As we put a wrap on 2017, it was another fun year to be licking the plate in North County San Diego. As usual, I tried to create a good mix tape of culinary stories with some new offerings to the area and old-school standbys that were either new to me or worth a revisit.
I’ll start with one of my favorite new discoveries even though it has been open a year now and my foodie friends gave me all kinds of grief for being late to the game on it. First is 608, in the center of the Oceanside restaurant resurgence on Mission Avenue just east of Coast Highway 101. Known for its adventurous, yet familiar approach to food, whatever you want to call it, 608 provided one of the best meals I’ve had all year. Executive Chef-Owner William Eick opened in 2016 and at 28 he has not only been labeled as one of San Diego’s rising culinary stars but also has established himself as an original, capable of breaking out of the copycat world of gastro-public house lookalike joints.
Frazier Farms in Oceanside is another one of those places that have been around for a while but was a recent discovery as a result of its proximity to my office in Oceanside. In my column I whined about the overkill of super high-end markets in my coastal Encinitas bubble and how they were gorgeous places full of very pretty people but not so conducive to one-stop weekly shopping on a budget. I was about ready to accept these extremes on either end of the grocery spectrum when I was turned on to Frazier Farms Market in Oceanside by co-worker Brooks Venters, who had made the Frazier deli a regular stop on his weekday lunch rounds. The deli offers up some of the best sandwiches I’ve had and while waiting on them to be made I discovered Frazier Farms could easily become my go-to weekly grocery stop. It’s mix of gourmet, high-quality goodness with an eclectic mix of shoppers and employees who reflect the diversity of Oceanside won me over.
The Lanai opened a Del Mar location and the intimate new space is perfect to complement their success in Leucadia and add some new features that make The Lanai even more appealing. It has a slice of an ocean view and lots of fun people watching with its location right on Camino Del Mar between 11th and 12th. The addition of beer, wine and sake makes the experience even more enjoyable. The very exciting news in the Del Mar location is the addition of sushi and more importantly, a top-notch sushi chef in charge of the program.
The newest venture from Wade and Kristi Hageman happened in 2017 called Open House and it’s located in the spacious former home of the popular El Callejon. They also own local favorites Blue Ribbon Pizza and Craftsman American Tavern and it should be noted that talented Executive Chef Marlaw Seraspi is on board at Open House and I’ve been back several times since my story ran as I’m a big fan of his.
Pollos Maria in Carlsbad was an old-school new discovery that made me really happy. As I said in the column, there are certain words that tend to be thrown around loosely and iconic can definitely fit into that category. That said, in the restaurant world, if you are still around and thriving after 30 years with folks lining up for your food, I will gladly attach that label. Maria makes chicken and she does it as good as anyone.
While I am on the topic of discovering places that have been around but are new to me I must include Koko Beach also in Carlsbad. Prime rib is king here and I went to town on it with friend Joe Manfredi. They are open seven days per week until midnight and the kitchen goes late too. The lounge is retro killer cool and the interior is not boasting of reclaimed anything. It is what it is and it rocks.
On the topic of columns that renewed my faith in humanity, Solutions Farms in Vista is part of an enterprise that provides work-related training and employment to parents re-entering the workforce. Their innovative aquaponics farm serves as a learning platform that provides real-world experience, and helps residents acquire and refine skills, ultimately leading to greater career success. It should be noted that this is a fully functioning farm that grows more than 100,000 pounds of organically certified high-quality, sustainable produce, mainly leafy greens, to Vista Unified School District and many local restaurants.
I’ve been eating at Rosanna’s Pasta in Encinitas for years and finally got around to singing their praises. If you have not been, I highly suggest it.
Besides having the best name for cookies ever, D’OH! has some tasty cookie dough that is starting to appear in stores all over San Diego. I found them at the Leucadia Farmers Market where they still set up shop every Sunday.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood opened an Encinitas location this year, which is a good thing as their ceviche is really good and a great value.
My bonus pick for 2017 has to be Trimble’s Pizza, the locally made frozen pizza found in your favorite bars around San Diego. Local Jennifer Cushing is behind this and it’s the best frozen pizza I’ve ever had.
Look for some recent openings in upcoming LTP columns as the restaurant scene in North County continues to boom.