The Best of North County 2017
From canyon to crest, strip mall to rock wall, we scouted the greatest, buzzworthiest things to do, see, sip, and taste north of the 56
Monthly Wine Dinner at Cyclops Farms
You may be tempted to skip lunch and dinner after the hearty steak ’n’ eggs, breakfast bacon mac ’n’ cheese, the decadent cinnamon roll pancakes, and the s’mores French toast. Whether you go sweet or savory, the generous portions at this expanding local chain ensure you’ll leave with a full stomach.
251 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, breakfastrepublic.com
The Crack Shack
The new Crack Shack features a sandbox and chalkboard wall for ample playtime. Order a custom kids meal for your favorite human nuggets, and engage in a game of bocce ball or cornhole on-site without having to fly the coop.
407 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas, crack-shack.com
Decoy Dockside Dining
Hugging the shoreline of Lake San Marcos, Decoy’s dining room and outdoor bar have prime views of the lake’s recreational boaters. The restaurant’s upscale hunting lodge decor is accented with roaring fireplaces for a cozy experience. When ordering, shoot for the game meats like bison, venison, and wild boar, or get hooked on the fresh seafood selections.
1025 La Bonita Drive, San Marcos, lakehousehotelandresort.com
This new Del Mar eatery crafts its fare with the food enlightenment philosophy “healthy food for a happy world.” The colorful, bright establishment has communal and patio dining, friendly walk-up service, and a fun menu overseen by Steven Molina, formerly of Kitchen 1540 and Delicias. We love the sweet corn and quinoa, crushed avocado toast with soft egg and black sesame seeds, yuzu Brussels sprouts, skinny Cobb, and healthy bowls, as do many other locals, proven by packed tables and a long but fast-moving line.
2690 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, iamaflowerchild.com
Bob’s Steak & Chop House
Although this steakhouse is known for its prime cuts of beef, Bob’s signature staple is the glazed California jumbo carrot served whole with every entrée. The carrot, which is poached and braised in a brown sugar orange glaze, is so popular diners ask for the recipe to replicate it at home.
2100 Costa Del Mar Road, Carlsbad, bobs-steakandchop.com/carlsbad
If you devour famous chefs’ memoirs and cooking shows, then you’ll savor the Kitchen Counter experience at the Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara, where you get a grill-side seat to watch the preparation of your five-course meal (the rotating menu includes octopus, duck breast, and a piña-colada-like tapioca dessert artfully arranged in a terrarium vase). Previously, only residence club members could score one of the six Kitchen Counter seats, but the restaurant opened to the public earlier this year.
7210 Blue Heron Place, Carlsbad, seasonsaviara.com
Seasonal Supper Club
Prepkitchen Del Mar
Chef Jordan Beall has launched a series of four-course pairing dinners. Imagine baby octopus salad with a riesling from Mosel, Germany; rabbit pot pie with fava beans, turnips, and buttermilk crust with an Anderson Valley pinot noir; prime rib au jus with an Y Rousseau Tannat from the Russian River Valley; and a decadent chocolate peanut butter cake with a Columbia Valley cab as a cap to a grand meal.
1201 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, prepkitchendelmar.com
Hello Betty Fish House
Post up on the outdoor patio and snack on Betty’s Biscuits, sharp cheddar nuggets with sea salt and agave butter, charred strawberry, and serrano jam; a Baja bagel and lox with jalapeño cream cheese; Piña Colada French Toast with coconut milk, pineapple chunks, icing, and toasted coconut; or their famous smoked grilled fish tacos. Plus: bottomless mimosas for $15. Helloooooo, Betty!
211 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, hellobettyoceanside.com
The Miller’s Table
This new O-side spot celebrates the simplicity of the communal table and farm fresh eats. Look for a “Today Menu” inspired by seasonal farm veggies, Prager Brothers artisanal breads, herbed popcorns, vegan soups, meat and cheese boards, deconstructed crostini sandwiches like short rib and charred radicchio or gooey Gouda grilled cheese with apples and sage, paired with well-curated beers and wines.
514 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, themillerstable.com
Two years after taking to Kickstarter to become the first certified organic, non-GMO farm in North County, first-generation farmer Luke Girling has grown Cyclops Farms into an integral community player, partnering with schools on young-grower programs where students grow and sell their own crops to local restaurants, supporting zero-waste initiatives, and figuring out ways to eliminate urban food deserts. Last summer, he launched a hyper-local outdoor dinner series with wine and beer pairings, inviting talent from chef-run restaurants like Wrench & Rodent, The Privateer, and Local Tap House to prepare intimate meals on-site.
