Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery ~ Carlsbad

Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery has opened recently at 6118 Paseo Del Norte in Carlsbad. Located next to Tip Top Meats the Top Choice Fish shares the same owners as the famous butcher shop and German market.

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The interior is simple and clean as one would expect from a fish market. It is divided into two sides. The retail market and the eatery.

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The eatery.

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The fish case.

The quality of ingredients is apparent. Perfect flesh and also perfect butchery. All fish are provided by San Diego’s very own Catalina Offshore Products.

They also have a selection of whole fish. Every fish I saw head the clearest eyes.

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The one at the bottom of the middle row looks pissed.

In addition they carry shellfish as well as a freezer case of other items like fish heads.

Taking a note from the butchery next store Top Choice Fish offers consumers the opportunity to buy 8oz cuts of fish and have it cooked and paired with two sides for cost of purchase plus $5. This what I came here for.

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I selected a beautiful piece of Opah for my lunch.

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Opah, grilled medium rare with coleslaw, Spanish rice, and a small salad

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Perfect medium rare, as asked for.

They offer a number of cooking styles and bastes. You could have Salmon fried fish and chips if so desired. In addition a selection of seafood gumbos, and chowders are also able to be purchased.

The prices vary by choice of fish but my Opah plate came to about $15. I was happy with that. The quality of product and cooking would stand up to any restaurant kitchen worth their weight. The sides were a let down, not bad just OK. Because it is a market there is no sales tax on most items.

The fishmongers were on point but the staff, though nice, was still a little bit green. I noticed a few order mistakes, which were quickly and appropriately handled. All in all a great lunch.

There is now North County access to the same great seafood products used by San Diego’s best Chefs. Now just because you have a paint brush does not mean you are gonna be Picasso, but at least now you have a really good paint brush.

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I drew a Opah.

Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery

6118 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad

#food #seafood #foodporn # fishmarket #restaurant

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Gelato-Go Coming to Downtown Oceanside

Gelato-Go a small franchise chain with 6 locations in Florida is coming to downtown Oceanside. Their Florida locations have great reviews. Their Gelato runs $4 to $6 depending on size. They also serve coffee and pastries. The location is next to American Deluxe Barber Shop across from Barrel Republic on the 101 in Oceanside.

They are doing a full build out, not just putting in a fridge case and some shelves like the other short-lived gelato location.

Rumor has it Baked Bear is also looking for a spot downtown (Ice cream and cookies). So, summer should have plenty of options for cold treats.

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#gelato #icecream #sweets #food #foodporn

Rosati’s Pizza ~ Vista

So, a few weeks back when it was still raining, I had a craving for deep dish pizza. I did a lot of research and searching and the only place I could find was Rosati’s in Vista. Now I normally don’t cover chains, but I have occasionally in the past. Also funnily enough a friend texted me asking if I knew anywhere to find deep dish pizza on Sunday, so I steered her to Rosati’s. Figured I’d post about it.

Now , I have never been to Chicago, though I have on two occasions ordered frozen deep dish pizza delivered to me from famous Chicago pizzerias. One was Giodarno’s and I forget the other one. They were good but frozen, thawed, and reheated in a home oven takes its toll on the end product. I have had deep dish on a few occasions across the country but nothing super special.

Even with my lack of deep dish expertise, I have my palate and a lot of restaurants under my belt to, I feel, make a fair assessment. I liked Rosati’s.

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Rosati’s Pizza ~ They have 20 locations in Illinois alone, which I guess is a good indication.

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Rosati’s Deep Dish Pizza ~ Green pepper, mushroom, sausage.

The deep dish pizzas take about 45 min. Meaning they are made to order. You can call ahead even if eating in to get one started if you want to minimize the wait.

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Still a little molten at this time. Plenty of cheese, the vegetables had a nice crunch to them and I really liked the sauce. It was chunky and had a nice acidity from the tomatoes.

I did not eat the top part of the crust, it was a little dry. the bottom crust was just fine. Since I destroyed this whole thing by myself, I really did not miss not eating the extra crust. Luckily due to tons of cardio I have the metabolism of a ferret at the moment.

They also do thin crust but I could suggest plenty of places that do a world-class thin crust, I would go here for their deep dish options.

If you are aware of any North County places that do a good deep dish let me know, in the mean time Rosati’s does a fine job with their version. I know a couple in Downtown San Diego and may hit one up on my next trip down. Another go at Himalayan Dine Inn for Nepalese food is my priority right now though for San Diego.

Rosati’s Pizza

307 Vista Village Dr., Vista

Wicked Poke ~ oceanside

So, my older brother was down from Olympia Washington to handle some house selling matters for the estate. While here I kind of gave him a tour of the food scene in Oceanside and mentioned Poke and its recent proliferation in North County and San Diego.

