BY BRET SCHANZENBACH
President & CEO
CARLSBAD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Being the “new guy” in town has been a ton of fun in 2019. One way that I decided I would acquaint myself with Carlsbad was through the many eateries in town. I have done countless meetings, meet-ups, and meet & greets at restaurants and coffee shops. So I decided early on that I would set a goal of visiting at least 50 different eateries in Carlsbad by the end of the year. It has been a little over nine months, and so far, I have visited 51 new eateries. With this issue of the Carlsbad Business Journal focusing on Shop, Dine, Indulge, I thought I’d share some of my experiences from these past nine months.
Disclaimer: The descriptions contained within may be a graphic portrayal of yummy food and drinks. Proceed at your own risk. Last disclaimer, 99% of my experiences so far are breakfast/lunch (sorry not much on the “dinner” side of menus).
My office is off Faraday Ave. in the business park, so my first foray was out to Bressi Ranch. Ted Owen loved Tommy V’s in Bressi, and I have had multiple opportunities to eat lunch there. The food, service and atmosphere are great. I have also enjoyed new eateries that have opened in Bressi Ranch just this year. I never knew spam could be so tasty until Island Ali’i BBQ opened three months ago (seriously tasty!). And hopefully you have had a chance to try Eureka! Great food, fun vibe, great service, and awesome array of beverages! Don’t miss their Cauliflower Bites. And the massive array of food you get for breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake House is stunning. Their Baked Apple Pancake might be the eighth wonder of the world (seriously!). WR Kitchen & Bar is brand new and very exciting. My staff and I all loved their Salmon Tacos, WR Tri Tip, and Baby Back Ribs!
La Costa is flush with a ton of great eateries. I have to start with Ignite Bistro. Their food and service are both great, but their Man Candy is flat out scary addictive (mouth is watering just typing this). Beach Plum Kitchen is one of my absolute favorite breakfast places I have tried throughout Carlsbad. Quiet, relaxed atmosphere with delicious menu. Their sister restaurant, Tinleaf Fresh Kitchen, might be my overall favorite lunch spot because I can create my own salad. I know that probably says more about my independent streak than it does about the restaurants in town, but being able to simply dictate my greens, proteins and toppings is absolutely perfect (and since you are reading my diary right now, it is all about me)! The owners of Beach Plum Kitchen and Tinleaf just recently opened a third La Costa restaurant, Black Rail Kitchen + Bar. I have had a chance to sample their food, but not experience a full meal yet, but I can’t wait. Love their new patio, and the food samples tasted great. Casa de Bandini, at the southern edge of La Costa, has a fun atmosphere, with great food and great people. And they have great accommodations for groups and parties (first-hand experience on the group experience).
The Village & Barrio
The Village has a plethora of phenomenal dining (I had to get the word “plethora” in somewhere). Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana on State St. is amazing. I am partial to their Insalata Mediterranea. Also on State Street is Barrel Republic. Beer enthusiasts are going to love this place! But I’m partial to their Ironman Salad with smoked salmon and avocado (doesn’t avocado make everything better?). Once you get off of State St., Bluewater Grill is a great seafood option in the Village. Their service is great, and their Mediterranean Ahi Salad is phenomenal. Gregorio’s Restaurant is another great Village option. Not only do they have a soup named after our venerable mayor (“Mayor Matt’s Chicken Soup” – it’s good, I’ve tried it), but their House Potato Chips are addicting and their Rosemary Chicken Salad is very good. Hennessey’s is another Village hot spot. I have been there for both breakfast and lunch and enjoyed both. I highly recommend their Ahi Street Tacos and their Hennessey’s Famous Fries (sweet potato fries with garlic and parmesan…yup!). You can’t truly experience the Village without hitting Señor Grubby’s! It is the essence of hometown ownership and atmosphere. Their Grubby’s Famous Street Tacos are a Carlsbad must! And what Señor Grubby’s is to the Village, Lola’s 7-Up Mexican Market & Deli is to the Barrio. Lola’s has been an institution in the Barrio for multiple generations. Their family-owned and operated market/restaurant has that special ingredient that is getting more difficult to find in today’s society: authenticity! As far as the food goes, I am a big fan of their breakfast burritos.