1448 Avocado Road, Oceanside, cyclopsfarms.com
Petal to Plate
This month, the City of Carlsbad launches Petal to Plate, a 10-day celebration of flowers and food inspired by the nearby Flower Fields that extends to the area’s hotels and restaurants. The Park Hyatt Aviara Resort is serving a seared Baja striped bass with spring flower blossoms while Chandler’s Restaurant at Cape Rey, a Hilton Resort, will serve a mixed berry hibiscus sorbet. Bistro West Restaurant at West Inn & Suites will be offering a Field Of Dreams Martini made with strawberry vodka, elderflower liqueur, and pomegranate juice, topped with a rose sugar rim. Flower power!
April 20–30, visitcarlsbad.com
Moto Deli Sandwich Co.
With high-end ingredients—like hamachi, apricot mostarda, and pickled daikon—plus house-made potato chips and sandwich spreads, and starters such as shishito peppers and braised octopus, this is not your average deli. A liquor license is coming soon, so you can wash down your Cubano or Turketta with beer or wine; hours will also expand to include breakfast and dinner.
810 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, motodeli.com
Casual Night Out
The Privateer Marketplace & Wine Bar
After building a loyal following for four years, The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza opened a marketplace and wine bar next door last spring, bringing with it an incredible wine program and zero pretense—they even have stand-up comedy on Tuesdays. Come for the reasonably priced flights, stay for the house-made gelato and locally sourced charcuterie. Then come back for monthly meetings of the Oceanside Wine Society (born here) to sample vintages from Napa Valley to Valle de Guadalupe.
1704 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, privateer-marketplace.com
Butter & Crumbs
Self-taught baker Chloe Stoddard, who counts her Sicilian and Korean grandmothers as cooking muses alongside Julia Child, makes delectable sweets to order from her home kitchen in Oceanside. Stoddard’s most popular items since her June 2016 launch are the Twix cookie, a shortbread cookie topped with softened caramel and salted milk chocolate, and the Coconut Cupcake, a fluffy coconut cake topped with cream cheese icing and toasted coconut flakes. Order treats for a friend or keep them for yourself—no judgment here.
It may be a coffee shop, but Banana Dang is equally popular for its smoothies, all of which contain its namesake fruit. Still need your caffeine fix? Order a “dirty smoothie,” which includes a shot of espresso.
115 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, bananadang.com
Ice Cream Towers
Triple scoops run standard when you order a single flavor at this Handel’s franchise, one of four in the state and the only location in San Diego. More than 50 flavors grace the menu, which changes daily, and all ice creams are made in-store. Flavors in rotation this month include green tea, made with a matcha base, and blueberry cobbler, a vanilla-based ice cream with a blueberry-sauce ribbon and cookie wafers.
90 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, facebook.com/handelssd
Since its founding in 2002, Philz has been a Bay Area cult favorite (Mark Zuckerberg served its coffee at his wedding). After opening outposts in DC and LA, Philz brought its sustainably sourced, custom roasted and blended beans to the SD area, where customers sip on made-to-order pour-over brews, like the spring-perfect “Mint Mojito” iced coffee.
1060 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, philzcoffee.com
Coffee Bar in a Wine Bar
Sleeping Tiger Coffees
Can’t live without coffee and wine? This is your new spot for liquid courage. Just inside and to the left is the tasting room for Witch Creek Winery; to the right is Sleeping Tiger Coffees, opened by the winery last year. The coffee shop roasts its beans on-site and serves up single-origin pour-overs, cold brew on nitro, and house-made coffee syrups.
2906 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, witchcreekwinery.com
Sunset Mai Tais
Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge
The restaurant at Cape Rey Carlsbad serves up potent mai tais and live music at sunset, when guests can lounge by a fire pit and drink in the ocean views. It’s a tasty bit of paradise, complete with Jack Johnson–esque tunes, coastal cuisine, and a beachy vibe.
1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad, chandlerscarlsbad.com
Urban Wine Tasting
Carruth Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Room
The second in a trio of Carruth Cellars winery projects, this stylish tasting room features roll-up garage doors, cool barrel stacks, a long, elegant tasting bar, and noteworthy single-vineyard wines from grapes sourced in Northern and Central California.
