Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi ~ Carlsbad

The last time I was at Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi was back in 2014 a few weeks after they opened. I have been meaning to go back and explore the menu a little more but you know, stuff. So, when they reached out to me I jumped at the opportunity and grabbed my friend Chef Beau to tag along. It is always good to have a backup palate.

If you did not know, Blue Ocean is operated by the same group that owns Love Boat Sushi and their five locations around San Diego County. They opened Blue Ocean in 2014, offering an expanded menu and unique setting. More recently they opened Pokewan next door, serving poke bowls in a fast casual setting.

On a tangent, if you like poke, I would highly suggest Pokewan. In my opinion they are the best of the fast casual poke places around and benefit from being attached to Blue Ocean and their sushi bar. The quality of the seafood puts them above the competition. Hint, get your bowl with cucumber noodles instead of rice, it makes for an extremely light and refreshing treat.

OK, back to Blue Ocean…

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The interior was designed by Bells & Whistles who have also designed Starlight, Smoking Goat, and Bracero. I love the design, its modern without being sterile and has a very sexy vibe to it.

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The restaurant boasts a 20 seat sushi bar in addition to the dining area.

The menu is large enough to offer variety without being overwhelming. In addition to a great sushi menu, offering a nice selection of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, the menu also offers small plates, specialty dishes, and desserts. A robata menu starts at 4pm offering traditional Japanese charcoal grilled meat, seafood, and vegetable skewers.

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Bao Bao Buns ~ glazed pork belly, napa cabbage slaw, spicy mayo.

I love Bao and pork belly so this was a no brainer. Perfect, melt in your mouth pork wrapped inside soft fluffy bao. The thing that pulled it all together though was the slaw. It was not mayo heavy like a lot of slaws and provided the needed crunchy element and a nice hint of heat.

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5 Spice duck Tacos ~ Coconut scallion crepe, mint napa slaw, hoisin lime, fried ginger.

Another great dish. The use of a crepe instead of the overused fried won ton as the taco shell was great. The duck was tender and flavorful with the slaw making another appearance, though this time sporting a different flavor profile. To quote Beau “the kitchen knows what they are doing”.

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Screaming Yellow Tail ~ ponzu, crispy garlic, olive oil, cherry tomato, sweet onion.

Now things started to get serious. Lovely yellow tail in a very tasty and interesting sauce. It is one of those dishes that when you first taste it you get one thing, in this case sweetness from the ponzu, then as you eat it your palate starts picking up more and more depth. Beau actually broke out his phone and took notes. The consensus was the oil the garlic was cooked in was then poured over the dish slightly searing the fish adding smokiness and depth. This was recommended by our server and rightfully so.

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Albacore Delight ~ Albacore and krab mixed with miso sauce, cucumber, crunch powder
Topped With ~albacore, avocado, green onion (chili oil, ponzu).

This is my go-to roll. I am not usually a roll person, I like nigiri and sashimi, this is the exception. I always ordered it at Love Boat Sushi (which is where I discovered it). I will go so far as to say this is my favorite sushi roll ever and anywhere. I know, big statement and that includes the local big players as well as nationally. Note I said “roll”. The reason is it ticks all the boxes for me, it is light with a hint of sweetness and then you get heat (that is not overwhelming) from the chili oil. If you want more heat just dip the piece into a little more chili oil. Truly a joy to eat.

I was really glad I revisited Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi. I knew it was going to be good but it actually exceeded my expectations. They have a really good happy hour and the atmosphere really makes it a good choice for a date or night out.

 

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi

2958 Madison St., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #sushi #japanesefood #robata #carlsbad #northcounty #seafood #spicy

 

 

 

Bluewater Grill ~ Carlsbad

So, though this was only their first week officially open, I went down to Carlsbad Village and checked out Bluewater Grill. I was not too worried about them being so new ( I usually give restaurants a few weeks to settle in) due to the fact they have 6 other locations and were running test lunch services all last week.

Bluewater Grill is in its 20th year of business. Having started in Newport Beach, they now have locations from Catalina to Temecula. The Carlsbad location moves into the space previously occupied by the Fish House Vera Cruz.

