The Best of North County 2018
Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
Viewpoint Brewing Co.
Food & Drink
Best Brewpub Fare
Given San Diego’s brewery boom, it’s hard to believe Del Mar didn’t have one under its belt. That changed when this 7,000-square-foot brewery, tasting room, and gastropub opened last summer, led by owner, chef, and homebrewer Charles Koll (grandson of the jeweler) and executive chef Gunnar Planter (both ex-Mille Fleurs). The setting is prime for adults and kids alike, with a view overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon and lawn games aplenty. They have nearly a dozen beers on tap, including smooth chocolate stouts and the tropical-tinged Moe.saic, that pair well with their salted vinegar fries and black bean burger.
2201 San Dieguito Drive, Del Mar
No plain turkey and Swiss on white here. The sandwiches at this Del Mar Highlands Town Center shop run the gamut, from the kurobuta pork belly bánh mì to the vegan Superfood Hemp Burger. They’re packed with ingredients like house-made pickled daikon and carrots, nitrate-free Creminelli salami, and Creekstone Farms steak, plus gluten-free bread options. A side of their curried couscous is a must, and there’s a kids’ menu for the wee ones.
12873 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley
If you’re struggling to find a babysitter for date night, try Landon’s Gourmet Kitchen. Not only will you dine on a gourmet farm-to-table meal like smoked salmon tartine or osso bucco, the restaurant also offers on-site daycare in a colorful playroom with toys and books. They’ll even feed your child so you don’t have to. That’s what we call service!
1020 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos
You could partake in a whole day’s worth of meals (and drinks!) without ever leaving this four-concept restaurant operated by Wade and Kristi Hageman, the couple behind Encinitas’ Blue Ribbon Pizzeria. During the day, The Crafty Egg serves up omelets, burgers, and flatbreads—many of them accompanied by their signature tater tots. In the evening, Open House Asian Kitchen takes over with a menu of poke, yakitori, and more; you can also get craft cocktails at Driftwood, or try the raw bar, ramen, and tequila at Saltwater.
345 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
A few blocks from their wildly popular brunch spot Cafe Topes, the Barille family recently opened another outpost dedicated to a.m. fare. The Goods is a bright, airy café on State Street that specializes in gourmet scratch donuts in flavors like chocolate ganache, strawberry cheesecake, and s’mores, with gluten-free and vegan varieties on select days. Pair them with a cup of Stumptown Coffee, and check out their mini retail area with Mast Brothers chocolate and greeting cards.
2965 State Street, Carlsbad
Last August, the San Diego–based restaurant unveiled a new drive-thru at their Encinitas location that combines plant-based nutrition with McDonald’s-style efficiency. Called a “free” drive-thru experience because the entire menu is cholesterol-, meat-, and dairy-free, Plant Power serves burgers, fries, shakes, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and desserts—all of which are, of course, plant-based. There’s also walk-up takeout service, as well as an outdoor patio.
411 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas
There are a lot of places that will deliver pizza to your house, but how about your beach towel? Napizza’s new location is just a few blocks from Moonlight Beach, and delivery is available within a 5-mile radius—roughly Leucadia to Cardiff, west of I-5. Just give the number of the closest lifeguard tower when you place your order, and your pie will arrive courtesy of a cute electric bike. (Note: If you’re planning a beach trip during the off-season, it’s recommended you call a day ahead to arrange delivery.)
615 South Highway 101, Encinitas
Vietnamese cuisine isn’t just brothy pho. For less than $6, you can feast on baguette sandwiches like the House Special Bánh Mì, stuffed with Vietnamese ham, pork roll, grilled pork, char siu pork, pâté, house special mayo, pickled carrots, daikon, jalapeño, fresh cucumber, and cilantro. Too much pork for you? Try the caramelized shrimp bánh mì or organic tofu bánh mì.
4160 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside
The latest in the Brothers Provisions arsenal aims to pick you up, whether by espresso drinks, breakfast plates, fresh-baked pastries (candied bacon scone, anyone?), refreshing pressed juices, or gelato. Sip on a Signature Cold made with nitro espresso cold brew, milk, and house-made syrup; or take Mason home to enjoy whenever you like via cold brew growler or a bag of roasted beans.
