So, while 2016 did not see the growth explosion of new places opening that 2015 did, it did see some important restaurants open and trends take hold or fade.
While this post is too short to be all-inclusive, it hits on what I think was important to the North County food scene over the last year. You know things are good when you really have to edit your self. Other wise it would be “Things I love in North County, see entire website.”
I am going to start with some of the most important restaurant openings in North County (IMO).
Campfire ~ Carlsbad
Campfire is important for a number of reasons. One it is a great restaurant and would be right at home in the East Village, North Park or Little Italy’s Food scene. Two, along with Land and Water Company it adds a second ingredient driven, properly sourced, foodie destination restaurant to the mainly touristy, mediocre Carlsbad Village food scene. Lastly, along with Carruth Cellar’s tasting room and Babba Coffee, it is helping to revitalize the north end of state street.
608 ~ Oceanside
Opening in June of this year 608 brought upscale food in a comfortable setting to Oceanside, and at a price point that made it accessible. Chef Will Eick, in my opinion, is one of San Diego’s most talented young Chefs. He is bringing fine dinning techniques and ingredients and making them approachable. He also just introduced a seven course tasting menu option on the weekends offering the first non Omakase tasting menu option in Oceanside.
Belching Beaver Tavern and Grill ~ Vista
Like Campfire did in Carlsbad, Belching Beaver joined the Flying Pig and added another farm to table, high calibre restaurant to the growing Vista food scene. Combine that with a talented Chef who focuses on farming and teaching children about food, where it comes from and how to grow it, you can not help love the place. Their beer is alright too:)
It is constantly on my visit, when I can list.
There were quite a few trends in the national food scene that were also seen in North County.
Some have hit their peak…
Fast Casual Poki restaurants. The trend actually hit last year and made its way to San Diego and in turn North County in 2016. You have Wicked Poki, Sunshine Japanese Food, and Poke Poke in Oceanside, Poke Waii in San Marcos, and soon to be opening PokeWan in Carlsbad. I think from the ones I have been to, Poki Poki is the best. If you want higher caliber, chef made Hawaiian food and Poke, I suggest checking out Lanai in Leucadia or Yoshino Japanese Deli in Carlsbad for Poke and Japanese.
Some trends are just continuing to grow…
The Artisanal Coffee / Tea scene has continued to show no sign of stopping for years now. It has finally hit Carlsbad and Oceanside. I should not say finally hit, but grown. The major players that have shown up recently are Banana Dang!, Loose Leaf Tea, Sleeping Tiger, Revolution Roasters, Copa Vida and Steady State Roasting. Who join a number of great coffee houses already in the area. For the first time, in its four-year history, Caffeine Crawl has added two North County routes in Oceanside and Carlsbad that are set to kick off this years San Diego event in January.
Declining and rising…
I think the fast casual Gourmet Burger explosion of the last few years is dying down. Not that I think these places will go away, I just feel you will not see as much of a proliferation of places like Habit Burger, Burger Lounge, and Pure Burger as you have.
I think the pendulum is on the up swing for fast casual healthy options like Lemonade, Flower Child, True Food Kitchen, Tender Greens and the like.
Best Dishes of the Year…
This is hard, but because these spring to mind instantly, I have to go with them. Two are from San Diego but deserve mentioning.
Spicy Scallop Nigiri ~ Wrench and Rodent (Oceanside)
Made for me by Alex, this dish was perfect. Just a slight heat from the red Cyclops Farms jalapenos, and melt in your mouth scallops from Catalina Offshore.
Pan Seared Opah ~ Flying Pig . (Oceanside)
This was a nightly special, beautiful Opah ( one of my favorite, if not favorite, fish) on red farro and micro greens.
1 year Anniversary BBQ plate ~ Flying Pig (Vista)
Everything you could want (especially me) on a plate. Perfect Tr-Tip, Pork Loin, and Brisket, cooked over open flame and served with veggies and mash.
Coop De Ville Chicken Sandwich ~ Crack Shack (SD but soon coming to Encinitas)
Apply named Crack Shack, so good. One of the best fried chicken sandwiches ever.
Chicken Skin Sandwich ~ Biga (SD)
You think it would be heavy because the main ingredient is chicken skin, nope light and flavorful. I plan to return to Biga for dinner in the new year.
Char Grilled Oysters ~ Campfire (Carlsbad)
Great dish that reminds me of oyster festivals on the sound in Washington State. I get this every time.
Pork Belly ~ 608 (Oceanside)
I love me some pork and this is a perfect pork belly dish. It is smoked before curing (usually it is the other way around.) making it full of porky goodness.
Assorted Cookies ~ The Cravory (Carlsbad)
Their cookies will change your life, they changed mine. You can get them at their shop in Bressi Ranch, or in Oceanside at Banana Dang! Favorites are the Red Velvet or Birthday Cake.
Special places that I was so happy to discover this year...
Authentic and delicious Guatemalan food that can not be beat.
Family run, fixed daily menu, vegetarian, Indian restaurant that needs to be tried by all.
What I’m looking forward to next year….
Trying 608’s tasting menu, Flying Pig’s Brewery, That Boy Good / Alpine Brewing restaurant and brewery, LTH’s second concept , and much, much, more.
What you can look for from North County Food. A 3 to 4 chef “Dessert Dinner” at Petite Madeline for Oceanside Valentines Week. Another Chef Wine Dinner in March / April, and of course more restaurant highlights.
There you go a short recap of a great year food wise. Happy holidays to all and thanks for your support.