Those of us lucky enough to live here in the North County San Diego area know we have it good when it comes to great weather, the beautiful Pacific ocean, and a vibrant and growing restaurant scene.
But the good views and good food don’t always go together. I’ll admit to a bit of pride when friends or family visit and I can take them someplace near the ocean for a meal, and watch them goggle at the views as I pretend it’s no big deal. But too often it’s the big chains or lackluster tourist traps that snap up the locations seaside and near touristy areas that out-of-towners might want to check out before or after. So finding a local spot with both good views and good food is a twofer worth seeking out.
In Oceanside, Stratford at the Harbor is such a place. It’s located, surprise, at Oceanside Harbor. This locally owned casual eatery is putting out some tasty homestyle fare for breakfast and lunch, both served all day. They are open Monday-Friday 8am-2pm and Saturday-Sunday 7am-3pm.
It’s located in the Harbor Village, right next to Helgren’s Sportfishing. Its large patio sports peaceful views of the boat slips and harbor and a bit of peoplewatching along the harbor walkway on busy days. A recent visit on a hot day was made quite comfortable by an enormous adjustable awning that spanned the whole patio and provided much appreciated shade. I can see this coming in handy during the rainy months as well. There are several tables inside the bright, bamboo-accented dining room also, but the patio is where everyone wants to be, rain or shine.
The food here is called “homestyle cuisine” on their website, but I’d call it more “California diner”. Think tri-tip eggs Benedict and mahi tacos rather than biscuits and gravy and tuna melts. Tasty but unpretentious, with a California feel. Local friendly but won’t frighten away your auntie from Topeka.
They have a good-sized breakfast menu with various egg dishes and scrambles, omelettes, and breakfast burritos. Of particular note are the aforementioned Tri Tip Eggs Benedict, made with house-marinated tri-tip beef and two perfectly poached eggs atop toasted English muffins with housemade hollandaise sauce. Another favorite was the “Scramblatta”, an egg scramble with enchilada style shredded chicken, corn tortilla strips, red onion, jack & cheddar cheese and topped with sour cream & green onions. There are no pictures of these dishes because I forgot my phone during that breakfast visit. Hey, it was early and I hadn’t had coffee yet. But trust me they were good.
On my most recent visit, I arrived just before lunchtime, aka “It’s brunch o’clock somewhere time” so I ordered a tangerine mimosa to keep me company while I perused the menu. Good call, me.
Given the seaside location I decided to start with a small cup of clam chowder just because it seemed like the thing to do. At first sip, the chowder seemed a bit bland and undersalted. But then… a stir or two revealed the secret stash of delicious bacon hiding in the bottom of the cup. A little more spoon work and it all came together as a satisfying cup of creamy goodness with just the right amount of salt and a decent amount of clam meat, accented by the crispy bacon bits. There is no photo of the chowder because as an amateur photographer, I could not figure out any way to make clam chowder look photogenic with just an iPhone.
A dab of house favorite “The Pepper Plant” brand hot sauce on the chowder and it really popped. Ask for this sauce if it isn’t already on your table. If you love it as much as I did you can find it at a single store in Oceanside that I’ll tell you if you ask in the comments.
The lunch menu offers a dozen or so interesting-sounding sandwich and salad varieties I plan to try on future visits. They also have the usual burgers and several fish and seafood dishes such as fish tacos, coconut shrimp, and Stone Pale Ale battered fish and chips.
By “chips” I mean the American definition. “Crisps” to you Brits out there. Delicious, scratch made potato chips. These chips are great. Well seasoned and perfectly cooked. Both crisp and tender at the same time, if that even makes sense. With these chips and the tortilla chips at Grubby’s, I’ve been on a lucky streak when it comes to salty snacky sides lately.
The fish and chips lunch came with three meaty strips of fried cod, a generous pile of chips (you can get fries instead if you want, but try these chips), tartar sauce, and a spicy ranch dipping sauce that went surprisingly well as a dip for both the chips and the fish. The fish was moist and the batter was flavorful. I thought it could have been a bit crisper in spots but it was a solid offering and got devoured entirely along with a heroic amount of the chips.
Stratford puts out good food with friendly service and tranquil ocean harbor views. Definitely a place worth taking the rellies for breakfast or lunch before a stroll around the harbor. Then go back another time on your own to try something else, sit on the patio and enjoy living on the Best Coast.
Stratford at the Harbor
280 S. Harbor Drive
Oceanside, CA 92054
GET THE CHIPS!
Article and pictures by Jason Gill