300 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad
According to the website for Carlsbad Village gastropub The Compass, “Sometimes drunken conversations become a reality.” Not surprisingly, the reality of this two-blocks-from-the-beach restaurant is a full bar plus plenty of wine and a craft beer tap list.
On the gastro side of things, the effort to provide better-than-average eats skews into relatively healthy, even vegetarian territory. Not only does its elevated pub fare menu offer a few legit salads, but shareable appetizers include tempura squash blossoms, organic snap peas, and portobello fries, while a quinoa burger backs up the house beef blend.
Granted, that’s assuming you aren’t tempted by the many meaty options. The most stand-out option among first plates — perhaps the entire menu — is the housemade corn dogs featuring bacon-wrapped, cheddar-stuffed bratwursts. In other words, the place caters to groups of people with different cravings. Some may lean towards the fried green tomato and ahi tuna stack, others will be more enamored of the pork belly banh mi.
I swung by for a late lunch on a windy day. Since the windows face east, to the interior of the Village Faire shopping center, they were wide open, allowing plenty of sunlight and only a hint of ocean breeze. Basically, a perfect afternoon setting to catch up with an old friend.
Many menu items had me curious, but none more than the short rib grilled cheese, served with grilled onions and horseradish aioli on a ciabatta. On a menu featuring naturally raised beef and chicken, this became my tender and cheesy choice at $11, including fries. Beer wise, I had more to consider. The 20 taps featured a range of good, mostly So Cal beers, but at $6 or $7 a pour that priced me out of a lunchtime beverage.
A shame, because turns out the grilled cheese could have used some flavor to pair with. As finely cooked as the beef was, it wanted more flavor, and neither the cheddar nor even the aioli contributed enough. I suspect a pilsner or blonde ale would’ve propped it up nicely.