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Lick the Plate: 10 things to love about Ki’s in Cardiff

Above: The fabulous Asian Salmon Salad at Ki’s. Photo courtesy Ki’s

With all the new restaurants popping up along the coast in North County, I’ve decided to make it a point to revisit on a regular basis some that have stood the test of time.

Five years ago I wrote a column paying tribute to Ki Holcomb, the matriarch of the family and who founded Ki’s in 1980. Ki’s is currently owned and operated by Barry Holcomb and his wife Lorraine Harland. Besides Ki’s they also have some other very exciting food ventures that I will be detailing in a future column.

Given that Ki’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has so much going for it beyond that, I thought a top 10 format would be fitting for this revisit column.

I will have to start my list with the location and views. If you are unfamiliar, Ki’s is located on Coast Highway 101 in Cardiff, just across the street from the beach and has spectacular ocean views. Many restaurants could easily rely on that view and do a decent business as a result yet the view from Ki’s is just part of the overall experience but is definitely on my list.

Breakfast at Ki’s is something that many may not be aware of and that needs to change. They have a fresh organic juice bar and smoothies that are a perfect grab and go way to start your day or enjoy as the beach comes to life across the street. That or make Ki’s a destination for breakfast and enjoy their full menu that includes Acai Granola Bowls, omelets, scrambles, burritos, pancakes, French toast and fresh muffins.

I could easily do a leisurely breakfast at Ki’s and maybe throw in a mimosa for a fun twist or impress a client and make it a business breakfast. Either way, there are not many places in North County that offer such a fabulous location for breakfast.

Acai bowls at Ki’s. Courtesy photo

The same can be said for lunch. I do business lunches often and Ki’s is going to be added to the list of locations for sure. Its relaxed vibe is perfect for creating an environment that is conducive for an easy, transparent conversation. It’s also an obvious choice for the leisure crowd who flock there to enjoy the midday beach vibe and fabulous food.

Poke bowls, sandwiches and wraps, burgers, tacos, salads and lunch entrees provide that variety I mentioned

I like to keep it somewhat light at lunch and the Asian Salmon Salad was so perfect for that. Grilled salmon rests on a bed of organic field greens tossed in ginger miso dressing with toasted sesame seeds, snap peas, cilantro, tangerine slices, green onions and topped with glass noodles.

In my opinion that’s the perfect lunch dish and there are plenty of similar options at Ki’s.

Late afternoon, sunset and and into the evening is the magic time at Ki’s. How can you beat the sun setting into the ocean across the street? There are so many standout dishes on the dinner menu it would be tough to list them all so here are some favorites.

I love to start with the fresh Spring Rolls with veggies, tofu and herbs wrapped in rice paper and served with the perfect Thai Peanut Sauce for dipping.

The Seasonal Flatbread is another winner and my favorite dish on the menu is Ki’s Coconut and Vegetable Curry. Coconut milk, brown rice, cashews and choice of chicken, tempeh or tofu all work together so nicely. I go for the chicken and this hearty dish always provides enough for a perfect lunch the next day … if you don’t polish it off when you get home.

Other dishes I will be back for include the Macadamia Coconut Mahi, Petite Filet with Cabernet Mushroom Demi, and Baked 4-Cheese Penne with Cauliflower and Prosciutto.

The Creamy Polenta with Cauliflower Steaks is a really nice looking vegetarian option as well. It should also be noted that Ki’s brings in a sushi chef Wednesday through Saturday with a full range of Sushi, Sashimi and Rolls. That adds a whole new dimension to the food offerings at Ki’s.

I’m going to give the Sunset Menu a slot of it’s own on my top 10 list as it’s wildly popular with folks who like to eat a bit earlier. It runs every night from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and includes a choice of starter, entrée, and dessert for $21. Happy hour drinks are happening as well and it’s a great value.

Live music has always been a part of the personality of Ki’s and their lineup includes local favorites like Peter Sprague, Peter Pupping Trio, Mark Lessman, Hummingbird Hotel and the Benedetti Trio to name a few. They also host fun painting parties, all of which can be found on their website. The music always works with the beach vibe at Ki’s and is a perfect soundtrack to dinner or drinks.

I’m going to round out my top 10 reasons to love Ki’s list with three elements that work so well together. Their history in the area, the family-owned and operated dynamic, and their popularity amongst locals of all ages.

Ki’s history is woven into the fabric of Cardiff and their longevity is testament to what they have going on. Barry and Lorraine continue to work hands-on at Ki’s and their kids have all pitched in growing up. You get a sense of that family passion at the local’s reward that with their loyalty to the restaurant.

Wherever you live in San Diego, Ki’s is worth a visit for breakfast, lunch, or make an evening out of it over dinner and sunset. Check out their full calendar of events and menu at