16471 Bernardo Center Drive, Rancho Bernardo
Want to eat healthy in a hurry? At this fast-casual Arizona import, you can order grain or salad bowls from the menu, or create your own with quinoa noodles and brown rice, house-made sauces, optional proteins such as steak and salmon, and add-ons from almonds to yams. Wash it all down with one of Grabbagreen’s many juices or smoothies.
1454 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas
This vegan hangout on Highway 101 has a devout following, and co-owner/chef Scott Steele helms a zero-waste kitchen where he makes a crispy gluten-free crust primarily from cauliflower with chickpea flour. Try the truffled mushroom pizza with butternut squash and coconut “bacon.”
575 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
Opened by Vista native Morgan Feirich, Milk serves the good-for-you gamut, from tonics and cold-pressed juices to green smoothie bowls, organic bagel sandwiches, and vegan gyros with coconut yogurt. Indulge in sweet treats like the nutty-without-nuts tahini chocolate cups or creamy avocado mousse.
210 East Broadway, Vista
This spot has a separate play area for children called “The Bear Den” that’s easily visible from the comforts of your table. Come for “Date Night” every Wednesday, drop the kids across the room, and enjoy a special $65 three-course menu for two, which includes a bottle of wine.
16480 Paseo Del Sur, Del Sur
This bright, modern Mexican eatery is big on tacos and on tequila, one of its namesake’s biggest exports. Tacos ranging from birria to portobello come in threes, and there are also tortas, salads, and more serious entrées. Beyond the lengthy list of cocktails, they also offer mezcal or tequila flights.
213 North Coast Highway, Oceanside
Plant-Based Pub Menu
Now there’s an option to skip the heavy, meat-centric meals often found on brewery menus in favor of Bagby Beer’s new vegan selections. See what all the buzz is about when you try the Impossible Burger, made with a plant-based patty, vegan cheese, and a whole-grain bun. Bagby’s Sriracha corn dogs, Italian sausage pizza, and grilled cheese sandwich all have crossover appeal for veg and non-veg diners alike. One perk of going meatless? You’ll save room for a pint of Back Garden Pale Ale.
601 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
After success in Leucadia, this casual, kid-friendly Hawaiian eatery opened a second location last summer in Del Mar. Menu staples like poke bowls, kalua pork sandwiches, and classic loco moco remain the same, but you’ll also be able to order wine and beer at the new outpost. Peep a distant view of the shoreline through their front windows as you sip a Hawaiian Sun or Kona beer.
1101 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
Cedros Avenue or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées? You’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference once you sample Madeleine’s French-influenced fare, which runs from crepes to charcuterie and cheese. Pastries include fruit tarts and macarons, and the boulangerie offers buttery croissants, chocolate twists, and chouquettes.
240 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
In Vista’s already growing brewery scene, this place makes a name for itself with nearly a dozen taps ranging from malt-forward options to crisp, citrusy saisons, plus food trucks, a play area for kids, and a dog-friendly atmosphere. Pick a board game or brush up on the history of beer with their informative mural.
2449 Cades Way, Vista
Best Ice Cream
There may not be 31 flavors, but the menu of ice creams here includes decadent bananas Foster, cayenne sea salt caramel, and mud pie, plus rotating selections that are vegan or dairy-free. No matter what scoop you select, all orders come with a free freshly baked cookie on the side.
937 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
Sure, this shop inside Del Sur Town Center serves 38 kinds of gelato and sorbet daily, rotating over 80 flavors throughout the year, all of which are made in-house. But we get the biggest feels (or shivers!) from their gelato cakes, Frost Bites gelato bonbons, and the Sorbettini: a frozen drink made with sparkling water and your choice of sorbet to be slurped through a color-changing straw.
16490 Paseo Del Sur, Del Sur
Restaurant with Games
This bi-level, 8,000-square-foot complex in the heart of Carlsbad Village has casual eats like sandwiches, juices, coffee, and ice cream, served with a side of games like cornhole and life-size Connect 4. On the upper Tamarack View Deck is a more low-key adult space with wines, beers on tap, and small plates around fire pits to keep you cozy.
3040 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad
There’s nothing low-key about Ryan Scott’s donut aesthetics and flavors. His catalog includes a luxe marbled white and dark chocolate glazed, a modernist two-toned matcha blueberry, and the playful Animal Cookie—a donut dotted with rainbow nonpareils and topped with a homemade animal cookie. There’s a vegan option with the Margarita, which features a lime-zest glaze tinged with Patrón Silver. His donuts are available at several locations, including Oceanside’s Buccaneer Cafe and Vista’s Milk Organics.