264 Fresco has convenient parking, a great atmosphere and amazing food. I am a big fan of their Beet Salad with chicken. The Daily News Cafe is my wife’s favorite Carlsbad breakfast spot. We love the patio dining, the atmosphere and the food. We both love their Omnipotent Omelettes, with The Californian being my top choice. Park 101 is a great place for groups, special occasions or a business lunch. Personally, I’m partial to their Beachy Cobb salad. I haven’t actually eaten inside Board & Brew yet, but we have had their catering at many events we do at the Chamber. I am huge fan of their Turkado on squaw bread (mouth-watering good!).
Premium Outlets Area
There are many fine dining options near the Carlsbad Premium Outlets. King’s Fish House is a delicious start to the fine dining near the Premium Outlets. I’m a big fan of their Southwest Salad with salmon! P.F. Chang’s is a next-door neighbor to King’s. They also have a great dining atmosphere. I highly recommend their Mandarin Crunch Salad with salmon! I had never seen such huge video monitors in a restaurant until I went to Draft Republic. Game day has got to be a huge hit there, and beer aficionados are going to love their motto, “In Beer We Trust”. For me, I was sold on their Southwest Cobb. It is my favorite cobb salad in town.
Palomar Airport Road
The Green Dragon Tavern and Museum is a stunning 22,000 sq. ft. replica of Boston’s original Green Dragon Tavern, where Sam Adams, Paul Revere and other founders met in secret and planned the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution. It is a museum, event space and restaurant. Their Roasted Baby Beet Salad and their New England Clam Chowder are both excellent. Across the street from the Green Dragon is Tip Top Meats/European Deli. Their motto that “It’s all about the meat” is much more than a tagline. Big John’s Breakfast is a meat lover’s dream with as much of their handmade sausages, bacon, etc. as you can handle. I have enjoyed the catering from Carlsbad Ranch Market several times. Their promotion as a “healthy” place stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner is more than lip service. Just today (Oct. 18) I enjoyed a lettuce wrap with smoked ham, sprouts, avocado and bacon (and luckily, enough to take home leftovers!). The Canyons restaurant at The Crossings has the most spectacular views in town. I have enjoyed both breakfast and lunch there and am partial to their Southwest Chop. The Landings at Carlsbad is another fun venue as it overlooks all the runway activity at Palomar Airport. Their Sesame Ahi Salad is delicious.
The Shoppes at Carlsbad
The Shoppes is now turning into a great dining location for regional locals. Dave & Buster’s Carlsbad is not only a place to have great fun, it is a place to enjoy great food. I have my appetite set on the Grilled Salmon & Baby Kale Caesar, so delicious. Yard House is another beer lover’s dream! With over 100 drafts on tap, they have all your interests covered. Their BBQ Chicken and Chicken Cobb salads are both great lunches.
We have so many 5-Star resorts in Carlsbad, it is almost unfair to the rest of the county (too bad though, get your own). They all have great eateries and I have had the chance to eat breakfast or lunch or both in most of them. You have to try 20|TWENTY Grill at The Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa. Their omelets are all good, but I am partial to their Homemade Steel Cut Oats. Bob’s Steak and Chop House at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is excellent. Their Chophouse Salad and Spinach Salad are both on the top of my list. The Park Hyatt Aviara’s Argyle Steakhouse is a must as well. I love their Cobb Salad. The Season’s Restaurant at the Four Season’s Residence Club Aviara has an amazing Aviara Cobb, and something you won’t find anywhere else: Broccomole (that’s not a typo). Don’t just settle for standard guac, you gotta try Broccomole.
Although desserts can be served at restaurants, I have only truly tried dessert at two places: Handel’s-Carlsbad and Gelatolove.
Handel’s in the Village opened this year and they claim to have the best ice cream in the world…good luck trying to prove them wrong! Their ice cream is made fresh daily onsite and it shows. My favorite is Peanut Butter, but I’m also happy with Praline Pecan, Key Lime Pie or Orange Dream (can’t be too picky!). Gelatolove (formerly Gaia Gelato) is divine. They claim to have every flavor under the sun, but my sights are firmly set on Salted Carmel! I have had more meet ups at Leap Coffee than any other venue in Carlsbad. And even though I don’t drink coffee, I love going there (my family is afraid of what I would be like on caffeine). First of all, I love their
atmosphere and staff. But I am a fan of their Iced Green Tea, Chai Tea and I even tried their Carlsbad Chronic (shot of espresso over sparkling ice water… scary, but fun!).
More to Go
Carlsbad’s dining culture is very rich. I am planning my next visits as I type. The new Windmill Food Court is on my list. I also want to try Toast Gastrobrunch, next to Draft Republic, and Crackheads and Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers in the Village. Whose up for some lunch?