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Dinning room. Psst. those people look a lot like the owners of the Flying Pig:) They loved their lunch as well and were quite surprised at the price for quality. Restaurant and food cost stuff which I love talking about. That is not irony, I’m a nerd.

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Bar area.

The renovation changes out the dark motif of the Vera Cruz for an open bright dinning and bar area.

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Like their predecessor, they also have a fish market element.

It is nice now we actually have some good fish market options back in North County again with Pelly’s, Top Choice Fish, and now Bluewater.

The menu is straight forward with appetizers, salads, a few specialty dishes and of course fresh fish.

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Seared Scallops ~ Jalapeno aioli, chopped bacon and cilantro.

Perfectly seared U-10 diver scallops using a classic flavor combo. These were so delicate and sweet.

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Swordfish Espana ~ Fingerling potatoes, pine nuts, and smoked paprika.

Since they own their own Swordfish boats and the season is drawing to a close I had to go with this. Swordfish is one of those fish that can be boring, not in this case. Seared so it had just the thinnest of crusts, light, and flaky. Really nice. If they have Swordfish on the menu I highly recommend ordering it.

If you are looking for great non-sushi, sustainable seafood in downtown Carlsbad, I highly recommend Bluewater Grill.

Bluewater Grill

417 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #seafood #swordfish #carlsbad #northcounty #fish

 

 

 

BattleMage Brewing Company ~ Vista

Here is the full report on our visit to BattleMage Brewing Company in Vista

All words and photography by : Justin Kunert

A little over 5 months ago, BattleMage Brewing Company entered the densely populated brewing scene of southern Vista, joining a long list of great breweries in the area (at least 10 breweries in a one-mile radius!).  Chris and I ventured into this region, which embodies what beer dreams are made of.  In a crowded field, BattleMage rises to the occasion by providing delicious beer, a solid array of styles, affordable prices, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.

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The display board of beer offerings

Amid the decorations and artwork, I drew my focus to the most important part – the beer.  To put it simply, BattleMage is making really tasty beer.  I elected to order five tasters of the eleven beers on tap: Summon Ifrit (Hoppy Amber, 6.1%), Hooded Assassin (Old Ale, 10%), Chaotic Evil (Hazy Extra Pale, 5.9%), Shroud of Mist (Hazy IPA, 6.9%), and The Beer is Dark and Full of Caffeine (Milk Stout, 6.3%).

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Our weapons of choice

All five of my samples were outstanding.  My personal favorite was the Shroud of Mist.  As the co-brewer, Chris, informed me, it is currently their most popular beer – and for good reason.  The tropical fruit aromas and refreshing taste makes it a worthy pint to satisfy anyone’s craze for hazy IPA’s.  Chris, the co-brewer, recommended we try his personal favorite – the Summon Ifrit.  With hoppy notes underlying a great balance of malt flavors, it is a beer that can be enjoyed by hop heads and malt lovers alike.

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Entryway decorations and artwork

The brewing quality, the diverse range of options, and the correlation to beer style makes BattleMage an excellent choice for satisfying that beer craving.  Pair this with an engaging, accommodating, and friendly host, Chris, the co-brewer, was eager to give us recommendations and describe the influence and style behind each of the beers, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

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Additional decorations and the seating area

Lastly, I really enjoyed the decorations and theme within the brewery.  While being unfamiliar with the rules or characters in games like Dungeons and Dragons, I found all of the decorations and artwork really well done.  The ambiance never felt over the top or tacky, but appropriate to create a fun drinking environment.  Whether you are part of the crowd playing Dungeons and Dragons on Tuesday nights or just enjoying a beer on a regular Thursday evening, the brewery and staff are very welcoming, making this new spot well worthy of a visit.

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St #102, Vista, CA 92081

#ipa #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #vista #dungeonsanddragons #magic #ale

Dija Mara ~ Oceanside

So, I do these posts called “coming soon reports”, I know creative title right? Anyway, probably the biggest interest, and most questions, I have received on one of these was regarding the renovation of the old Bessie’s place. People were clambering to know what was going in.