Grocery shopping isn’t a chore here. Pick up organic produce while getting cooking tips from local chefs, listening to live music, and interacting with artists and environmental speakers. Plus, feel good about being part of a monthly project where the goal is to not produce any trash. BYOB (bring your own bags), of course. Check the Coral Tree Farms Facebook page for spring farm stand dates; the farm is also open for community visits on Saturdays.
598 Park Lane, Encinitas
Come hungry—really hungry—for your burrito go-tos, like the Surfin’ California and Undefeated Seafood Taco, at Lucha Libre’s new NoCo digs. Spot the neon pink and gold luchador decor, salsa trophy flights, and Tijuana-style corn that made this Mexican eatery a San Diego staple. Don’t forget the cilantro cream sauce!
2525 El Camino Real, Carlsbad
Spirits Specialist Ted Gibson teaches these interactive cocktail classes, offering aspiring mixologists a chance to get behind the bar. Shake, stir, and sip poolside at the Rein Bar while nibbling on gourmet snacks and learning tricks of the trade, from frothing egg whites to muddling herbs. You’ll walk away knowing how to make a proper Vesper martini (James Bond–style), boulevardier, Negroni, and more. Look for classes this month and in July and November.
5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe
Chef Emmanuel Piqueras’s indoor-outdoor eatery serves up a menu inspired by the Chinese, Japanese, and Italian cultures that make up much of Peru’s cuisine and boasts the largest selection of pisco cocktails—Peru’s national drink of choice—in San Diego. Your happy hour consists of 50 percent off small plates, including chicken empanadas, fresh ceviche, and grilled octopus, plus $2 off wines and refreshing pisco sours.
5970 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad
Best New Restaurant
This restaurant and bar specializes in Balinese-inspired Cali cuisine crafted by Ryan Costanza, who moved here from San Francisco after working under lauded chef Dominique Crenn. Highlights include ceviche with kaffir lime under daikon radish, tender eggplant dressed in a smoky tomato sambal, and Costanza’s killer nasi goreng. Dija Mara (Balinese for “where have you been”) claims to have San Diego’s only completely natural wine list; or, try clever low-ABV cocktails like a paloma with grapefruit-infused agave wine and passion-fruit syrup. No reservations, first come first served, and worth the wait.
232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
Shopping and Beauty
It’s no surprise that a shop run by pro surfer Rob Machado and his wife, Sophie, oozes with a relaxed SoCal beach vibe. Inside the 1930s cottage are home pieces, jewelry, and clothing from a mix of indie labels, mainstream brands, and goods from Bali. But this is a place you’ll want to sit and stay awhile. There’s a stylish indoor seating area, plus an outdoor patio with a hammock and lush greenery. Even the checkout area—a converted kitchen with original green tiling—is worth ogling over. It’s beach chic at its best.
930 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
Every day is 72 degrees and sunny at this LA–based chain, where you can find stylish, beach-friendly pieces like gauzy embroidered tunic tops, silky caftans, kimono wraps, and intricately patterned scarves. There are also handbags and shoes to complete just the right look for lounging on the Amalfi Coast—or at least swanning around San Diego.
1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad
Solana Beach Antique Mall may have closed, but you can now get your vintage fix in Oceanside at this 12,000-square-foot emporium. Look for more than 100 vendors selling Native American jewelry, midcentury modern furniture, records, paintings, you name it. They also host charity bake sales, holiday events, and family photo sessions.
1555 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
This North County plant nursery known for advocating holistic practices and organic eating has expanded its lineup of DIY craft events. In addition to macramé workshops, this year’s series focuses on succulents, from a how-to on mounting and caring for staghorn ferns, to using cacti for art, headbands, teacup arrangements, and living frames.
1452 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas
Best Accessory Shop
After two decades of watchmaking, Nixon has finally opened its first retail location, at its Encinitas headquarters. Complete with a custom watch bar, where you can personalize your timepieces down to the model, case finish, bezel, and dial, the store also carries travel bags, backpacks, clothing, and other accessories. But the stunner of the space is the brand’s Rock LTD collection, consisting of limited-edition tickers banded by materials like leather jackets, pants, and guitar straps from some of the biggest names in music, including Steven Tyler. Rock on to that!