Apparently the Poke wave has not crashed in Olympia yet, I’m sure Seattle has seen its share with their abundance of seafood.

So, I used the opportunity to check out a new place called Wicked Poke in Oceanside. Based on word of mouth and some research I was pretty sure of the quality and giving him a good experience. Plus I get a post out of it:)

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Wicked Poke ~ 2401 Vista Way E, Oceanside

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Located in the center next to the huge LA Fitness (used to be Mervyn’s), Wicked Poke is a fast casual, build your own, Poke concept. Similar to Poki Poki if you are familiar with them. There will be a rant at the end about Poke vs Poki and trolls.

You can get a regular or large bowl. The regular is $8.99 and comes with three scoops of protein, the large is $10.99 and includes 5 scoops. You pick a base of salad, white rice, brown rice, or a mix. Your protein choices include salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, scallop, octopus and tofu. Then you pick through a myriad of topping and sauce choices. I liked that there was no additional charge for crab (probably Krab) or avocado.

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Medium Poke Bowl ~ 2 scoops salmon, 1 scoop tuna, white rice, avocado, crab, ginger, seaweed, green onions, sesame seeds, masago, sesame oil, and house spicy sauce. You also get a free cup of Miso soup which is nice.

Everything was really good. The proteins were fresh and flavorful and I liked that the sesame and house sauce were not over powering. My brother liked his as well. He is a foodie (the one who got me into food actually) and understood the concept before going in. I’m sure a Poke place will make it into Olympia’s food offerings soon.

I would rank this slightly better than Poki Poki but it’s really “6 in 1 or half a dozen in the other” it’s so close. I would just put it down to what was ordered and personal preference.

If you love poke I would suggest Yoshino in Carlsbad (get there early they sellout and cash only) and The Lanai in Encinitas (more expensive but great ingredients and Chef driven, in the old Haggo’s taco spot).

Wicked Poke

2401 Vista Way E., Oceanside

Rant time: Poke, Poki, and Trolls……advert your eyes if so desired.

So, the spelling about poke vs poki is unclear. Poke is the original Hawaiian spelling meaning “to slice or cut” or “section”.  Poki is a little more hard to get a uniform answer on, some say it is poke with japanese ingredients, some say it is just an acceptable mis-spelling that upsets Hawaiians. It is also used as marketing, lets say you want to open up Poke Garden and it is already taken by another restaurant in another city or state, Poki Garden is born.

As for trolls, do not email me with trivial BS ” Poki? you obviously have not done any research.” Look asshat sometimes I do not mention things in detail because I do not think its pertinent to the post. Save us both time and instead of emailing me lay down on the train tracks and wait for the Sprinter…I can give you the schedule.

Funny thing is $100 says this kind of email, like the one “Your name Northcountyfood” is misleading or is this some kind of coastal elitism”, are most likely both from restaurant owners whose restaurant I have not covered, or I mentioned their competition not them.  lots of space out there in the blogoshere, start your own and try and keep up.

Constructive criticism is always welcome, lame comments not so much:) I was a semi pro video gamer for a number of years your not gonna rattle me by trolling,

Now go eat some Poke?, Poki? ….decunstructed sushi.

 

Bits and Bites ~ December / January

So, here are some meals I had over the last month and a half, that while don’t fit into a stand alone post, deserve mentioning. You may want to check them out if you want a solid bite to eat.

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Greek Chicken at Paul’s Place ~ Oceanside

Paul’s Place is owned by, I believe, the brother of the owner of Angelo’s. It is a fast casual restaurant serving a smaller but similar menu. The one thing I like is they serve a few more Greek items, like the Greek Chicken. Moist lemon chicken with rice pilaf and pita bread. A winner for lunch at under $10.

Paul’s Place ~ 3671 Mission Ave. Oceanside.

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Carnitas Plate Combo at Primo Foods ~ Oceanside

Perfectly moist carnitas, guacamole, rice, beans, flour or corn tortillas and a drink for $5.99 on Wednesdays. That can not be beat. Also check out their $0.69 Taco Tuesdays and BBQ on the weekends. They also have great homemade guacamole and salsas to go at the market. It’s a cornucopia of delicious options.

Primo Market ~ 606 Morse St. Oceanside

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Cornish Game Hen at Luna Grill ~ Carlsbad

So, first off , it was surprising to see Cornish Game Hen at a fast casual restaurant, more surprising how well they executed it. It had a nice char on the outside and was tender and moist inside. Served with Basmati rice, charred tomato, and a house salad.

If you find yourself at the, hugely under construction, Carlsbad Mall, Luna Grill is a solid fast casual choice.