2727 State Street, Carlsbad, carruthcellars.com
Carlsbad Gateway Center
CGC is Carlsbad’s first “makers, office, industrial, commercial mixed-use project.” Businesses are selling flowers, offering college planning, teaching Pilates, customizing frames, hosting beer tastings, and more—all under one roof. Go local, go small, go often.
5650 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, carlsbadgatewaycenter.com
Upscale Happy Hour
Masters Kitchen and Cocktail
New executive chef Josh Richardi (formerly of Rancho Valencia and La Valencia) is in the driver’s seat at Masters, a former 1930s car shop turned comfort food and cocktail haven. The wallet-friendly happy hour features $7 root beer barbecue ribs, carne adovada (chili-braised pork) tacos, or ahi poke, plus $6 classic cocktails by local barman Nick Herda, who whips up tasty old-fashioneds, Moscow mules, and a festive Luau daiquiri with white rum, house vanilla, and pressed lime and orange.
208 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, mastersoceanside.com
Rouleur Brewing Co.
Part of the Brewer Igniter project in Carlsbad, this new beer hub is helmed by engineer, beer judge, and 10-plus-year homebrewer Rawley Macias, who is known for his hybrid beer styles with unusual ingredients that bend the rules. He’s also an avid cyclist—hence all of the bike-inspired beer names: The Domestique (blonde ale), The Sprinteur (red ale), The Puncheur (pale ale), The Grimpeur (dark ale), The Clydesdale (IPA), and The Soloist (golden strong ale).
5840 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, rouleurbrewing.com
Tucked into the back of Urge Gastropub in a former bank vault, Oceanside’s newest speakeasy requires reservations, follows a dress code, and serves handcrafted Prohibition-style cocktails in a dimly lit room with vintage decor, a copper penny floor, and no-nonsense bartenders who take their spirits seriously. We suggest their pyrophilic potable, a rum bomb called the Boom Tiki Tiki with local Malahat rum, Appleton Reserve Jamaica rum, Apricot brandy, and fresh tropical juices—all of which is lit on fire and limited to two per person.
2002 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, 101proofoceanside.com
Tasting Room Del Mar
With a wine cellar that boasts more than 1,400 bottles, Tasting Room Del Mar’s vino selection includes several hard-to-find labels from small-production wineries. Join the monthly wine club to get a taste of their collection, 40 percent of which comes from California wineries.
1435 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, tastingroomdelmar.com
Yoga and Beer Combo
This new brewery, the brainchild of three La Costa Canyon graduates, just opened in a warehouse across from McClellan-Palomar Airport and already has a following for its Northeast-style pale ales, Imperial stouts, and Crippler Double IPA. Food trucks visit daily and yoga classes take place on two Sundays a month. Bonus points for friendly beertenders.
6530 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad, burgeonbeer.com
Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill
San Diego’s fastest-growing brewery keeps expanding its suds kingdom. The newly minted tavern is a revamped Vista bank with 70 beers on tap, a private wine room set in a bank vault, a dog-friendly beer garden with fire pits, and hearty dining—including Cubanos, sausage sandwiches, pot pies, flatbreads, and pork chops—to soak up those strong stouts and IPAs. There’s even beer in the dessert—order one of their famed Belching Beaver Beer Floats, like their Milk and Cookies, a milk stout with cookie dough ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie.
302 East Broadway, Vista, belchingbeaver.com
Wine Country Getaway
Milagro Farm Winery
Following a major renovation last fall, Milagro has debuted a chic new look plus a partnership with Whisknladle Hospitality (the team behind Prepkitchen, Catania, and the eponymous Whisknladle). The makeover includes a tasting room with classic board games and outdoor areas for the whole family—babies and fur babies included. They also host olive oil tastings and just introduced a food truck into the mix. With its setting on 110 bucolic acres in Ramona, the winery makes for a serene day trip less than an hour from downtown.
18750 Littlepage Road, Ramona, milagrowinery.com
At Campfire, the same techniques of cooking over an open flame are used when mixing drinks. Order off the “from the fire” section of their cocktail list for unique flavors like grilled purple sweet potato, charred parsnips, ember-grilled quince, roasted beets, and smoked apple.
