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Bren, left, and Kris Buchanan, owners of GOODONYA. Courtesy photo
ColumnsLick the Plate

Lick the Plate: GOODONYA is healthy, organic food without hype

Readers may have sensed based on some recent columns that I am not the biggest fan of healthy eating. That’s not the case at all, I just want my good-for-me food to taste good and that’s happening at GOODONYA in Encinitas. Sure, they have gluten-free bread but, and this is a big but … they also have Prager Brothers Bread which is some of the best in San Diego and it’s not gluten-free. Smart move GOODONYA!

Kris and Bren Buchanan own GOODONYA and Kris described their approach to food perfectly. “We are absolutely not into promoting specific diets,” she said. “You won’t see ‘vegan’ or ‘paleo’ all over our menu. We promote organic, sustainable and local. We do offer plant-based, paleo, dairy-free and gluten-free but do not limit our menu to that.

“I’ve seen too many friends follow dogmatic diets and not understand real food. I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan; he has an awesome real food, common sense approach to eating. Some people do well with certain diets; I have issues when people push those diets onto others. One thing I know for certain is that we are all different and thrive with different approaches.”

She added, “A surfer can come here and get a California Burrito and leave feeling nourished as opposed to full, sleepy and weighed down. He can come with his girlfriend who is a vegan and gluten-free and she can have the Veggie Bowl, and they are both happy. And the meal is 100 percent organic.” I love that approach!

Both Kris and Bren have interesting backgrounds as well. Kris grew up in Tierrasanta eating candy, Wonder Bread and food that was convenient for her mom to make. She went to Serra High School, where she excelled at field hockey, well enough to get a full ride to The University of Iowa. She made the U.S. team her sophomore year and went on to participate in three World Cups, three Pan American Games, three Olympic qualifying teams and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She is a member of the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame and the University of Iowa Hall of Fame.

Bren comes from a Midwestern athletic background too. Wisconsin, specifically, with a mom who loved to cook. As she puts it, “It was very meat and potato focused, with cheese on every meal. I never developed a taste for seafood because of the lack of it in Wisconsin. I don’t think I knew what an avocado was until high school. A typical meal would be a small salad, steak and baked potato. I would say we ate meat about four to five times a week.”

Her career steered her toward the golf industry in North County and that led to meeting Kris about 20 years ago. Both surfers, Bren lived in Encinitas and Kris in Solana Beach and they were married in 2011.

Kris had her sights on the restaurant life since her first job in an office park deli when she was 15.  The name came about through her extensive field hockey travels, which often included Australia. “Good on ya” was a common saying there when someone did something well. “Well done, good job.” She was trying to think of a name for her restaurant and that sounded like a healthy name.

Because of their 1970 restored VW bus wrapped in their logo, very visible around Encinitas, people think they started out as a nutrition bar company. Their goods were sold in all the local natural food stores but the bar came much later. Kris explained, “We actually had five office park deli locations all over San Diego. The Encinitas location was our office. But multiple times a day people walked in asking us when we were going to open, thinking it was one of our delis. We ran out of money to support the bars’ growth. So we converted the office to a restaurant and here we are. We only have the Encinitas location now and this menu is an evolution of all I learned over the years.”

They started all this prior to organic being a movement. The first GOODONYA opened in 2000 and has evolved into what they call organic real food. Simple and fresh food that is approachable and easy to understand. They even have organic wine and beer on tap as well as kombucha, of course.  Everything I tried there was really tasty. The salads, bowls and all the breakfast choices are solid.

It would be nice to see the Prager bread on the dinner menu but other than that all is good. The glass of wine with the healthy stuff is a nice balance. They also have a cocktail called the Out Cider. It’s made with raw hard cider, an Italian aperitif and the smallest touch of raw honey. It’s all organic, low sugar and super healthy. Yes, please.

Their kitchen and floor team are all super friendly and on top of the menu. They are all about transparency of ingredients so ask away.

Find GOODONYA at 1051 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. They are open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call (858) 264-8550 or visit

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Jen May 9, 2018 at 6:05 pm

My husband and I are OBSESSED with Goodonya! We live in Dallas, TX and wish there was a place like that here. Whenever we visit Encinitas, it’s literally the first place we stop. Kris, Bren, and the team are wonderful, and the food is the BEST!!!

Kris May 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Awesome stuff, thank you so much David.

Ps, Prager is on the dinner menu, we’d never leave those boys off!
Check out the Hot Dog Stack! OH Yeah:)

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