When I met Michael Brown a couple years back, Barrel Republic had just opened in Oceanside and I was surprised at how much thought he had put into the menu in the beer-focused project. During the course of our radio interview, it became clear that besides being a top-notch operations guy, his talents extended beyond that into the kitchen and his resume as a chef was impressive. He reached out recently to let me know about his latest venture, Jalisco Cantina, located conveniently right next door to Barrel Republic in Oceanside. A recent meal there started with fabulous cocktails, then included some of the best guacamole and pozole soup I’ve had along with some tasty seafood ceviche, and a number of other dishes including the Street Corn Elote Salad. I caught up with Michael after our meal to learn more about this new endeavor.
Lick the Plate: This is a new concept for the group that brought us the wildly popular Barrel Republic. How did this come to be?
Michael Brown: The Barrel Republic in Oceanside is within a building that has four units. We were looking to open something else food and beverage related in one of the units. After studying the market there seemed to be a niche in the tequila bar area and along with it came some Mexican-inspired and classic dishes.
LTP: Jalisco is a western Mexican state fringing the Pacific Ocean known for mariachi music and tequila. Tell me about that influence on your tequila selection and cuisine.
MB: We set out to carry about 30 tequilas and mescals; currently we are over 55 with many different styles, tastes and price points. A fun way to explore them is with one of our flights, either tequila or a mescal and tequila combo. And of course we have margaritas. The Jalisco region is home of Pozole, Birria and Jericalla (a crème brulee-like dessert). We offer all three as well as other Mexican-influenced dishes. The menu is evolving as we speak. Yes we have tacos — Orange Cumin Carnitas, Lemon Garlic Shrimp, Beef Birria, Chile Dusted Yellowtail, Cilantro Lime Chicken and adding next week Portobello, Butternut and Spinach Tacos. We offer ceviche, street corn “elote” salad and coming next week a Vegan Burrito, Butternut Chipotle Soup, Spicy Shrimp Guacamole and Mexican chocolate sampler for dessert.
LTP: You have Byron Gridack running your bar; tell me a bit about what he is offering. We had a very fun cocktail!
MB: Byron is aggressively adding to our tequila bar as well as pouring all classic cocktails. We currently have the Cilantro Smash and CaliFuego Margarita as well as 10 other margaritas. Other fun offerings include the Oceanside Refresh, Black Betty, Mole Negroni and Elote Frappe. He is offering weekly features, eight Mexican and craft beers, plus wine.
LTP: We sampled a lot from your kitchen and the guacamole, ceviche and pozole really stood out. How was the menu developed and what are some of your favorites?
MB: Fresh food is always a priority for me. I was looking for something different then the usual Mexican fair. That being said, we put a sunny side up egg on the Birria Stuffed Rellaon, we take the corn off the cob for the Elote Salad and our new Vegan Burrito is being prepared with cauliflower “rice.” The Spicy Shrimp Guacamole is just plain good! We make all of our guacamole to order (though not tableside). Honestly it’s a fun little menu and it will continue to grow and become more seasonal, like our Butternut Chipotle Bisque.
LTP: Jalisco is a very intimate environment, which is a refreshing change of pace from all the huge spaces that have opened lately. Describe the design and the aesthetic elements of the bar and restaurant.
MB: With room for 50 people the setting is intimate and includes tables, bar seats and some window seats. The decor is old world rustic, featuring hand-hammered copper bar top, vintage lighting, exposed brick and a comfortable vibe complimented by mostly Latin music and the sound of freshly shaken cocktails.
LTP: For first-timers, what would you suggest on the menu?
MB: Street Corn “Elote” Salad is a must, house made salsas and guacamole are always a crowd favorite along with the Spicy Shrimp Guacamole. Also, we are starting a reverse Happy Hour from 9 p.m. to close that we expect to be very popular.
Jalisco Cantina is located at 213 N. Coast Hwy. 101 in Oceanside. For more information call (760) 429-1679 or visit thejaliscocantina.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