701 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
The indoor mall received a much-needed facelift in the new year and, with it, an influx of new tenants. H&M, Zara, Francesca’s, and Pandora are among the national retailers who’ve moved in. Local bath bomb brand Lux Products secured a storefront, and so did Solana Beach–born activewear line Gracedbygrit with a yearlong pop-up shop. There’s no shortage of new eats, either, as Lucha Libre Taco Shop, Grubby’s Poke + Fish Market, and Breakfast Republic all snagged a spot on the directory.
2525 El Camino Real, Carlsbad
Need a hostess gift, a coworker’s birthday present, or a token of thanks for Teacher Appreciation Week? You can find something for everyone at this cheery shop at The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch, thanks to its selection of whimsical mugs and glasses, candles, hand lotion, wall art, tote bags, and other fun gifts and accessories, with an emphasis on kitchen and home goods.
5980 Village Way, Carmel Valley
She’s a fiber artist who’s created pieces for Nixon watches, and he’s a graphic designer who has worked with Adidas, Nike, and Expedition One skateboards. Together, Erika and Pete Panciera launched Norden Goods’ line of earthy candles, minimalist dishware, and ceramic planters in Encinitas in 2014. The brand has exploded since then, with stockists everywhere from San Francisco to Brooklyn, and locally at Moniker General in Liberty Station. Most recently they partnered with cool-kid fashion magazine Baccalà on a candle scented with sandalwood, tobacco, and leather.
This shop appeals to the bohemian set. Think Moroccan rugs, fringed clutches, Spanish brocade loafers, handwoven baskets, and breezy dresses.
587 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
Pulling inspiration from Aviara’s backyard strawberry fields, this part of the luxe resort’s new spa menu is all about brightening and hydrating. The treat-yourself experience includes a strawberry rhubarb exfoliator and mask with hyaluronic acid to hold in moisture, plus an acai-based moisturizer—all using products from the organic Eminence skin care line. Even considering the facial focus, there’s a surprisingly lengthy neck and shoulder massage added into the mix. Post-treatment, head to the bright solarium for tea and snacks, or the sauna and whirlpool. ($160 for 50 minutes or $215 for 80 minutes.)
7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad
Health & Wellness
Formerly Bergamot Spa, this sanctuary for wellness has attracted the area’s finest therapists and healers, whether you want acupuncture, a session with a medical intuitive, sacred energy healing, an organic facial, or a belly dancing class. Chill time here is easy thanks to its bean-bag-dotted meditation deck overlooking the koi pond, Balinese bungalows, and garden daybeds.
775 North Vulcan Avenue, Leucadia
Last year’s inaugural event hit the ground running, earning top marks from racers for everything from the cool Swami’s-themed medals and T-shirts to the abundance of portable toilets. Best of all was the course’s 7-mile stretch along picturesque Coast Highway 101. New this year? An after-party at Seaside Bazaar for runners and the community.
Founded by Annemarie Alf, a physical therapist who has trained Olympic gold medalists, the fitness center can meet all your athletic health needs under one roof, including an open gym, therapists, nutritionists, and an on-site registered nurse—plus more niche services like vitamin injections and hormone rebalancing.
1281 Liberty Way, Vista
Keys Creek offers tours, lavender lotions—the farm has more than a dozen varieties of the flower—and, most recently, glamping and yoga retreats on their 8.5-acre farm. Previously known as The Lavender Fields, Keys Creek is open to guests during bloom season from May to June, but weekend events run all year long and include everything from a dip in the Himalayan salt pool to lavender-scented soap making.
12460 Keys Creek Road, Valley Center
Best Yoga for Animal Lovers
It’s “naaaaamaste” all day at this San Marcos goat farm, which turns into an outdoor yoga studio several times a month. Classes are led by instructor and goat enthusiast Star Bailey, a licensed chiropractor who uses a mind-body philosophy to help patients with chronic pain and illness. Goat Yoga Light welcomes yogis of all skill levels to breathe, stretch, pose, and laugh stress away while the animals join in (or just get on top of your back).