Luna Grill ~ 2501 El Camino Real, Oceanside.

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Pepian at Aydee’s Garnacheria ~ Fallbrook

Aydee’s is a small cafe near downtown Fallbrook that does Mexican and Guatemalan dishes.

I wondered in for lunch and had a very solid version of Pepian (think Guatemalan Mole). While I wish the sauce had a little more depth it was still very satisfying. I also really liked the rice and beans. The rice was more of a Pilaf style and the beans were cooked rather than refried.

Aydee’s Garnacheria ~ 110 east Mission Rd. Fallbrook

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Wood Fired croissants at Biga ~ San Diego

I was given one of these while at the Hog Roast at Biga last week. I did not mention them in that report because they were not part of the event but still wanted to give them a shout out. I have a pretty high standard for croissants and these are right up there with the best, plus the wood fire cooking just pushes them into that very special place. Definintly grab one if your in downtown San Diego, even if you’re not eating at Biga (which i highly recommend you do).

Biga ~ 950 6th Ave. San Diego

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Pizza Of The Month “Spicy Spinach” at Pizza Port ~ Carlsbad

So last, and surprisingly my least favorite, pizza at pizza Pizza Port. Now, there was nothing wrong with this pie. The crust was good and I finished it, it just did not wow me. I have never been to Pizza Port and they are somewhat of an institution, so I was nearby and decided to try them. Maybe it was an expectation thing? I would much prefer The Privateer or Pizzamaniac for flavor. I know usually, I just won’t mention it but it did surprise me so I thought I would. I did not go in expecting Mozza, but was expecting more than I got.

Pizza Port ~ 571 Carlsbad Village Dr.

Ok, back to looking for a room to rent.

 

 

 

Rooster Ramen : The Return ~coming Spring / Summer

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“Here they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah, here come the rooster
You know he ain’t gonna die
No, no, no, you know he ain’t gonna die”    

Alice in Chains ~ Rooster

So, a little while ago I mentioned on northcountyfood’s Facebook page, which you should be following as well, that a great Ramen place is returning to North County.

That place is Rooster Ramen. The original, high quality pop up Ramen in North County. Do not be fooled by Johnny come latelys.

Now, I am happy to say Rooster Ramen is returning with a full-fledged brick and mortar restaurant.

Having eaten Chef David’s Ramen at the old incarnation of the restaurant, I am eagerly awaiting and trumpeting the return!

Here is what David has told me about his new restaurant

Opening late spring / early summer

Highway 101 in an undisclosed location.

Full 30 plus Sake list, plus Sochu cocktails and a complimenting beer list.

Over 9 traditional ramen dishes taken from different regions of Japan, as well as a number of specialty takes on the noodle dish.

The menu will also feature small plates and Yakatori grilled items prepared on a traditional Binchotan charcoal grill.

A revolving specials board will be available daily and feature items based off of what is fresh and in season. Luxury items such as Osetra Caviar, Monk Fish liver, and pork cheeks will also make an appearance.

Prices for Ramen will run $9 to $14 with build your own as well as vegan and vegetarian options available. Expect to see a good bowl of Pho make an appearance.

The restaurant’s digital ordering system will emulate the Ramen vending ticket machines in Japan. This will not only give customers full control of the ordering process but will also increase its speed.

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Example of a Ramen ticket machine.

The restaurant will have the feel of a Japanese farm-house with plenty of outdoor seating, a lengthy Ramen bar, and a semi open kitchen.

Hours will be 11 am till midnight weekdays and till 2 am Friday and Saturday with an early morning Sunday hangover brunch. This will make it North County’s only late night spot, sans a few Mexican places..

All the restaurants plates, bowls, and cups will be hand-made ceramic from Pawena Studios out of LA.

More news and info to come as things progress.

Perfect timing as this is The Year of The Rooster! My sign as well)

North County 2016 ~ A look back

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

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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

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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

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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.

Caffeine Crawl San Diego

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Char Grilled Oysters ~ Campfire (Carlsbad)

Great dish that reminds me of oyster festivals on the sound in Washington State. I get this every time.

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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.

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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...

El Chapin

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Authentic and delicious Guatemalan food that can not be beat.

Sitaram

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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.

 

 

Flower Child ~ Del Mar

So, I was trying to decide what to have for lunch and was really craving veggies. I decided to delve further south into the county than I normally do and hit up the newly opened Flower Child in Del Mar.

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Flower Child is owned by the Fox Restaurant Group. The group has over 15 concepts and 50 restaurants. Normally this would drop them off my radar but after eating the food and having a pretty lengthy discussion with one of their employees, while waiting for the bus to go catch the coaster, I have to say I was pretty impressed.