Once it was discovered it was an Indonesian restaurant called Dija Mara, people got really interested.  Their main response was they were excited for something other than another gourmet pizza place or burger joint. I was as well. What got me really excited was when I learned the Chef heading it up had worked in a number of Michelin stared restaurants, including Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.

Since I was not very familiar with Indonesian food, in this case Balinese, I could not wait to check the restaurant out.

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The new facade at 232 South Coast Highway.

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The interior has a simple comfortable feel. The art and murals are quirky without being silly.

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They turned the counter from the old diner into the bar area. Look, it is Chef Willy from 608. This is the second picture I took of him hence the annoyed look on his face. Chefs of his calibre coming in for their second visit this early in a restaurant’s operation is always a good sign.

The cuisine is interesting and delicious. Think Asian with a touch of Indian but do not think curries, think earthy spices.

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The menu is broken up into cold and hot small plates, large plates, and skewers. Prices are in line with the quality and calibre of execution. I had one hot small plate, one skewer, and one large plate plus a beverage and my bill was $45.

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Complimentary shrimp chips with sauces. The peanut sauce on the left is beautiful. Taking about twenty hours to make, it shows in-depth and flavor.

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Charred Eggplant ~ Smoked Tomato Sambal : Mayer Lemon Yogurt : Thai Basil : Fried Shallot

I wanted to try one vegetable dish and this one was a great choice. It had a nice heat from the sambal that worked in counter balance with the yogurt, the basil added freshness, and the fried shallot texture. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that is hard to get right. When you do it is great and this was great. This is a dish I would order on every visit.

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Sambal Octopus ~ Fried Shallot & Snake Bean Salad : Lemon Aoili

The octopus was perfectly tender and all the components worked together on this. The only thing for me was there was this slight bitterness I could not pin down. I would give the dish a second chance next time though.

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Beef Short Rib Randang ~ Sumatran Spice : Coconut Milk : Marigolds : Turmeric Root

Short ribs when done perfectly are melt in your mouth tender. These were exactly that, with the bonus of a crispy outer shell. This dish also comes with rice so is much larger than it looks.

Another thing I will say is the wait staff is probably the best I have seen for a new restaurant at any level. My waitress knew the menu, every dish, and not just the description of it but the flavor profile.

I highly suggest checking Dija Mara out. If you support different restaurants it will attract more variation.

Dija Mara

232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

#food #foodporn #oceanside #dijamara #indonesianfood #balinesefood

 

 

How to grow your restaurant business with video.

So, we have a great restaurant community up here in North County. Another thing we have, that may go over looked, is a great number of businesses that support that community. Whether it is Cyclops Farms providing great, local, organic produce to local eateries, or organizations like Mainstreet Oceanside and Visit Oceanside helping new restaurant owners build their networks and contacts. We are pretty lucky.

Another member of that community is “The King’s Touch Video” who specialize in video photography. I met the owners, Shawn and Roberta, over a year ago at a Mainstreet  promotions committee meeting. Not only was I struck by their experience and scope of work but also themselves as people. Since that time I have introduced them to a number of local restauranteurs and chefs, who they ended up doing video and photography for.

Because I am always doing one project or another, or just stuffing my face, I talk to these Chefs and owners over and over again and have heard nothing but high praise for the quality of work and customer service provided by Shawn and his wife .

The reason I am mentioning them here is because they want to focus more of their business on restaurants, chefs, and food as it is a passion of theirs.

Press play above to see their work. They also have a lot of food based examples on their website.

This is not a paid ad for their services. I just believe in their ability and think they are a great support business for the local restaurant community.

So, if you are in the market to expand coverage of your restaurant or bar through video, I would highly recommend their services.