Arts & Culture
Born-and-raised Southern Californian Andy Davis has a knack for colorful, surf-inspired art. It’s that talent that nabbed him deals with Patagonia and Billabong and led him to design the eye-catching wood installation at the new Solana Beach West Elm. At his Way Way Out There gallery nearby, open since November, he displays those signature surf and sun pieces via solo and group shows that bring in fellow SoCal artists.
345 North Highway 101, Solana Beach
New Dance Company
Litvak is made up of both young and seasoned professionals, all dedicated to creating diverse stories about and for the community through contemporary movement. Led by artistic director and San Diego modern dance trailblazer Sadie Weinberg, they offer weekly open company classes and, starting this month, a chance to see them live in their first official company performance.
1465 Encinitas Boulevard, Encinitas (open classes and performances may be at various locations)
Outdoor Music Series
Escondido’s California Center for the Arts is organizing 10 free outdoor concerts at Grape Day Park this year under the banner of the 2018 Levitt AMP Escondido Music Series. Escondido was one of only 15 American cities awarded a grant of $25,000 in matching funds this year by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which funds transformations of underused public spaces for musical enjoyment.
340 North Escondido Boulevard, Escondido
It’s all about immersion and education at this nonprofit, which is celebrating 20 years of creativity in 2018. The core of the institute is its artist-in-residence program, which invites internationally renowned artists for a monthlong stay so the community can watch and learn from their process firsthand via classes and programs. Camps—like the spring break offering this month—also provide kids and teens an opportunity to refine their craft. Look for Lux’s annual fundraising gala, Lux After Dark, on May 19.
1550 South El Camino Real, Encinitas
In San Diego, rare is a second-floor dance studio with big picture windows. (So NYC!) The bright and modern Pacific Arts Dance Center is the result of Del Mar Ballet’s recent merge with Royal Academy of Performing Arts. Pacific Arts now boasts twice the student following, plus respected instructors in adult dance, pre-professional ballet, hip-hop, tap, acro, and more. Did we mention there are music rooms and a wide balcony with sliding doors that doubles as an indoor-outdoor performance space? It’s literally taking the stuffiness out of classical ballet.
5550 Carmel Mountain Road, Carmel Valley
Best Kid Gym
Build your kiddos’ fitness and coordination by giving them the chance to jump, run, swing, and flip around a space that looks like the 8-bit Super Mario Bros. invaded The LEGO Movie. Don’t worry: This parkour gym is outfitted with plenty of safe, soft landings. Classes are available for 4-year-olds, tweens, teens, and adults.
2620 Progress Street, Vista
Launched last summer by a North County mom who works as a family therapist, GUT hosts events aimed at empowering young girls from an early age. Activities range from dancing, singing, and yoga to exercises focused on team-building and emotional wellness—all with parents and family members encouraged to join. Events are spread throughout the county and even the country; they’re taking the movement to New York next month. Check their website for details on upcoming San Diego sessions.
Kids who have outgrown playgrounds can get their thrills here, where the attractions include rock-climbing walls, mini golf, and an American Ninja Warrior–style obstacle course; daredevils can strap on a harness and test out the Skyscraper ropes course that hovers in midair over the bumper cars—all of which glow in the dark.
1390 Engineer Street, Vista
Kids transfixed by Cirque du Soleil can take a spin (or a flip or a climb) on silks just like the pros in aerial arts classes at the YMCA’s gymnastics facility. Participants learn how to wrap the silks around themselves for midair twirls, splits, or suspended hangs. Parents can get in on the fun with the Y’s set of adult aerial classes, too.
200 Saxony Road, Encinitas
Kids will be on cloud nine at this giant indoor adrenaline park. Packed with trampoline dodgeball, dunk basketball, slacklining, jousting, rock climbing, airbags, and even a 20-foot free fall jump tower, youngsters can bounce back and forth between activities and then grab a snack from the park’s café. Parents will love the flexible party packages, on-site safety staff, and three dedicated zones for their littlest flyers. Ages 3+; packages start at $190.
6133 Innovation Way, Carlsbad
Activity for Little Foodies
Every third Sunday of the month, kids can unleash their inner cookie monster at The Cravory’s Bressi Ranch location. Just buy a cookie and let them go wild with flavor combinations—think chocolate sprinkles with cherries or marshmallows on the Cookies N Cream Milkshake cookie.
2675 Gateway Road, Carlsbad