Quail Knots. I’d not come across quail knots before but they are really good.

Basically they are a semi-boneless quail with the wing removed and drumstick pulled through the boneless breast, skin on and boneless except for the drumstick.

McIllwain buttermilk brines them then serves with a cayenne honey glaze, bleu cheese crème fraiche and a celery and carrot slaw.  These will definitely be part of future happy hours…they are that good.

I should note that the Capeside Poke is as good as I’ve had with it’s sushi grade ahi, rainbow quinoa, tahai chili aioli, cucumber, marinated seaweed, lime and ponzu.

We sampled a number of dishes for dinner and every one was super fresh, flavorful and cooked to perfection.

I should note that I ordered the smoked natural salmon with bagel, cream cheese and capers along with fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast and was pretty much in heaven. Breakfast and lunch is also available at Chandler’s.

For locals not doing a staycation, I would definitely check out the happy hour specials at Chandler’s.

Thursdays feature is $1 oysters and they have some great happy hour drink specials. It draws a fun local crowd and features live entertainment during summer months.

Cape Rey does offer their Warm Winter Getaway Package as the hotel’s current staycation deal.

It is available through Feb. 28 and includes overnight accommodations, full breakfast for two and a $50 Resort credit toward spa or Chandler’s. Rates and full details at Cape Rey and Chandler’s are located at 1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad. Call (760) 602-0805 for more information.

David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at or (858) 395-6905.