Crack Shack ~ Encinitas

The Crack Shack Encinitas, located at 407 Encinitas Blvd., is the second incarnation of the fast casual chicken restaurant by Michael Rosen and Richard Blais. Richard Blais is probably best known for his appearances on Top Chef as well as owning San Diego’s Juniper an Ivy.

The Encinitas location used to be Coco’s. With extensive remodeling I believe nothing remains of the former structure other than support beams and foundation.


Hard to miss a giant chicken.


The interior is one large open room with a large wrap around bar. They serve beer, wine, and liquor.

It is a fast casual order system. You order at a window outside near the entrance and food is then brought to your table.

They serve a number of sandwiches, fried chicken, salads, and a few odd ball items like Mexican poutine, deviled eggs, and matzo ball pasole.

When I first tried the Crack Shack at their little Italy location I declared it to be the best chicken sandwich I had ever had. While this time it was not that much of a life changing moment, it was still damn good.


G-Bird and Firebird

The G-Bird ~ Chicken breast, shishito pepper relish, swiss, romaine, tomato, whole wheat brioche.

This was my favorite of the two. Really fresh tasting. I think the shishito pepper relish added a lot of flavor. Chicken was moist and beautiful

Firebird ~ Spicy fried thigh, cool ranch, pickles, crispy onions, potato roll.

Not very spicy and the crispy fried onions became wet limp onions. Still tasty chicken and the pickles are a smart addition.

The sandwiches are not pretty ( don’t be sandwich hating) but are tasty.

So, the plan was to have a friend come with me so I could show you guys two sandwiches. She could not make it so I ordered two and figured I’d take half of each home. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Lots of walkies tomorrow.

If you have not been I would check them out. They get busy so best to go off hours. I went at 1:30 ish on a Thursday and it was slow. They open at 9am but serve full menu.

They are expanding, to Costa Mesa I believe. This is a money-maker, best of luck to them.

The Crack Shack

407 Encinitas Blvd. Encinitas

#food #foodporn #friedchicken #encinitas



Himalayan Kitchen ~ Encinitas (round 2 )

So, its hard for me to re-visit restaurants, especially so soon. I loved this place so much I headed back down with a Chef friend of mine to check them out again.

The place is Himalayan Kitchen at 1337 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas.

You can read my more detailed original post here.

This quick post is just to give you mine and my guests thoughts on the second visit.

First off, Momos were not ready yet ūüė¶

Himalayan kitchen (1 of 1)

L to R

Basmati Rice ~ perfectly cooked lightly seasoned rice as an accompaniment

Rato Bhale ra Bhanta ~ Diced eggplant and chicken cooked with exotic spices Nepalese style. This was the star dish. Rich depth of flavor and perfectly cooked eggplant and tender chicken.

Lamb Biryani ~ Lamb, basmati rice cooked in special herbs and spices. similar to the one I had the last time and just as good. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the rice perfect.

We also had Badami Naan which was delightful.

This is my new favorite spot. I will be here again and again. Chef concurred its delicious.

Himalayan Kitchen

1337 Encinitas Blvd Encinitas

Himalayan Kitchen ~ Encinitas

I was so excited when I came across this place. Great Himalayan food in North County…YAY! I was having to sneaking down to San Diego’s Himalayan Dinning Inn every month.

Himalayan cuisine encompasses food from the countries of India, Bangladesh, and my favorite Nepal. Though a lot of the ingredients are similar, the meats and spices will vary from country to country.

In India you see more curries and hotter spice levels. Nepali cuisine in general uses different spicing and is usually more mild.

That is why I love a restaurant like Himalayan Kitchen that can do these different variations on dishes and do them well.


Himalayan Kitchen 1337 Encinitas Blvd. Encinitas (sprouts shopping center corner of Encinitas and El Camino )

Before the food let me mention the staff, I was so impressed. Professional, cortiouse, and friendly. Two of the staff were new. First day I think? They handled a lunch rush better than I have seen trained wait staff.

The other thing is they were very informative. I am not the normal customer. I do research. I actually read the menu a few times online, looked stuff up, and like most cases know what I’m getting before I come in. The other customers on the hand, had generally no idea what anything was. The staff was great in walking them through it. The other thing I thought was great was a lot of the customers sayed ” we saw you and wanted to learn more about this kind of food”. That was great to hear.

On to food……………

I love Momo. “Its kind of like a Gyoza or Chinese steamed dumpling” or that is what people would have you believe…it’s not. Because of whats inside, the spices, plus a slight lightness to the dough it is a Momo, or as I call them little packets of love.


