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Food & Drink

The best food & drink spots in North County



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Cinnamon Roll Bar at Sea & Smoke
Cinnamon Roll Bar at Sea & Smoke

Best Dessert-for-Brunch
Cinnamon Roll Bar at Sea & Smoke
Matt Gordon’s cinnamon rolls are delish au naturel, but are even better loaded up with toppings, sundae-style. A combo of toasted coconut, granola, whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate sauce is a particularly tasty way to go. 2690 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Best New Restaurant Where Parents Can Relax
Pizza Port in Bressi Ranch
The 37,000-square-foot brewery and canning facility is still fairly new and semi-under-the-radar, compared to Pizza Port’s other locations that draw huge crowds. Bonus: Your kids will love the saltwater fish in the repurposed fermenter tank, the video games, and the local chain’s first-ever ice cream room. 2730 Gateway Road, Carlsbad

Best Cocktail Alternative
Strawberry Margarita Gelati from Rita’s
Sweet and smooth Italian ice topped with a swirl of creamy frozen custard is what this East Coast import does best. We’re partial to the strawberry margarita and piña colada flavors, but mango is a good backup if the (virgin) cocktail-inspired ices are out of rotation. 3263 Camino de los Coches, Carlsbad

Market Del Mar
Market Del Mar

Best Revamp
Market Del Mar
A well-needed renovation gave a modern swanky vibe to the Del Mar favorite. The new wood-fired pizza oven cranks out perfect pies, like truffle Gouda with Chinese spinach. Chef Carl Schroeder’s innovative food constantly evolves while remaining excellent. 3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Betty’s Whole Pie Saloon
Betty’s Whole Pie Saloon

Best Pie Shop
Betty’s Whole Pie Saloon
We’re on board with anything Elizabeth Harris (of Elizabethan Desserts) does, but we’re extra pumped that her latest project is all about pie. The Old West-themed spot serves up a rotating list of sweet and savory options, but the standout—sour cherry with a buttery lattice crust—is almost always available. 155 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas

Best Permanent Pop-up
Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub
Located inside the back of Bull Taco, this seafood-centric restaurant dubs itself a “pop-in.” The locally sourced fish are often rare varieties—take the hagfish, for example, an eel-like creature with five hearts. This spot isn’t for the faint of—well, you get it. 1815 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Regal Seagull
Regal Seagull

Best Sausages and Suds
Regal Seagull
This casual hotspot is known for its gourmet sausages and vast craft beer selection. And just for kicks, the waitstaff gives your order a TV character name. One Homer Simpson, coming up! 996 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Best Monday Happy Hour
Culture Brewing Co.
From 3 p.m. to close on the first day of the workweek, this one-year-old, pooch-friendly microbrewery offers $1 off pints and 25 percent off growler fills. Popular pours include Black IPA, Imperial Stout, and the dunkelweizen. 111 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach

Culture Brewing Co.
Culture Brewing Co.

Best Hope for Diversity in a Strip Mall
Peri-Peri Restaurant
The South African menu centers around the namesake Peri-Peri sauce (it’s spicy spicy), and, in addition to regional wines includes dishes like boerewors (beef sausage), bobotie (a kind of shepherd’s pie with apricots and raisins), and prawns peri-peri. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), owner William Sussman grew up in South Africa before coming to San Diego and opening the Kalahari Café in the Gaslamp. Peri-Peri should do well, as a lot of South Africans (aka Saffas) inhabit nearby Carmel Valley and are already filling the just-opened restaurant. Cheers! 7845 Highland Village Place, Torrey Highlands

Best Casual Fine Dining
Avant
Even with a $2.5 million renovation, an $8,000 ice machine, and a location at the luxe Rancho Bernardo Inn, Avant manages to make a gourmet experience surprisingly affordable, thanks to a $39 early-bird prix-fixe menu. 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo

Avant
Avant

Best Chicken Tortilla Soup
Lourdes
This tiny hole-in-the-wall makes a beautiful soup with fresh avo and generous portions of chicken, cilantro, onion, rice, and more. Expect to wait in line. 2113 San Elijo Avenue, Cardiff

