What’s new on the North County dining scene?

New restaurants and food events are happening and showing no signs of slowing down in North County.

Calypso owner Gilles Knafo is now sourcing local ingredients. Photo by David Boylan

I will get right into it with the soon-to-reopen Pacific Coast Grill at its Cardiff oceanfront location announcing its final culinary lineup of Executive Chef Israel “Izzy” Balderas, Sous Chef Jorge Benitez and newcomer Chef Mark Ridener. I’ve been told to expect the new PCG location to be opening in late May.

Firefly Grill & Wine bar is excited to introduce its new chef, Justin Braly. Braly is an International Culinary School at the Art Institute of San Diego graduate who has cut his chops at Fresh, Blackhorse Grille, West Steak and Seafood, Bistro West, Nico’s Steak and Chophouse, and most recently at Café Chloe. An impressive resume and the fact that Justin spent time at Café Chloe, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, is good news for North County diners. One request Chef Braly, please continue the weekly tasting menu. In a world where restaurants tend to run with and copy trends, that has been a weekly breath of fresh air.

I was very bummed out to hear that Savory, which was forerunner of the Encinitas dining explosion, will be closing shortly after Mother’s Day after a wonderful eight-year run. Owner Pascal Vignau will be moving to Chandler’s Restaurant in the soon-to-open Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa.

Savory will then be transformed into The Craftsman New American Tavern, Wade and Kristi Hageman’s new venture. If you are not familiar with the names, they are the couple behind the wildly successful Blue Ribbon in Encinitas, which will continue on. Their second restaurant will take them to the other side of the 5 and is slated to open this summer in late June or early July. The theme will be “hand crafted comfort” — Wade Hageman’s take on comfort food with an emphasis on house-made sausage, charcuterie, artisan cheese and his same farm to table approach that utilizes local farmers.

They will have local craft beer on 16 taps, along with local, organic sustainable wines, and classic/vintage cocktails. Prices will be moderate and they will have a daily happy hour. The new layout is expected to seat around 100. With the arrival of the new chef at Firefly Grill & Wine Bar across the parking lot, this shopping center will continue to be a dining destination.

Calypso Café has recently opened its doors for lunch and will offer it every day but Monday. They have also introduced a new menu that will feature fresh, local, organic ingredients along with gluten-free and vegetarian options. But don’t worry; all your favorites from the Calypso menu will still be available. A canopy is being added to the patio dining area and owner Gilles Knafo is working with Stellar Solar to install solar panels on his roof as part of his efforts to be a more sustainable restaurants.

As I mentioned, Pasqual Vignau will be running the kitchen at the soon-to-open Chandler’s Restaurant & Lounge serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located in the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa opening in July, Chandler’s will bring innovation and style to the local restaurant scene, with eclectic, seasonal menus inspired by locally grown fresh products. A spectacular bar with inspired signature cocktails will be at the heart of the restaurant. They will also be offering a private dining room with an ocean view, covered terrace for up to 40 people.

So, if you are noticing a continuing pattern here among existing and new restaurants you are not alone. Farm to table, signature and vintage cocktails, mac and cheese, short ribs, pork belly, wait staff with ironically hip facial hair … they all seem to be required elements of every new eatery. These are not bad things, but good restaurants have been doing farm to table forever and it was just a given that they would source locally when possible and when not, get the best possible ingredients as close by as they could. And the same thing with comfort food, I mean really, mac and cheese and short ribs are fine but on every menu, year-round?

It’s all good for North County foodies though. Options are a good thing and the talented and inventive restaurants will survive and thrive … or those with prime, ocean-front locations.

Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday-Friday during the 7pm hour.
David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905.

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  1. Mary Rae says:

    we would love to see more of Johnnyc

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