Vegetarian Momo ~ minced cabbage, spinach, cashews, nuts, paneer, onion, cilantro, green onion, and spices.

what does that filling look like?


That is what love looks like.

Seriously, so much flavor. Great mix of spices. Slight heat at the back. They also come in chicken and lamb. As much of a carnivore I am, I suggest going with the vegetable ones.

Momo is one of the most popular snack foods and is sold on almost every street corner in cities in Nepal. With good reason.


Himalayan Biryani ~ Vegetables, paneer, Tandori cooked lamb, Tandori cooked chicken, shrimp, Himalayan spices.

Loved this dish. The rice was perfect, every grain was separate, had seasoning, and the right tooth. All three proteins, perfect seasoning, and tenderness. This is a huge portion. You could easily order Momos ūüôā and two entrees for 3 people.

They have heat levels much like a Thai restaurant. Their heat levels are honest. I ordered an 8, they warned me and suggested a 7. The 7 had heat that built with the dish as you ate through it. I could have done an 8 and will next time, but be warned the first time round down 1.

There are, at least, over 60 versions of this dish in the Himalayas. Just depends where you are what spices and proteins will be involved. In the more northern reasons you will see nuts and raisins for example, like this version. While it reminded me of paellea, unlike that dish these ingredients are cooked separately and then assembled.

Quickly, on the menu are over 51 items as mains, many are vegetarian. Field day for vegetarians man. If you are gluten-free plenty of vegetables and they did find a man who was there while I was some crackers as well.

Also great lunch specials ~ two curries, rice, lentil, soup and bread $7.95 to $11.95 depending on what curries.

It is not an Indian restaurant, it is a Himalayan restaurant. You will find some familiar dishes but many new ones as well….and Momos.

Wheeew, lots to say but it’s because I loved this little place. I think this and El Chapin were my two favorite strip mall restaurant finds in the last 8 months or so. I already knew about Irinas’a so they do not count.

Strip mall restaurant is the political correct term for hole in the wall:)

Himalayan Kitchen

1337 Encinitas Blvd. Encinitas

(sprouts shopping center corner of Encinitas and El Camino )

#indian #himalayan #nepal #food #foodfinds.

Weekend BBQ @ Primos ~ Oceanside

So, I am a pretty big fan of Primo’s for their Mexican food and handmade salsas and guacamole. They have a great Tuesday taco special, street tacos are $0.69 apiece. In addition every Friday thru Sunday, they BBQ outside and sell meats by the pound or as sandwiches and plates.


Primo’s weekend BBQ ~ Primo Market 606 Morse St. Oceanside.


BBQ menu.

One of my favorite two-word combinations is “BBQ Tri-tip”, So, I headed down Saturday to grab some.


The BBQ is purchased inside the market to take home or eat on the outdoor seating.


Their selection of handmade salsas and guacamole. There is a sample station by the register with chips so you can gauge the heat levels. My favorite is the green serrano salsa, it packs quite a kick.


Tri-tip Plate ~ Tri-tip, rice, beans, guacamole, tortilla, and toppings.


Build your own mini burrito bite. I ate the rest of the tri-tip plain because it was so tasty and ate the rest of the tortilla with guacamole, rice, and beans.

This is a great weekend lunch for $8.99. The tri-tip is flavorful and juicy. I mean it is not “Flying Pig” good, but it is close.

Primo Market

606 Morse St, Oceanside

#BBQ #food #foodporn #oceanside

Senor Grubby’s ~ Carlsbad

So, a few posts back I visited ¬†The Taco Stand in Encinitas. I had written I thought it was a bit better than Grubby’s in Carlsbad. In order to be fair and due to the fact it had been a while since eating at Grubby’s I thought I would re-visit them in order to maintain journalistic integrity. Really, ¬†I was just in Carlsbad and craving tacos:).

Grubby's ext

Senior Grubby’s ~ 377 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

Grubby's int 1

They have expanded a bit since I was last in adding a patio bar area in the back.

Grubby's kitchen

large, open, and clean kitchen area.

They have expanded their menus as well. Both the drink and food menus sport a lot more options.

I went for a trio of Tacos. Two off their “Gastronomo” taco menu and one off their¬†“Traditional” menu.

Grubby's Tacos 1

(From the top clockwise.) Carnitas ~ Guacamole, onion, and cilantro.  Home Smoked Honey Jalapeno Pork Belly ~ Guacamole, cilantro, and onions.  Duck Chicharrones ~ Avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, Manchego cheese.