The King’s Touch Video

#video #food #foodporn #business #northcounty #cyclopsfarms #mainstreetoceanside #visitoceanside #localbusiness

Halcyon, Stella Public House, plus bonus ~ San Marcos

So, I recently went to check out the new Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge and their sister establishment Stella Public House located in the new mixed use enclave that is called “Block C” North City in San Marcos.  North City is set to be, once finished, an urban living utopia or dystopia, depending on your point of view. My friend Beau said it best. “High rise upscale apartments with cacti and bicycles on the balconies and hipster coffee houses and restaurants on the street level.” Pretty dead on actually. Luckily I like hipster coffee places and restaurants, good ones anyway.

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Block C ( Why does that name conjure up images of Judge Dread and Mega City One for me?)

Halcyon, and Stella Public House, are part of a small chain with two locations in Texas. The new San Marcos location is actually a relocation of their East Village spot in San Diego.

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Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge

Open 7am till 2am Halcyon is a coffee bar during the day serving up breakfast items, salads, and sandwiches. At night it turns into a lounge with wine, beer and cocktail service.

It has a bright, laid back atmosphere with lots of large open roll up windows. The space flows across a couch filled lounge area into their sister establishment Stella Public house.

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Iced Tea and a daisy:)

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Stella Public House calls itself a “Farm to Pizza” establishment. I can see that. Its menu is designed around shared plates and wood fired pizzas. Plus, to be a Gastropub I think it’s law you must have a $14 burger, pork belly, and ceviche on the menu ( though technically I think you can sub the ceviche for poke and the burger for sliders.).  I do not recognize the farms they are sourcing from listed on their website but the food we had used top quality, fresh product. Plus, to be honest, I only know like six farms by name anyway.

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A beautiful open kitchen and bar area run along the North wall. Flowing and / or seamless would be good adjectives to describe the space.

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The large roll up windows / doors continue the indoor out-door theme from Halcyon. Justin ( beer contributor for NCF ) stuck with water, as due to being in soft opening mode they were not serving beer yet. They open officially 10/6. Justin lived, we went to a brewery right after this:)

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Burrata Plate ~ Burrata, prosciutto, and accompaniments.

Delicious, fresh burrata with great prosciutto. We both loved this. Easily enough for two as a starter.

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Texas Bee Sting Pizza ~ house mozzarella, serrano, sopressata, parmigiano, with local honey drizzle and cilantro.

I was not that hungry but still devoured 3 slices of the pizza. It had a nice balance of saltiness from the cheese playing off the right amount of sweetness from the honey and a little bit of spice from the serranos. A really nice pizza, I would order it again.

Also shout out to the staff for being friendly and dealing with the slight chaos that comes with a new establishment opening perfectly.

Halcyon & Stella Public House

250 North City Drive Suite #3 | San Marcos, CA

BattleMage Brewing….

As I mentioned in the title, a little bonus. After Eating at Stella we headed over to check out Battle Mage Brewing Company. Justin will do a full article on them and their beers, but I just wanted to mention them.

BattleMage started up about five months ago and is a fantasy themed brewery ( Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Game of Thrones ). Their beers have names like Goblin King, Chaotic Evil, and Hooded Assassin. They have D&D nights every Tuesday, Magic the Gathering Wednesdays, and board games available to play anytime. Basically, I love them:) Here are a few pics till Justin writes them up. Good beer in a variety of styles. I highly recommend checking them out.

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Wall of Magic The Gathering Cards.

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Beer list and kick ass mascot art work. Really good prices, flights of 4 tasters are $5, pints $5, and growlers $15. Yes, I bought a T-Shirt, wearing it right now:)

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St, Vista, CA

#food #foodporn #foodie #pizza #coffee #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #sanmarcos #northcounty #D&D #games #vista

 

 

 

 

Wings Mix ~ Vista

So, I had heard of a small restaurant in Vista that reportedly had some of the best hot wings around. It was tucked away in a dilapidated strip mall deep off South Santa Fe Ave., supposedly they also serve Mexican food and burgers. What did I find?

An odd little place that has great wings (or in my case chicken strips) and serves Mexican food and burgers.

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Wings Mix ~ 962 South Santa Fe Ave. Vista. The restaurant is located in the far East end of the strip mall.

menu

The menu covers all bases from breakfast to baby back ribs.