Best Napa Impersonation
Vesper Vineyards
Choosing reds and whites over hops and malts can be difficult in this city. Vesper persuades you with a newly minted tasting room for sampling its wines, made exclusively with SD grapes. 298 Enterprise Street, Escondido

Vesper Vineyards
Vesper Vineyards

Best Non-pub Pub Food
Priority Public House
This intimate gastropub may only be about as big as a minute but serves fantastic fare, interesting drinks, and draws an eclectic crowd. 576 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia

Best Hidden Filipino Bakery
Andell’s Bakery
Get to this baked goods shop as close to opening time as you can to hoard bags of fluffy Filipino bread rolls known as pan de sal; a container of hopia, creamy yellow bean pastries encased in a flaky crust; and a bag of doughy, purple yam-filled pan de ube. Baked fresh every morning. 9926 Carmel Mountain Road, Rancho Peñasquitos | Closed Mondays

Cucina Enoteca
Cucina Enoteca

Best Instagram Bait at a Restaurant
Cucina Enoteca
Tracy Borkum’s palatial restaurant-showroom continues to wow with its wildly popular farm-to-table menu, wine shop, and inventive décor (there are hanging plastic horses!). 2730 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Best Designer Latte
Salted Caramel Latte from Lofty Coffee
Single origin espresso, organic milk, house-made caramel, and a finishing sprinkle of fleur de sel make this buzz-worthy latte delicious to the last drop. Stay and sip yours from a mug on the cozy sidewalk patio, or get it to go and amble down to Moonlight State Beach. 90 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Salted Caramel Latte from Lofty Coffee
Salted Caramel Latte from Lofty Coffee

Best Hidden Sandwich Spot
The Yellow Deli
Head out for lunch at this peaceful, oak tree-shaded locale in the country and know that any lettuce or kale included in what you eat or drink is organic and sourced at nearby Morning Star Ranch. In fact, you can take a tour of the 60-acre farm if you want; visitors are welcome at the ranch, which is a five-minute drive away. 32011 Lilac Road, Valley Center Closed Saturdays

Best New Club to Join
The All Agave Project
Step into the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa’s Pony Room for an ongoing exploration of tequila. Yearly dues are $295. Membership includes tastings, seminars with master distillers, and tequila swag. 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe

the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa’s Pony Room
the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa’s Pony Room

Best French Press by the Cup
Sugar Coffee & Tea
It’s not new, but we still love this unassuming coffee shop for brewing each cup to order using gourmet beans that are freshly ground, adequately steeped, and expertly pressed. The cozy atmosphere, set in a former roadside motel, offers seating inside and out on the deck. Plus, there’s free Wi-Fi, and dogs are welcome. 466 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Best Place to Eat Like an East-Coaster
Lobster West
East-Coasters (and wannabes), rejoice! The Encinitas restaurant, which flies in fresh, sustainable Maine lobster daily, is the answer to your lobster roll prayers. 765 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Lobster West
Lobster West

Best Reason to Skip Beer
Solterra Winery
The Mediterranean eatery offers tapas plates and an extensive wine pairings menu with vinos fermented in-house at Solterra’s 3,400-square-foot winery. 934 North Coast Highway 101, 
Leucadia

Best New Distillery
Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits
One of the forefathers of San Diego’s brewing scene also makes award-winning spirits. Coming soon: A new line of taco shop-themed vodkas. Flavors include horchata, jamaica, pina, and habanero. 10051 Old Grove Road, Scripps Ranch

Solterra Winery
Solterra Winery

TOO SOON TO TELL

Hello Betty Fish House and Bar
There might be a new fish taco joint to add to the list. The two-story Oceanside eatery specializes in Baja and California beachside fare. 211 Mission Avenue, Oceanside

Green Dragon Tavern & Museum
The historic Boston tavern has opened a behemoth San Diego outpost measuring 22,000 square feet that also includes a museum, restaurant, coffee house, and meeting space. 6115 Paseo del Norte, Carlsbad

 

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