To start off the pork belly taco was insane. The pork had a great smokey flavor and not too much fat. Five content kittens rating…5 cats

The Duck Skin Chicharrones taco was great as well. Crispy flavorful fried duck skin with the perfect amount of toppings.

The Carnitas was a perfect example of what it was supposed to be.

Another thing I like about Grubby’s is their¬†salsa bar. They serve really good homemade salsas in a range of styles and heat levels. I used their Verde salsa ( medium heat) on the two pork tacos and the second hottest red salsa (forgot the name, pretty hot)) on the Chicharrones.

The street tacos at Grubby’s are true to street taco size and price $2.55 to $3. So, I went back for more since my first tacos were great.

Round 2 ( I did circuit training in the morning).

Grubby's Tacos 2

Grilled Fish Taco (L) and Shrimp Diablo Taco (R)

Both tacos came with their appointed proteins plus pico de gallo, cabbage slaw, and a chipotle cream sauce.

The shrimp taco was good but the fish in the fish taco lacked flavor and acid. Neither were in the class of the first round of tacos.

So, after a revisit, I would put Grubby’s in the same league as The Taco Stand, at least on what I experienced. Both places are different¬†though and the made to order fresh tortillas at The Taco Stand do add another element. Yet, the pork belly I had at Grubby’s was killer.

Coin toss.

Senor Grubby’s

377 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad


Birdseye Kitchen Lunch Report, Plus New Openings, and Coming Soon. ~ Encinitas

So, I was in Encinitas yesterday afternoon walking the 101, north of Encinitas Blvd. and decided to have lunch at Birdseye Kitchen after my first choice was closed (more on that later).

Birdseye Kitchen is a smallish cafe serving both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. So after my first place did not pan out I made my way inside for what turned out to be a nice lunch.

birds eye kitchen exterior

Birdseye Kitchen ~ 504 North Highway 101, Encinitas

birds eye kitchen int

It is nice there main front window rolls up to give the dining room plenty of light and fresh air, especially on a hot day like Friday.

birds eye pork cheek

Pork Collar ~ Pork collar and bang bang sauce.

A simple dish of tender yummy pork with a great sauce to go with it.

birds eye Green papaya salad

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

As good of an example of this dish as you can get. Light and full of Umami. I ordered an 8 on the spicy scale and it had a nice kick to it without overpowering the other flavors.

Birdseye Kitchen

504 North Coast Highway, Encinitas

As I was saying I had an original lunch destination. I had planned on hitting up a new Sushi and Bento box place that just opened called Ajito. It is the sister restaurant to one of the best Sushi places in all of San Diego, for traditional Sushi, Kaito in Encinitas. Unfortunately, the owner has taken some time off to spend with the family so they will not be back until August 22nd.

Ajito ext

The building on the left of Fully Loaded Juicery is the “blink and you will miss it” Ajito.

Ajito sign 2

Ajito sign

The only signs.

Culture Brewing

Making my way to downtown Encinitas it appears culture Brewing is set to expand to a third tap-room. There were a few small Culture Brewing signs, a permit application notice in the window, and a large fan blowing along the floor like it was drying sealant. The space is next to Vuori Yoga Clothing on Coast Highway, Encinitas in the 600 block.

Just a mural I liked.

frog mural.jpg

Have a great weekend.

Q’ero Peruvian & South American Kitchen ~ Encinitas

So, it has been a long time since I have gone to Q’ero, long before I started this site. I remember liking it, I remember it being a little pricey. Having adopted Panca¬†in Oceanside as my go to and comparison for great things concerning Peruvian food, I had no real motivation¬†to go back. Could it be good? Sure, and probably would be. Could it stand up to or surpass Panca? Not in my mind. It is kind of the way I am with Sushi and holding up Wrench and Rodent as all things to be compared to.

It was one of those days where I changed my lunch destination 6 times in my head and ended up at Q’ero. What I learned, though I should have already¬†known, is Peruvian cuisine differs as much as Italian cuisine does from region to region and from city to city. So, while Panca¬†and Q’ero both serve Peruvian¬†cuisine and even a version of some of the same dishes, they are different in tone, style, and flavor profile.

Q'ero exterior

Q’ero~ 564 South Coast Highway, Encinitas.

Q’ero boasts a very bright and colorful interior. I love orange.

Q'ero Interior 1

Q'ero Interior 2

Very vibrant and festive.


Q'ero Aji Sauce

As my meal started I was given a bottle of Aji sauce, I love this stuff, Q’ero’s version was a bit sweeter than the one served at Panca. Panca’s¬†version has more heat and a bit more citrus taste, which I prefer. Still,¬†good though.

