Felix’s BBQ With Soul
About as down-home Dixie as you can get. We began our feast with fried green tomatoes. Then came the main course, and the benefits of bringing the whole family is that I got to sample everything. My wife and I each chose Felix’s signature sandwich, Jimmy Lee’s Pulled Pork. Absolutely divine. Sides include black-eyed peas, sweet potato fries, collard greens and coleslaw. I also got to sample the friend catfish filet (superb), the catfish nuggets (ditto) and, for desert, the sweet potato cheesecake (addicting). Felix’s is located in the fairly new Ocean Ranch strip mall off Rancho de Oro Drive in Oceanside, a modern-looking complex so clean and empty it looks as though it’s only been open for a few minutes. It’s hardly the sort of place you’d expect to find a Southern barbecue joint, complete with hickory wood-burning pit and a performing blues soloist.
3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd, Oceanside
This swank, ultra-trendy eatery specializes in rustic European country food "with a California sensibility for fresh delicious food," according to its website. What that means is good, simple food in a setting that’s going to make you think you’re on Melrose Avenue. The menu features such tasty dishes as buttermilk fried chicken breast, duck leg confit and barbecue short ribs. The portions are sufficient but not overpowering, so you order even a heavy meal without worrying about the after-effects. You can also, in good conscience, order an appetizer, even if you normally eat light: try the Waldorf salad or the imported cheeses selection, served with sour cherry compote. The owner and head chef of this sassy new establishment is Pascal Vignau, most recently of the Four Seasons Resort, Aviara, and before that with Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and Jakarta, Indonesia. I encourage everyone to try the Sunset Supper, consisting of a three-course meal with wine pairing for $39. It’s available daily from 5 to 6 p.m. and gives diners the freedom of ordering any entrée off the menu.
267 North El Camino Real, Encinitas
On the agenda
Those of you with kids: I’m sending you back to the Legoland Water Park. I previewed it here in this space a few weeks ago, just before it opened. I recently had the opportunity to visit it with my 8-year-old son and was quite impressed. Despite frigid weather conditions we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The park isn’t nearly as big as Knott’s Soak City, but it’s quite adequate for younger kids. The four slides compare favorably to the slides at Knott’s; the lazy river is about the same size and much better organized (no chasing down inner tubes; a friendly Legoland staffer hands you one as you enter); and the water playgrounds, one for toddlers and one for bigger kids, are a blast. We spent nearly six hours there, and we left only because the park closed. An added bonus: I had one of the best grilled fish (sea bass) burritos I’ve ever eaten at the Beach Front Grill. It sounds weird to say, but I’d go back just for the food. The day we went, we renewed our annual passes. I made sure we upgraded to the resort pass, which gets you in all year long to Legoland, the Sea Life Aquarium and the Legoland Water Park. For anyone with kids under 12 who lives within an hour of Carlsbad, it’s a wise investment. You’re going to be here a lot.
Legoland Water Park
One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad