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Feast! North County Coastal

Restaurant scene blossoming along the county's northern coast

Wiener Schnitzel at Market Restaurant and Bar
Wiener Schnitzel at Market Restaurant and Bar

Along 20 miles of coastline between Del Mar and Oceanside you can find food aimed at surfers, yogis, young families, and millionaires. Del Mar and Solana Beach give fine dining spectacular views, Carlsbad embraces the popularity of gastropubs, and the greater Encinitas restaurant scene has blossomed across the board.

Place

Market Restaurant and Bar

3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Market Restaurant and Bar

Market Restaurant and Bar is, at most pay grades, a special occasion place. That’s fine — James Beard–award nominee Carl Schroeder knows how to make food pretty special. Curried Coconut and Lemongrass Soup only sounds pedestrian. Studded with succulent pieces of Maine lobster and shrimp, it had the freshest, cleanest lemongrass flavor I’ve ever tasted. The Blue Cheese Soufflé and Pluot Salad was a wonderful contrast in flavor and texture, the shower of cumin/coriander-scented almonds shows nice attention to detail. Old school Wiener Schnitzel gets an update by placing the perfectly golden brown cutlet on a bed of braised artichokes, sautéed sweet corn, and heirloom eggplant purée; a sunny-side-up egg sits on top. Break that yolk and indulge. My dessert love is the Chocolate Butterscotch Trio: intense chocolate soufflé cake, silky butterscotch custard and pretzel crunch, coated malted milk ice cream —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Naked Café

288-C North El Camino Real, Encinitas

Naked Café

A North County coastal café with an emphasis on healthy eats. With locations in Encinitas, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, and Point Loma, the café specializes in brunch items (each location closes at 2:30 p.m. daily). The Green & Red Pagoda ($10.50) places soy sausage over two medium eggs, avocado, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato, and pesto on rosemary toast. The “Look Good Naked” menu focuses on slimming combinations of protein, fiber, fat, carbs, and calories, all listed by quantity per dish. For example, the Plate of Prosperity ($10.50) scrambles egg whites with spinach, soy sausage, feta cheese, green onion, and tomato. —Chad Deal

Place

Red Rooster Bar & Grill

1985 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside

Red Rooster

Dive bar? Maybe. But that only adds to the flavor of things you gotta try at this 50-year-old Oceanside institution. Starting with the half-pound legendary Rooster Burger with cheese, grilled onion, and Ortega chili. You watch that patty go up in flames right there at the grill behind the bar. It comes to the counter crunchy and flavor-popping. The Mother Clucker Sandwich is the chicken version, almost as good. And the Sunday-night barbecue (5-9 p.m.) is quite a scene: you get to toss your own rib eye steak on the barbie outside. Cash only. —Ed Bedford

Place

Guahan Grill

4259 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside

Kelaguen at Guahan Grill

Guahan Grill

If you’ve never tried chamorro — Guamanian food — friendly Guahan Grill might be the place to dip your toes in the water. The one dish that immediately comes to mind is Kelaguen. The version here is made of chicken, chopped, with some lemon juice, green onions, a touch of chili pepper, with the flavor of ginger coming through. Though milder than versions I’ve had, it’s the perfect vehicle to move as much Finadene (a tangy, sour, salty, and wonderfully addictive condiment) into my belly as possible. Along with some Boonie peppers, a species related to Piri-Piri and Tabasco chilies. The empanadas are worth a try as well. And don’t forget the red rice. —Kirk K

Place

Kaito Sushi

130-A North El Camino Real, Encinitas

Kaito Sushi

The closest thing to Tokyo in all of North County, Kaito succeeds on the skills of masterful sushi chefs Kazuo Morita and Ryoichi Iwata, who combine more than 50 years of sushi experience learned in Japan’s capital. Behind the precept “the fish can’t lie,” the majority of the seafood here is never frozen, and Morita’s sourcing takes into account the season in which a fish reaches its peak flavor. So go omikase (chef’s choice) and embrace off-menu delicacies like katsuo (skipjack) in the summer, and kamasu (barracuda) in the winter, knowing you’ve found these fish in their moment. —Ian Anderson

Place

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

208 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

Located in a converted hot rod garage, Master’s does a good job with bringing new American cuisine to a place not known for being a culinary landmark. The menu combines seasonal specialties like the watermelon salad (with a mint pesto dressing) with all-year-round dishes like the flatiron steak with chimichurri sauce or the seafood paella. Although the bar has an ever-changing list of craft cocktails, the mixologists also do a great job with “forgotten” drinks, such as their Rye Manhattan, a drink Don Draper would like. —Patrick Henderson

Place

Lobster West

765 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Lobster West

The most noticeable difference between Maine lobster and California spiny lobster is that the Maine lobsters have claws. Some lobster lovers argue that the tender meat found in the claw, and the overall “cleaner, sweeter” flavor of coldwater seafood makes Maine lobsters the preferred species to eat. The Boston transplant family that owns Lobster West is among them, so they serve up only Maine lobster in their lobster salad and lobster roll. If you get the roll, be sure to order the “more meat” option; it’s worth the additional $6. —Barbarella Fokos

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Wiener Schnitzel at Market Restaurant and Bar
Wiener Schnitzel at Market Restaurant and Bar

Along 20 miles of coastline between Del Mar and Oceanside you can find food aimed at surfers, yogis, young families, and millionaires. Del Mar and Solana Beach give fine dining spectacular views, Carlsbad embraces the popularity of gastropubs, and the greater Encinitas restaurant scene has blossomed across the board.

