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Mango Oct. 7, 2009 @ 6:31 p.m.

I was surprised that the Jumping Bean Cafe & Mexicali Grill didn’t choose to open their business on restaurant row in San Marcos. This fun, inventive restaurant would fit in very nicely over there. I guess the owners of the Jumping Bean decided to spread a little culinary wealth on Vista, which is a good thing since the town of Vista has a much smaller number of independent, interesting restaurants than San Marcos, although Nucci’s Italian Cafe, Thai One On, The Village Cafe and La Paloma are four good ones that come to mind. Maybe the trend is finally changing. The restaurant’s site used to house a Chinese buffet, which always looked dark and foreboding. The interior and the exterior of the restaurant have been re-vamped and now present a very open and welcoming atmosphere. The inside is decorated with brightly painted yellow walls, tropical plants and all sorts of whimsical artworks and decorative light fixtures. I think the owners must have a penchant for dogs, because many of the artworks feature dogs and there is a bulletin board near the bar for patrons to post photos of their own dogs. Just like a dog, I’m drooling just thinking about their food. Their menu consists of standard Mexican cuisine made with interesting, quality ingredients, presented with flare. Fish lovers will really appreciate the Jumping Bean Cafe. The seafood menu features shrimp prepared three ways. The tequila shrimp is sautéed in a creamy agave sauce; the shrimp mojo de ajo is marinated with fresh garlic and olive oil, then sautéed with white wine and fresh herbs. The skewered honey ancho shrimp is marinated in chile and lime then caramelized on the grill and finished with pineapple salsa. These dishes shout, “Vacation in Cabo!” At the moment there is no vegetarian menu, but the chef/owner Brian Cloud said that he is developing a separate menu just for the veggie crowd. I would love to be the taste tester on that project. Mr. Cloud said that vegetarians are easily accommodated and that one has only to request a vegetarian dish and he will personally whip one up for you. Be sure to request the totally vegetarian black beans and yellow rice. They do have nice vegetable fajita plate, but the combo that has brought me back to the Jumping Bean Cafe is the enchiladas espinacas, mushroom and spinach enchiladas in a scrumptious “Baja cream sauce.” Combos come with rice, beans and a yummy, sweet corn cake. The plates are enormous, but I was very happy to eat the leftovers the next day. If you visit, check the specials on the menu board up front. They often have wonderful things that are not listed on the regular menu, such as chile con carne with corn bread, Mom’s favorite. The owners, servers and bartenders at the Jumping Bean Cafe are all very friendly. I hope this pleasing neighborhood restaurant weathers the recession and inspires other creative eating establishments to hang their shingles in Vista.

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