2725 State Street, Carlsbad, thisiscampfire.com
New to Fairbanks is César, San Diego’s incarnation of the well-loved Berkeley restaurant. Owned by husband-wife duo Richard Mazzera and Terumi Shibata-Mazzera, this temple of tapas draws from Richard’s past at Chez Panisse, meaning farm-to-fork is the name of the game. Not to be missed is the paella for two, the rotating list of tapas, and the bar manager’s creative cocktails.
16089 San Dieguito Road, Rancho Santa Fe, cesartapas.com
Caffeinated Happy Hour
In the morning, there’s a menu typical of top-notch coffee houses, with everything from avocado toast to acai bowls (with North County favorites such as VG Donuts, Prager Brothers bread, and Pannikin coffee). But from 4 to 6 p.m., Baba takes it a step further with $1 off craft beers, including local favorites like Mason and Modern Times.
2727 State Street, Carlsbad, babacoffee.com
Golf Course Revival
Goat Hill Park
After more than a decade of public political battles and a brief closure, the first golf course in San Diego County reopened last year, rolling out major overhauls to its driving range, pro shop, bar and lounge, and irrigation system, plus a massive retrofit for reclaimed water. Under the leadership of golf legend (and Oceanside local) John Ashworth, who acquired the land in 2012 when its dirt fairways were good for little more than nostalgia, the public course’s ocean views, relaxed vibe, and welcoming attitude attract families and pros alike because it respects the neighborhood’s history, right down to its slogan: “World class. Working class.”
2323 Goat Hill Drive, Oceanside, goathillpark.com
Practice uppercuts and jabs with a pro at this Carlsbad facility, which has nine kickboxing stations available at your convenience with no set class times. Under the watchful eye of a trainer, 9Round’s 30-minute circuit renders your “lack of time” excuse null and void. And with new routines daily, this innovative boxing program is also ideal for those prone to fitness fatigue.
6994 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, 9round.com
Equinox La Costa Firestarter Class
This is not your granny’s step aerobics. The new Firestarter Class at the Carlsbad Equinox enlists a bench and your own body weight for a high-intensity interval training class that features brief but challenging pushes intermixed with strength training segments. It’ll light a fire under those who’ve hit that dreaded plateau.
7710 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, equinox.com
New Wellness Experiences
Spa at Fairmont Grand Del Mar
The resort’s Forbes Five-Star spa has launched its new Wellbeing Retreats, a four-part mindfulness series led by brain researcher Jim Cahill. Mind-body topics include dreaming yoga and lucid dreaming, the neuroscience of emotional balance, painless habit change, biofeedback and psychophysiology, and more. In conjunction, the spa’s new signature treatment—Fundamentals of Wellbeing—is a bespoke therapy based on an in-depth wellness consultation and may include various modalities like herbal reflexology, aroma rejuvenation, hydrotherapies, and connective tissue massage.
5300 Grand Del Mar Court, Carmel Valley, fairmont.com
Roll-up doors, a cedar-planked exterior, warehouse-high ceilings with night-sky lighting, and a floating yoga studio and loft overlooking hundreds of bouldering routes: Meet the stunning new Vital gym on South Coast Highway. The 24-hour facility far surpasses everything in the area in terms of size, aesthetic, and amenities, including shoe rentals, yoga classes (everything from vinyasa to acro), a kitchen and café, weight area, slack line, and—most importantly—community.
525 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, vitalclimbinggym.com
L’Auberge Del Mar
Los Angeles interior design maestro Barclay Butera has superbly reimagined the seaside hotel’s 121 rooms and suites with nature-inspired colors: ocean blues, sea-glass greens, and soft tan hues. Layered details include infused damask prints, patterned wall coverings, handsome stripe-style carpeting, oversized blue-green accent pillows, and custom bedding. Modern beach flair at its finest.
1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, laubergedelmar.com
Sea + Wander
Owner Maria Thornton brings her Manhattan style to Cardiff, with this new storefront that stocks women’s, kids’, and baby clothes in effortless styles, plus darling giftables. Thornton’s great taste and mix of East and West Coast brands make time management a little easier for busy moms on the go.
154 Aberdeen Drive, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, sea-and-wander.com
Expect a handwritten thank-you note if you give a gift from this surprising strip mall store that has NoCo moms buzzing. Choose from polished heart-shaped stones, goat milk skin-care products, soy wax candles in scents like jasmine bamboo, Billabong tops and sweaters, and more. Plus, there’s a treasure-filled kids’ section in back with mini aviator glasses, stuffed animals, art supplies, and whimsical hair accessories.
