I have to be honest and say up front that I miss the days when this space was home to El Callejon and provided solid Mexican fare, a huge selection of tequila, and a lively scene that was more of an old school local hangout.
When Open House took over with an ambitious plan that included four concepts and an entirely different name for its daytime operations that left many, including myself, more confused than anything, I was skeptical but open to the idea.
Confusion aside, I loved the menu from chef Marlaw and just as I thought they were tightening things up and I had another local go-to place they were gone. I honestly think had they gone in with one concept in half the space it could have worked but that’s just my opinion and such is the nature of this fickle business.
So now we have the Patio on 101 opening its third San Diego location, giving the same large space a shot and they are already drawing large crowds. They are calling the concept “California Coastal Chic — bringing Encinitas a new gathering place with a welcoming family-friendly atmosphere that will serve American classic bites with a twist.”
It offers a kid’s area with “games to entertain the young ones and an outdoor lounge serving as the adult play area.” Pets are welcome and there is no arguing that it’s a great location and perfect for walking up from Moonlight Beach for lunch, dinner or drinks.
The Patio on 101 continues the Open House theme of offering two bars, one being “Himmelberg’s” which has a special significance and is named after Joey Himmelberg, the late friend of The Patio Group’s CEO Gina Champion-Cain. Restaurant-goers can enjoy the one-of-a-kind smooth citrus “Himmel Brew” unique to this bar and brewed by Mission Brewery.
The Patio on 101 also sources everything locally from circulating regional beers on tap to the art on the walls and pottery from local Encinitas artists. I’m not sure how much of that applies to the food but it’s nice to see local art filling the space.
Speaking of the food, the portion of the menu that stood out as far as value and inventiveness was called Bao Beach. One portion is made up of six different fillings in fluffy, steamed bao buns. For those unfamiliar, it’s a type of filled bun or bread-like dumpling in various Chinese cuisines.
There are many variations in fillings and preparations though it is usually steamed then they puff up nicely and cook to a wonderful fluffy finish. They are somewhat addictive and The Patio serves them after 3 p.m. and at $4 per bun, you can fill up on four or five of them. I should also note that all of them come with a pickled ingredient like cucumber, cabbage or shallots that add a nice tang to it.
You have a choice of Carnitas, Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Bulgogi (Korean marinated beef), Char Siu (Korean marinated beef), Shrimp, Pork Belly or Baked Tofu. There is also a “Beach Bites” portion of the Bao Beach menu and it’s another nice combo of value and fun items. Nothing above $10 and it includes Edamame, Salt & Pepper Chicken, Karaage, and Bulgogi with Street Fries that includes French fries, Korean marinated beef, kimchi, sriacha ketchup, mayo, green onion, cilantro and fried egg. At $9 it’s one of the better values on the menu and very in tune with its beach location.
For dinner that night we split the Smoked Lamb Cavatelli with sun gold tomato, fennel and Parmesan. It was a very hearty dish that would seem better suited to winter months than early July but it was suggested so we went for it. At $23 it filled two of us so I would put that in the value category. Entrée’s ranged from $18 to $39, which seemed a bit high especially the hamburger for $18 but then again, this is beach chic and well, I guess that commands higher prices.
I came back for lunch the next day as I had to see what that burger was all about. I was expecting a description that included some fancy blend or something to go with the price point but the description included house bacon, white cheddar, grilled onion, pickle, bibb lettuce, burger sauce on a brioche bun with fries. I split it with my friend and it was a very good burger but I’m thinking they may want to offer a variation on that for about half the price.
We started lunch with the fabulous Smoked Trout Rillette with horseradish crema, sea salt and malted brown toast. It was really good though I would ask for extra bread as it lasted about halfway through the jar and we wanted to finish every bit of this. I also ordered up the Steak Frites & Eggs with a 6-ounce Wagyu skirt steak and well, I was anticipating a more tender cut than what came out. It was a solid dish though and the brunch menu is extensive.
Salads, sandwiches, shared plates offer up standard crowd pleasers like Brussels sprouts, Parmesan Fries, Flatbreads, Ahi Poke Tacos and Octopus. Entrées also include Pork Ribs, Shrimp and Grits, Whole Fish of the Day and a Half Chicken with artichoke, raisin, couscous, meyer lemon, poached egg and vadouvan butter (I’m coming back for this as it sounds amazing!).
Neither dinner or lunch left us much room for dessert though the selection looks fabulous. From their signature Twisted Elvis to the Lemon Tart and Espresso Caramel Pie it all looks amazing. A fun twist on desert takes the shape of Liquid Desserts that includes Barolo Chinato, Chocolate Martini, Carajillo Con Leche and Don Fulano Imperial Muy Anejo year-year aged in French Oak.
There are plenty of mimosas and Bloody Marys to go with brunch and as I mentioned, there are two bustling bars and you can order food at both of them.
I’m thinking this group might pull this one off. Let’s hope so as it’s a great space in a fabulous location.
Find them at www.thepatioon101.com or 345 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas. (760) 209-1274.