Q'ero Chicken Empanada 1

Saltenas De Pollo ~ Chicken, sautéed onion, raisins, and spices.

Q'ero Chicken Empanada 2

Great version of an empanada, light flakey pastry, and rich filling.

For my main, I went with the fish of the day.

Q'ero Fish

Sudado De Pescado ~ Fish cooked in an Aji and Amarillo spiced fish broth, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and Chica De Jora (corn beer). Served with choice of rice or quinoa.

Perfectly cooked fish with crispy skin  in a lovely, flavorful broth. This was a flawless dish and would stand up in any 5-star restaurant in any major city.

So, going back to the first paragraph and answering the Panca question. They are both great, though I give Panca a slight edge due to my love of heat and Chef¬†Iolle’s¬†seafood.

I would highly recommend¬†checking out Q’ero though. Q’ero would lend itself more to a date or special occasion dinner atmosphere wise, but it is a bit¬†more pricey across the board.

The Encinitas restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday and Wednesday and lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday. They are closed Sunday and Monday. They have a sister restaurant Casa De Q’ero in Cardiff which is open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays starting at 4pm.

Q’ero Peruvian and South American Kitchen

564 South Coast Highway, Encinitas.


Sitaram ~ Encinitas

“Then there are those places”….Let me explain that phrase, I live a pretty blessed life when it comes to food. I get to eat a lot of great food, meet a lot of insanely talented people in the industry, go to and put on great events, and get somewhat paid for it. Truly¬†paid for it if you consider, the friendships I have developed, the experiences I have had, and the fact I get to spend most of my time surrounded by the things and people I am passionate about. Standing in the corner of a busy kitchen during a rush, taking pictures, watching, and listening is the only “Food Reality Show” I need.

I guess my point is, and linking back to the phrase at the beginning, that even with being immersed in all this, it is so exciting to go into a small family place and have your legs swept out from under you in amazement, and that is precisely what happened today at Sitaram in Encinitas.

I was originally intending to visit one of two other restaurants and changed my mind three times before remembering about the little Indian place on I street in Encinitas I had wanted to check out a while back. I had tried to have lunch there with Chef Willy from 608 but they were closed. I will list their hours at the end of the post as they are closed three days out of the week.

I am so glad my whim paid off by allowing me to discover, what I consider, the best Indian food I have had in San Diego.


Sitaram is a small, 38 seat restaurant located at 120 West I Street, Encinitas. It is next door to the Potato Shack, off the 101.

A few things about Sitaram. First, it is vegetarian. Second, there is no food menu. The menu is a set menu of three authentically prepared Indian dishes, served with Sona Masuri rice, and Papadum flat bread.  The meal is served in a Nepalese style Thali or round metal segmented plate.

They do have a drink menu featuring traditional Indian drinks and teas. I ordered the Mango Lassi .

mango lase

Mango Lassi ~ yogurt, water, and mango pulp. I also believe Cardamom.

Think smoothie minus the ice. I was also offered a sample of their limeade, nothing like the American version of limeade, fresh lime juice, mint and other ingredients. Bright and slightly tart.

My lunch…… I will list as many ingredients as I can, Curries made from scratch have a notoriously large amount of spices and the owner was rattling them off faster than my note taking could keep up.

Sataram food

From back to front.

1. Sweet Potatoes and Beets ~ Onion seed, brown mustard seed, Cardamum, fenugreek leaves, fennel seeds, and more.

2. Split Lentil Dal.

3. Forgot what it was called I was too busy eating. Onion, Tomato, cauliflower, black mustard seed, and again more spices. This was my favorite the cauliflower was to die¬†for. You know how you see cauliflower at every gastropub cooked various ways? This ¬† ¬†made every Cauliflower dish I have had laughable. The exception would be the ¬† ¬†Privateer’s, it still holds up pretty well against this.

Even with the complexity and number of ingredients, you could taste all of them. Everything was rich, spicy, with just the right amount of back heat. The best thing I could say is, I felt like I was in someone’s home and they cooked me a traditional Indian lunch like it would be served in¬†their homeland. The food is obviously prepared by someone who loves and understands the cuisine.

A few additional things.

First, if you like authentic Indian food, Sitaram is a must. This place is head and shoulders above the more Uk style Indian fast casual food places we have around serving Butter Chicken, Lamb Vindaloo, and the like.

Second, I read a few Yelp comments about small portions. BS, the portions are fine, especially with such rich food. My lunch was $15 and came to $20 with drink and tax. A deal for the quality of the food. This is the kind of place Chefs love to eat at , and I plan on dragging some here.