123 North El Camino Real, Encinitashellogiftboutique
This family-run skateboard company started in a Leucadia garage with brothers Josh (16) and Robby (20) learning woodworking from their uncle Don. Their artful handcrafted boards have surf-inspired shapes and natural color palettes via hand-cut wood veneers (no stains, no paint). Buy ’em at McGills, Hansen’s, and Concept Surf, or custom-design your board online.
South O Walkabout
Every second Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., businesses along South Coast Highway between The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza and Urge Gastropub stay open for locals to mingle during this free event. Stores offer samplings, treats, and promos, while restaurants and coffee shops dole out discounts and specials. Walkers can also enjoy live entertainment.
South Coast Highway between Whaley Street and Vista Way, South Oceanside, facebook.com/southowalkabout
For the latest in micro fashion, head to this posh new boutique in Flower Hill Promenade. It’s helmed by Andrea Van de Vort; her namesake women’s boutique is located in the same plaza. Look for hip brands like Mad about Mini and the locally designed Rylee and Cru. Your little mini will be the best-dressed kid on the block.
2710 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, shopminimarket.com
Ocean Crest Spa
The under-the-radar and unpretentious Cape Rey Carlsbad hotel is a hidden gem—a stone’s throw from the beach, with a full-service day spa to boot. Its Signature Ultimate Renewal Facial combines red-light therapy and microcurrent technology, which work wonders on fine lines, acne, and sun spots. At 80 minutes, it’s pure indulgence followed by fresh, dewy skin.
1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad, oceancrestspa.com
This all-natural skin care and cosmetics line started in South Korea and has now grown into an international brand with owners based in San Marcos. SMD’s products are backed by formulas that are 10 to 15 years ahead of the competition. Inhyunjin is the top-selling anti-aging line, but it’s the Saromae Quintessential Snail Serum Concentrate that SMD can’t keep in stock due to its ability to repair and brighten skin.
Pure Blowout and Color Bar
This friendly blowout bar, owned by local Jamie Deberry, is a bright and airy addition to The Lumberyard scene. Pure’s color bar adds a new twist, so patrons can touch up those pesky grays or try a new shade. The salon also offers memberships like “The Addict,” which includes four blowouts, one deep condition, and more for $120 per month.
1031 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, pureblowoutbar.com
This once members-only spa at the Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara is now open to the public. The new spa menu includes a French green clay and seaweed detox wrap that begins with a gentle body brushing before your body is coated in a clay mask and wrapped in warm towels for the mineral-rich formula to work its magic. To top if off, there’s a nap-inducing head and scalp massage.
7210 Blue Heron Place, Carlsbad, fourseasons.com/northsandiego
The Romantik Studio
When floral designers Rachael Ann Lunghi, owner of Lace and Likes and Siren Floral Co., and Kasia Mikulska, owner of Plenty of Petals, founded their new workspace, they knew they wanted to share it with others. They will be using the 1,600-square foot space for collaborative projects with other creatives and holding floral-related workshops.
5631 Palmer Way, Carlsbad, theromantikstudio.com
New Chapter for a Library
Last June, the La Costa–area library reopened after an $11.6-million remodel (which included its sister institution, the Georgina Cole Library). The result: an airy, contemporary look, upgraded technology, and improvements to the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium, which is home to concerts, film screenings, and author talks. A new café will open soon, with courtyard seating and the William D. Cannon Art Gallery.
1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad, carlsbadca.gov
Wild Ideas Worth Living
Journalist, adventurer, Surf Diva instructor, and Solana Beach resident Shelby Stanger interviews people who push the limits, like surfer and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton and Dean Karnazes, who quit his corporate job and became an ultramarathoner. Fresh and intriguing, Stanger’s podcasts empower listeners to shake the mundane and chase their own wild idea.
Boss Babes Brunch Club
A “non-networking network” that brings together female creatives, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen, the Leucadia-based Boss Babe Brunch Club launched last August under the guiding principle that “empowered women empower women.” And that’s exactly what cofounders Alisha Ochoa (North County) and Brandi Daniels (Los Angeles) do, through ticketed workshops and social events ranging from yoga and meditation to goal-setting seminars with Tony Robbins’s team.