They have a good history of promoting from within the group. Their basic model is taking workers from a current location that are showing promise and fly them in and house them to open a new location in a higher position. These employees train and hire a new staff and with the next opening the new employees get the same opportunity within the new restaurant or at the current one as positions open from people transferring to the new location. Though I did not ask “How much?” the young women I talked to stated that they paid higher than if she was working downtown SD at a restaurant and the opportunity for advancement would be much slower. She had worked in the industry for a number of years and managed a cuban restaurant for quite a while, so she was not unfamiliar with working in the industry.

The company hired Chef Steven Molina (  (L’Auberge, Delicias, Kitchen 1540) to run and oversee the kitchen.

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Flower Child ~ Flower Hill 2690 Via De La Valle, Del Mar

The restaurant is located in the former Sea and Smoke location.

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The restaurant is counter service with food being delivered to your table. It boasts a nice open kitchen and food prep area.

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The restaurant itself (as was Sea and Smoke) is huge with dual level seating areas, each having a connected patio.

I did not take interior pics. It was crowded and this is Del Mar. You never know when some ex-hedge fund manager who faked his own death after embezzling millions is on the down low and will stab you with his Monte Blanc and grab your camera to protect his identity.

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I want one! They have a seasonal Iced Tea and Lemonade station (Gasp). I tried every one. the Grapefruit Lemonade and Hibiscus Green Tea were my favorites.

So, the menu consists of bowls, wraps, salads, vegetables and grains, humus, soups, and some breakfast items. All of which you can add a protein to for an extra charge. There are many vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten free choices.

I went with a three vegetable plate and added grass-fed steak.

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Quite a bit of food. The steak was perfectly cooked, well seasoned and flavorful. Next time I would skip paying the extra $6 and just go three veg.

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Three vegetable plate (from top clockwise)

Yuzu Brussels Sprouts ~ golden miso, toasted garlic, sprouted almond. (Vegetarian)

These were great, nice char but not overly bitter, as charring can sometimes do. They were also still nice and tender.

This was my favorite of the three dishes. So good, sweet and savory all in one.

Great as well, the eggplant was not soggy and the dish had a nice mild spiciness. It reminded me of Kung Pow eggplant.

So if you’re in the deep south that is Del Mar 🙂 and can’t afford Pamplemousse and want a large step up from Chipotle or Burger Lounge. (I actually like those two places as guilty pleasures). I would recommend checking out Flower Child. I would compare it to Lemonade, Tender Greens, or Tin Leaf kitchen as far as feel and food.

Flower Child

Flower Hill 2690 Via De La Valle, Del Mar

 

 

 

 

Chronic Tacos Coming to Downtown Oceanside.

Chronic Tacos will be moving in at 208 N. Coast Highway in downtown Oceanside. The spot is 2 doors north of Swami’s across from TBG BBQ.

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Chronic Tacos is a fresh, Mexican, fast casual concept that started in 2002 in Newport beach. They now have about 40 US locations and some in Canada.

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They are basically decent americanized Mexican food. While I would love a mom and pop place, it still fills a vacancy that has been that way for a while and exposes people to other local places in the area.

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Rumor is Grubby’s (Carlsbad) is looking to come to Oceanside as well.

Chronic Tacos

PizzaManiac ~ Vista

So, my friend Dinah recommended this place and since she has pretty good taste, I figured I would check it out. I am glad I did.

PizzaManiac is in a strip mall in Vista sandwiched between Taco Bar and a laundromat.

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PizzaManiac ~ 1461 North Santa Fe, Vista (corner of Santa Fe and Bobier)

The interior is simple and clean and houses a big ass pizza oven.

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The previously mentioned big ass pizza oven.

They have about 9 specialty pies or you can build your own. They also have a 2 slice and drink special for $7.00 which is a great deal especially for the quality of the pizza.

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My slice ~ Pesto, garlic, mozzarella, and feta.

Great toppings, real mozzarella, not greasy plastic cheese, and a delightfully light and crispy crust. The crust sold it for me.

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Buffalo Wings

Due to them not having a deep fryer, these are baked. Great wings, crispy on the outside and moist and tender chicken. It looks like they would need sauce (which they provide.) but I used very little. Because they are coated before baking the buffalo sauce seeps in, departing a lot of flavor.

They will start serving beer in the future.

 

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Ben Phillips ~ Proud owner and Vista native.

Ben is a great guy and a local business owner who is doing things right. Fresh ingredients, treated with care. the kind of business and individual this site is focused on supporting.

Trivia ~ he originally wanted to call his place “Passion Of The Crust”, which I love, he may still do T-shirts. If he does I will buy one:)

Next time you want pizza or wings give PizzaManiac a try, you will be glad you did.

Pizzamaniac.

1461 North Santa Fe, Vista