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Chicken Strips ~ Lemon Pepper and Original Hot (Buffalo)

This is what I came for, large tender chicken strips with a flavorful sauce. Both the sauces had a ton of flavor and a nice manageable heat level. I recently had strips at my go to place, Wings & Things, and Chicken Mix beat them hands down. These are not Gastropub mango jalapeno $12 for 6 “Chef” wings. These are fast casual, old school wings ( or strips ) in all their glory and damn tasty.

I can not speak to their whole menu but if you like wings, this is my recommendation.

Wings Mix

962 South Santa Fe Ave., Vista

#wings #chickenstrips #chicken #food #foodie #foodporn #spicyfood #vista #buffalowings

 

 

Dija Mara ~ Opening Soon & Menu Preview, Oceanside

Dija Mara is putting the final touches on their restaurant as they prepare to open their doors ( I don’t know the date yet ). They have put up their menu, which they are calling “Balinese Inspired”. Most people I have talked to are happy to have something other than another pizza or burger joint coming in.

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Dija Mara 232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside. The former Bessie’s location.

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The menu.

Looking forward to trying it.

#food #foodie #foodporn #oceanside #northcounty #balinesecuisine #restaurant #indonesianfood

Great Dishes ~ September ’17

Near the end of the month I usually compile a list of dishes that did not appear in regular posts but deserve recognition. Sometimes it’s just a dish from a lunch I grabbed or maybe a restaurant that has already been covered quite a bit on the site. So, here are the ones from September that I think are worth trying if you happen to find yourself out and about and a bit peckish.

( No particular order )

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The House Burger ~ O’side Sports Bar and Grill.

Always great. I would put it up there with the burger at Red Rooster. Served perfectly medium rare and comes with a side of crispy french fries for around $10.

O’side Sports Bar and Grill, Oceanside

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Smoked Salmon Roll ~ Yoshino Japanese Deli, Carlsbad.

I can not say how great Yoshino is for a quick, no frills sushi fix. Fresh sushi, made every morning by the Japanese family who owns the restaurant. They do sell out by 1pm most days, so go early. A truly great, little gem in the Carlsbad Village.

Yoshino Japanese Deli, Carlsbad

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Seasonal Vegetables ~ The Flying Pig, Vista.

This plate of farm fresh seasonal vegetables packed so much flavor. The vegetables that day were green beans with garlic, bacon, and micro greens topped with a brown butter sauce. The kind of food that leaves you wanting more.

The Flying Pig, Vista

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Pork Loin Sandwich ~ Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro.

One of Chef Marc’s weekly specials. Pork loin, cucumber, red onion, spinach, and stone ground mustard on a house made roll. Tender, flavorful pork and fresh bread are a hard combo to beat.

Petite Madeline Bakery and Bistro, Oceanside

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Summer Salad ~ The Privateer Coal Fired Pizza, Oceanside.

Dropped into the Privateer on a whim for lunch and had this amazing salad. Cyclops Farms cucumbers, mango, tomato, and greens with a spicy vinaigrette. It was a really clever play on a Thai green papaya salad as far as the flavor profile, with shaved and cut cucumber replacing the green papaya.

The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza, Oceanside

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Yaki-Udon ~ Huku Sushi & Robata, San Marcos.

I love Udon but have never had it prepared this way, I always get Udon soup. Udon noodles stir fried with chicken and lots of vegetables. I really enjoyed this, the noodles were perfect and still had bite. Also, great and attentive service, even though there was a Birthday Party with 15 people going on.

Huku Sushi & Robata, San Marcos

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Chicken Enchiladas & Carnitas Taco ~ Valerie’s Taco Shop, Vista.

A little Taco shop next to Starbucks on Emerald Dr. serving fresh, made to order, Mexican food and great salsas.

Valerie’s Taco Shop, Vista

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Hot Buffalo Chicken Strips ~ Wings-N-Things, Oceanside.

An admitted guilty pleasure of mine. Tender all white meat strips with a spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing. No bread sticks, no carrots or celery, just down to business. I really like the spiciness and flavor of their buffalo sauce, making them my go to for this dish.