Place

Market Restaurant and Bar

3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar

Market Restaurant and Bar

Market Restaurant and Bar is, at most pay grades, a special occasion place. That’s fine — James Beard–award nominee Carl Schroeder knows how to make food pretty special. Curried Coconut and Lemongrass Soup only sounds pedestrian. Studded with succulent pieces of Maine lobster and shrimp, it had the freshest, cleanest lemongrass flavor I’ve ever tasted. The Blue Cheese Soufflé and Pluot Salad was a wonderful contrast in flavor and texture, the shower of cumin/coriander-scented almonds shows nice attention to detail. Old school Wiener Schnitzel gets an update by placing the perfectly golden brown cutlet on a bed of braised artichokes, sautéed sweet corn, and heirloom eggplant purée; a sunny-side-up egg sits on top. Break that yolk and indulge. My dessert love is the Chocolate Butterscotch Trio: intense chocolate soufflé cake, silky butterscotch custard and pretzel crunch, coated malted milk ice cream —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Naked Café

288-C North El Camino Real, Encinitas

Naked Café

A North County coastal café with an emphasis on healthy eats. With locations in Encinitas, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, and Point Loma, the café specializes in brunch items (each location closes at 2:30 p.m. daily). The Green & Red Pagoda ($10.50) places soy sausage over two medium eggs, avocado, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato, and pesto on rosemary toast. The “Look Good Naked” menu focuses on slimming combinations of protein, fiber, fat, carbs, and calories, all listed by quantity per dish. For example, the Plate of Prosperity ($10.50) scrambles egg whites with spinach, soy sausage, feta cheese, green onion, and tomato. —Chad Deal

Place

Red Rooster Bar & Grill

1985 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside

Red Rooster

Dive bar? Maybe. But that only adds to the flavor of things you gotta try at this 50-year-old Oceanside institution. Starting with the half-pound legendary Rooster Burger with cheese, grilled onion, and Ortega chili. You watch that patty go up in flames right there at the grill behind the bar. It comes to the counter crunchy and flavor-popping. The Mother Clucker Sandwich is the chicken version, almost as good. And the Sunday-night barbecue (5-9 p.m.) is quite a scene: you get to toss your own rib eye steak on the barbie outside. Cash only. —Ed Bedford

Place

Guahan Grill

4259 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside

Kelaguen at Guahan Grill

Guahan Grill

If you’ve never tried chamorro — Guamanian food — friendly Guahan Grill might be the place to dip your toes in the water. The one dish that immediately comes to mind is Kelaguen. The version here is made of chicken, chopped, with some lemon juice, green onions, a touch of chili pepper, with the flavor of ginger coming through. Though milder than versions I’ve had, it’s the perfect vehicle to move as much Finadene (a tangy, sour, salty, and wonderfully addictive condiment) into my belly as possible. Along with some Boonie peppers, a species related to Piri-Piri and Tabasco chilies. The empanadas are worth a try as well. And don’t forget the red rice. —Kirk K

Place

Kaito Sushi

130-A North El Camino Real, Encinitas

Kaito Sushi

The closest thing to Tokyo in all of North County, Kaito succeeds on the skills of masterful sushi chefs Kazuo Morita and Ryoichi Iwata, who combine more than 50 years of sushi experience learned in Japan’s capital. Behind the precept “the fish can’t lie,” the majority of the seafood here is never frozen, and Morita’s sourcing takes into account the season in which a fish reaches its peak flavor. So go omikase (chef’s choice) and embrace off-menu delicacies like katsuo (skipjack) in the summer, and kamasu (barracuda) in the winter, knowing you’ve found these fish in their moment. —Ian Anderson

Place

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

208 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

Located in a converted hot rod garage, Master’s does a good job with bringing new American cuisine to a place not known for being a culinary landmark. The menu combines seasonal specialties like the watermelon salad (with a mint pesto dressing) with all-year-round dishes like the flatiron steak with chimichurri sauce or the seafood paella. Although the bar has an ever-changing list of craft cocktails, the mixologists also do a great job with “forgotten” drinks, such as their Rye Manhattan, a drink Don Draper would like. —Patrick Henderson

Place

Lobster West

765 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Lobster West

The most noticeable difference between Maine lobster and California spiny lobster is that the Maine lobsters have claws. Some lobster lovers argue that the tender meat found in the claw, and the overall “cleaner, sweeter” flavor of coldwater seafood makes Maine lobsters the preferred species to eat. The Boston transplant family that owns Lobster West is among them, so they serve up only Maine lobster in their lobster salad and lobster roll. If you get the roll, be sure to order the “more meat” option; it’s worth the additional $6. —Barbarella Fokos

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