Oceanside continues to be one of my favorite places to eat and drink in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere. That said the high caliber of cuisine being created by chefs like Adam Griffin from Mission Avenue Bar & Grill makes the experience even more enjoyable.
Griffin and his partners have realized their dream of opening their own restaurant, one that reflects their personalities and styles and downtown Oceanside was the perfect location for that dream to come to fruition. I had a conversation with Griffin recently to learn more.
You were born and raised in the South, what were some of your early food memories growing up?
Growing up in the south, meals were more than just consuming food. It was a chance for everyone to gather and socialize with one another. From the prep of the down home cooking we were about to enjoy all the to the sweet moment of desert, every person talk, laughed, and simply enjoyed one another. This experience definitely helped mold the basis of my passion for culinary arts.
Tell me about your first restaurant gig.
My first restaurant job was a catfish fry house in a tiny town in South Georgia. I started as a dishwasher at the age of 14 and worked my way up, within six months, to train as a cook. I was hooked on it the first time I breaded a catfish fillet and dropped it in the fryer to hear the crackle and see all the action around me. There is never a dull moment in the restaurant business, some say I’m a glutton for punishment but I say I’m always up for a challenge. I learned the true form of southern cuisine from Mr. Marvin. Mr. Marvin wasn’t what most people would call “chef” nor did he ever aspire to be called that. He showed me the true form of southern food and taught me to care about every step you take when developing this art we create.
Where did you land out of culinary school?
During my internship I had the pleasure of training under an excellent creole chef at an upscale restaurant serving grilled fine meats and creole cuisine. Chef Tim Hermans taught me the benefits of slow cooking, marinating, and the importance a well-made sauce plays in your dish. After my internship Hermans stepped down and handed me my first executive chef position.
Was there a chef along the way that had an influence on shaping your style?
There is not one single person I attribute to my passion and knowledge of this business. I believe we are all in this to teach one another and learn from one another. I do give credit to Mr. Marvin, his 50-plus years of experience is being carried on in my cooking, Chef Herman’s style and flavors live on in my marinades and sauces, and there is one other person that played a huge role in my career and still does in ways. A friend still to this day, Josh Blackmon owned Sage Grill in Encinitas. Josh has the most wine knowledge of anyone I had ever worked with so I drilled him relentlessly on the subject and he taught me, what I think is one of the more difficult things in our business, the art of precisely pairing food with wine. This has translated perfectly to pairing beer and food, which has been a huge part of my career the past five years. All these people and others have helped me develop my style of cooking which combines southern, Caribbean, creole, and California regional.
When did you land in San Diego and what restaurants have you worked at here?
I have now been in California for about 12 years. My first job was in Encinitas at Sage Grill where I started as a sous chef and later on became executive chef. After learning from there I moved on to La Jolla Brewhouse, and then to Carlsbad to be the executive chef at The Compass and help them improve their dining experience. Little did I know it would be here I would come to meet my future business partners Cameron, Marcus, and Joe. We came together to open Mission Avenue Bar and Grill in Oceanside
Timing is everything so when did you know the timing was right to team up with your partners and do your own thing?
Being chef/owner has been a dream of mine since I fried that first catfish fillet. I have seen a lot, done a lot, and learned what to do and what not to do from those I have worked for and with. When I was approached with this opportunity it was impossible for me to turn down especially after visiting Oceanside. There has been a flood of support for us and the other new restaurants here. The people want a community where the dining is an unforgettable event. And we want to give it to them.
For those who have not been to Mission Avenue Bar & Grill, how would you describe the menu?
The menu at Mission Ave., is eclectic to say the least. I want to bring the freshest ingredients and serve items that people don’t normally get to try. Bison, lamb, venison, rabbit, and crawfish are just a few examples of what we work with. I also have run specials that involved alligator and duck.
I’d have to say the fried green tomato and Ahi stack with a ponzu chili sauce is my favorite. It is a perfect mesh of my southern roots and newly found California regional cuisine. Our papa rellena is also a favorite, fried potato stuffed with ground lamb, pork belly, golden raisins, chilies, garlic, and spices served with a tomatillo salsa and a chipotle sour cream.
How does your Saturday and Sunday brunch menu differ from your daily menu?
Saturday’s and Sunday’s we serve brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. We offer a vegetable scramble, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, French toast with a Meyer lemon curd, and blueberry pancakes with a cocoa whip cream just to name a few dishes. We also have the NFL package every football season with six huge TV’s.
Anything else you would like to add?
We have a very open and casual feel to our place with two opened garage doors and a patio to enjoy this perfect Southern California weather. We offer 36 craft beers with only California breweries on tap plus about 200 whiskeys and an excellent craft cocktail menu.
Mission Avenue Bar & Grill is at 711 Mission Ave., in Oceanside.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at [email protected] or (858) 395-6905.