Wings-N-Things, Oceanside

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Kimchi & Pulled Pork Monk’s Bowl ~ East Village Asian Diner, Encinitas.

I love Kimchi and I think East Village Diner makes some of the best in North County. The Monk’s Bowls, or Clay Pots, come in a variety of options from all vegetarian to beef. I went for the pulled pork with a fried egg with kale instead of rice, it made for a great, tasty and filling lunch.

East Village Asian Diner, Encinitas

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Ceviche on Avocado with Chips ~ Primo Market, Oceanside.

Bought a small container of their fresh ceviche, two avocados, and a bag of tortilla chips as a take home dinner. I like their ceviche, it has a nice ratio of fish to the tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Also it is not too acidic. Paired with fresh avocado and chips it made for nice light dinner.

Primo Market, Oceanside.

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Fish Ham ~ Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, Oceanside.

From the ever creative mind of Chef Davin Waite. Yellowtail, brined like ham and then smoked. The name is pretty spot on as to its taste. Think smoked fish crossed with ham.

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, Oceanside

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Big Mouth Burger Combo ~ Angelo’s Burgers, Oceanside.

Guilty pleasure for the month. A tasty double patty bacon burger with all the toppings and fries.

Angelo’s Burgers, Oceanside

Hope you had a great Month! Enjoy!

#food #foodporn #foodie #burger #lunch #dinner #oceanside #encinitas #carlsbad #san marcos #northcounty #seafood #mexicanfood #asianfood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Chefs Eat.

So, recently I was thinking about the places I frequently find myself eating when not going out to review a restaurant. My go to places I visit at least once a month. I decided to ask a few local Chefs the same question.

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Chef Willy Eick ~ 608 Restaurant.

” Wrench and Rodent of course, any chance I get, like all of us.”

“I also go to Punjabi Tandoor in Carlsbad with Chef Davin Waite, Chef Ramiro from Belching Beaver Tavern, and all our kids.”

What is your go to dish at Punjabi Tandoor? ” The usual, Chicken Tikka. My wife really likes their eggplant.

I also like Enzo’s BBQ for their ribs. They use U.S. Kobe beef ribs.” ….and of course any number of taco shops for late night grub.

Wrench and Rodent

PunJabi Tandoor

Enzo’s BBQ

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Chef Marc Santos ~ Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro

“Pollos Maria, obviously for their chicken.” “There is one near my house and their chicken is so tender and flavorful.”

“I love fish and chips, so Harbor Fish and Chips or Harbor Fish Cafe in Carlsbad.”

“I also love freshly made sausage, there is a little European deli in Escondido that makes wonderful blood sausage.” “It is called Continental Delicatessen.”

Pollos Maria

Harbor Fish and ChipsHarbor Fish Cafe

Continental Delicatessen

 

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Chef Davin Waite ~ Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub / The Whet Noodle

Davin also mentioned Punjabi Tandoor. “Its a good place to meet up with other Chefs and all our kids.” “It’s good honest food and the outside seating works great, Chef’s kids can be little Hellions.”

“The Miller’s Table, Stacy is great and they have a lot of Vegan options for my wife.”

The Miller’s Table

 

Figured I would mention a few places I regular find myself visiting when I am not “working” as well.

Primo Foods in Oceanside. I go here at least once a week, before or after my beach walks, for inexpensive and great tasting Mexican food. They have great weekly specials.

Pho Oceanside. My go to comfort meal. $8.99 for a large bowl of happiness.

Petite Madeline. I usually eat breakfast here about 5 times a month. I pretty much order whatever “Chef Specials” Marc has made up for the week.

About once every two months I give in and eat a Gyro from Angelo’s Burgers in Oceanside. I have to keep it on a longer cycle because they are huge and probably over 3000 calories. Plus I have to get extra sauce, I mean I am already committing.

Primo Foods

Pho Oceanside

Angelo’s Burgers

Petite Madeline

 

#food #foodie #northcounty #Oceanside #restaurant #guiltypleasure