If not having a menu and trusting the Chef bothers you, suck it up. Do you want great food prepared by someone who understands and knows the cuisine? Then trust them.



120 West I Street, Encinitas

Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Open 11:30 to 8:30 Wednesday thru Friday, Saturday 5 to 8:30


Poki Poki ~ Oceanside

Ok, so this restaurant spells their name Poki Poki. The dish is traditionally spelled Poke, so I will bounce back between the two spellings.

Poke is a huge trend right now with at least 6 new restaurants focused on it opening in San Diego ¬†within the last 6 months. These restaurants range from the “build your own” style to more standard restaurant concepts.

Even though trending Poke has been around forever. The I Love Poke Fest, put on by Ono Yum, has been going for years and is one San Diego’s¬†most popular food events.

Poke ,if you are unfamiliar, is a Hawaiian raw fish salad. Think Sashimi over rice or salad. The more modern variations add various ingredients and sauces.

Poki Poki opened about 3 months ago in Oceanside at 3480 Marron Rd.. I found out about them through Chef Beau Bohnham. He mentioned all his kitchen staff were talking about the place. I also have a friend on Facebook who loves them, her wife has a lot of dietary restrictions and it is one of the few places they can both eat.

As soon as I got a chance I grabbed a Chef friend and headed out.


Poki Poki is a fast casual restaurant serving poke bowls. You start your order at one end, Choose the size of the bowl you want, and start adding ingredients.

Poki Poki int 1

Starting point ~  size, white rice, brown rice, and type of fish.

Poki Poki int line

Working our way down the line.

Poki Poki int 2

Poki Poki int sign

More interior pics ( I took them might as well use them)

Poki Poki bowl 1

My friends Poke bowl. I have no Idea what she got..on to mine.

Poki Poki bowl 2

Large Poke Bowl ~1/2 salad, 1/2 rice, Yellow Tail, Salmon, spicy sauce,spicy mayo, everything added but wasabi.

I really like the 1/2 and 1/2 combo as a base. Fish was fresh (and were there around 5pm).

I really liked it, fresh and not too heavy. I had so much food earlier and still ate this all. The 2 bowls and the drinks came to a little over $20, not bad at all.

For a nice change-up to other fast casual options, I liked them and will go again.

Poki Poki 

3480 Marron Rd., Oceanside

Pillbox Tavern and Grill ~Solana Beach

I came across Pillbox Tavern and Grill and Chef Shelly at this year’s North Eats food festival. I tried her pulled pork and decided, while a little out of normal covering range, I really wanted to check them out. I jumped on the Coaster and headed down to Solana Beach.

Pillbox exterior and chef

Chef Shelly outside Pillbox Tavern and Grill

Pillbox, named for the beach it is located near, ( is about half the size of 608 or LTH). the exterior is in the design of a victorian style house and boasts a very light and airy interior. I was there on a beautiful day and still felt connected to the outside.

Pillbox interior

Pillbox’s interior.

The menu is a tavern menu but with lots of options. Also, Chef Shelly’s cooking gives everything a twist and elevates it.

I was mentioning the pulled pork is what brought me down here but they also have 13 kinds of wings.The styles run from Lemon Pepper dry rub on the mild side to Fire Island on the extra hot side.

I love wings, so I ordered a basket of 10 wings and spit it with two sauces.

Pillbox wings

Habanero BBQ (L) and Gangnam (R)

Habanero BBQ ~ Habanera sauce combined  with their house made with the Chefs BBQ sauce.

Gangnam ~ Spicy Asian mustard BBQ sauce.

Both were really good. The Habanero BBQ wings were not as spicy as I thought they would be, but still very good. I really liked the Gangnam wings with the spicy mustard sauce.

Pillbox pulled pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich ~ Slow roasted pulled pork, Chef’s BBQ sauce topped¬†with coleslaw and an onion ring on a brioche bun.

This what I came for, the pork was moist and tender. The Chef’s BBQ sauce¬†is great, it is a little more on the sweet side just for your info. More similar¬†in style to Texas or Mississippi BBQ sauce.

Almost everything is made in-house. The service was spot on, they were full with a line waiting to come in while I was there and my glass was always refilled and food came out in a timely manner.

Another reason to check them out is you can go to one of the best-looking beaches in North County (IMO) a block and a half down the street.

Solana Beach_

Solana Beach  2

Solana Beach  3

Solana Beach  4

Pillbox Beach, Solana Beach

Pillbox Tavern and Grill

117 West Plaza Street

Solana Beach, CA