Even with the proliferation of grocery store options over the past couple of years, there is still only one that I really look forward to shopping at. Going to Seaside Market is as much an experience in Cardiff culture as it is a shopping excursion.I think it’s the combination of the world-class location, the people, the food selection, the deli, the meat and seafood counter, the personal service in the wine section, the soundtrack, and yes, even the clientele which ranges from surfers to the ultra-fit, to foodies looking for the best ingredients for a special meal to Cardiff moms doing their weekly shopping or the after work professionals looking for a hot meal to go.
I will add that I don’t think I’ve ever been to Seaside without seeing some of the most attractive people I’ve encountered in a grocery store environment. On top of all that, they were the first market in the area to go solar, support local food vendors and farmers and host live music in their courtyard on weekends. And they are one of the last thriving independent markets in North County. In a nutshell, Seaside Market has soul.
Let’s go back to the soundtrack for a minute. I’ve heard everything from The Allman Brothers to the Grateful Dead to Led Zeppelin while walking the aisles of Seaside Market. No generic grocery store sappy stuff or smooth jazz here, they pay attention to their demographic and the music really adds to the experience.
Now that I’ve established that Seaside is one of the cooler shopping experiences anywhere, let’s get to the really good stuff. Their deli is like a full-service restaurant in itself and one of my primary destinations for breakfast, lunch, and when I’m not in the mood to cook, even dinner.
My new breakfast obsession is the egg white breakfast scramble, which is basically a substantial create-it-yourself breakfast to go that is made to order while you wait. My latest go-to ingredient mix includes broccoli, carnitas, eggs, onions, potatoes, cheddar cheese and their homemade salsa, which is included. This comes in at $4.99, which is a heck of a value, and I should mention there are like 25 different items to include in the scramble.
The rest of the deli case is almost over the top with epicurean delights. From ribs, crab cakes, Scottish salmon, imported Prosciutto Parma, Serrano Jamon, a full line of Boar’s Head meats, to many salad options to count, made-to-order sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips … I could fill this entire column with just deli selections.
The full-service kitchen behind the counter cranks it out efficiently and always with a smile, and even when the line is deep there is never that long of a wait. The best way to enjoy your deli meal is in the courtyard patio that has some of the best people watching anywhere.
Let’s move on next to the meat and seafood counter, which is one of the most visually appealing I’ve seen and is staffed by a team of butchers who knows their stuff. The Burgundy Pepper Tri-Tip, or Cardiff crack as the locals call it, is one of the hottest selling items and they have been known to sell over 600 pounds on a busy weekend. The sausage is all made in-house and I just tried one called the Chicago, a combination of pork and veal that was unbelievable.
The seafood is equally tempting and there always seems to be a nice variety of locally caught and seasonal fish and lobster on hand. Next to the meat counter is a freezer stocked with any type of cooking stock a gourmet kitchen would need along with quail, duck and other types of game. Next to that is a full-on prepared sushi counter, which is hard to pass up also.
The produce section is equally impressive and one of the few around with edible tomatoes in the winter. They have some pretty tasty heirlooms and at $1.99 a pound they are a great value.
The wine section is extensive and staffed by friendly, knowledgeable experts who are eager to help you select a pairing for whatever you are cooking. Of course I’m only scratching the surface of the Seaside Market experience.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to food shopping these days, and some of the larger chains are doing good things. But they can’t capture our local culture by simply naming their checkout aisles after surf spots. There is more to it than that, and Seaside Market captures the essence of the area perfectly.
Cardiff Seaside Market is at 2087 San Elijo Ave. in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. They are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more about Cardiff Seaside Market, visit seasidemarket.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative, an Encinitas based integrated marketing agency. He can be reached at [email protected]