I can’t say I’ve ever had an experience quite like the one I had when I walked into the funky little patio dining area at Haggo’s in the heart of Leucadia. It felt like I was transferred into a Wes Anderson movie, more specifically, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”
Maybe it was the snorkeling mask hanging under the order window, or the framed picture of The Royal Tenenbaums, or the cool soundtrack and eclectic furnishings. Whatever it was, it’s a good thing and combined with the food, worth a visit.
Haggo’s Organic Taco is one-of-a-kind and that’s what Leucadia is all about, right? No chains, just very creative proprietors of unique shops and restaurants that should be a regular part of your shopping and dining experience.
So back to the subject at hand: I will admit, the first thing I thought when I saw organic taco was, “do we really need another taco shop in Encinitas?” We have a plethora of them already and they all seem to have their menu items that set them apart.
Then I stepped through the magical front gate of Haggo’s and had that Wes Anderson experience and was like, OK, this is no ordinary taco shop. Yes, its organic, 95 percent organic, and they source locally which is a great differentiator for a taco joint, but that almost seems a given with new restaurant ventures these days. Kudos to that movement, but there is much more depth to Haggo’s than being an organic and local.
The proprietor, James Haggard, is a 15-year food and beverage veteran with the majority of that time spent at Rancho Valencia. He has resided in Encinitas for the past 20 years and definitely has a pulse on the local vibe, while having created one he can call his own.
Haggo’s itself is a mobile food facility entrenched at the end of a strip of eclectic businesses and right next door to local institution The Plant Lady. James wanted to make clear that this is not a mobile food truck though. They are staying put and that’s a good thing as they have created an environment that will become a destination.
The next thing I noticed was the professionalism of the team behind the counter. James and his team including sous chef April Cardenas are decked out in earthy yet stylish brown chef coats and the kitchen buzzes with a feel of confidence and at the same time they are very friendly and accessible.
Of course they are making everything to order so don’t go to Haggo’s in a rush. And really, the courtyard space is so inviting I really did not want to leave it. I should also mention they have a small organic garden in the courtyard that supplies a portion of their produce.
Haggo’s sources as much locally as possible including an arrangement with Coral Tree Farms in Encinitas — the same goes for their meat, poultry and fish. Speaking of meat, the Burgundy Burrito is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s made up of citrus soy marinated grass-fed beef, sautéed corn, poblano, onion, heirloom red cabbage slaw and fresh herbs. It’s served with a cumin-lime crema and rice and beans. I really love this burrito. It’s not cheap at $9.50 but it’s a full meal and really, given the quality of the ingredients and the portion, the price is right.
Another favorite is the Cousteau taco. Haggo’s combines sautéed local halibut with a nice little crisp to it into a red cabbage slaw, heirloom tomato and mango salsa cruda on corn tortillas with rice and beans. Wow. In fact, next time I go there with a friend, I’m going to strongly suggest we combine the Burgundy burrito and Cousteau taco and split them up for a little surf and turf action that would be amazing.
It’s $9.95 but take the quality and freshness into consideration. They do have other taco selections, including the Pollo, which is delicious and the veggie garden taco on the menu is under $8. I’ve tried the Local Pollo Quesadilla served on whole wheat tortilla with citrus soy marinated free-range chicken, sharp white cheddar and fresh herbs and loved the smoky flavor and hearty portion.
While Haggo’s will never take the place of my beloved Juanitas, it will compliment her and will definitely become a regular destination for me. I think there is room for both. Their menu is expanding soon along with their hours, which are now 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. They are at 1114 N. Coast Highway 101 and can be reached at (760) 753-6000.
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 email@example.com or www.lick-the-plate.com