I’ve never been entirely clear what the exact boundaries of Leucadia are, but I’ve always felt that the epicenter is the stretch of Coast Highway where Lou’s Records, Pannikin and Fully Loaded Juicery reside.
It’s relatively untouched by the new construction slowly changing that stretch, and still captures that essence of the old school, charming Leucadia that is so cool. That’s where my LTP travels took me recently to Costal Eatery, located next door to Fully Loaded Juicery in a charming indoor/outdoor space that offers one of my favorites – savory meat pies.
Depending on the region of the world you come from, these are called everything from pot pies, pasties, empanadas and tourtiere’s, just to name a few. Coastal Eatery offers up New Zealand Kiwi meat pies and they are amazing along with the rest of their menu that I’ve had a chance to sample. I interviewed co-owner John Merklinger recently for LTP on 101 KGB and have some highlights from that conversation below.
LTP: You grew up in Virginia Beach, tell me about that life and any notable food memories you recall from that time in your life.
John: Growing up in Virginia Beach (VB), is a lot like the beach cities here in SD. Every day was riding bikes on the boardwalk, pool hopping, and stopping at small restaurants for a quick bite to eat. Taste Unlimited is a place that has lasted decades and that is where we get our sandwich ideas. We basically brainstormed about what we liked to eat growing up and are bringing those items to the Coastal Eatery.
LTP: As an accomplished athlete growing up, your talent resulted in a college scholarship, what was that experience like and how did it shape you?
John: Playing sports has taken me around the country, where we sampled the local fare. Playing for the Boston College football team, I had teammates from different backgrounds. Boston has many diverse neighborhoods with terrific tastes. Each neighborhood would have a certain type of food, like the North end which has amazing old-school Italian.
LTP: Our radio interview revealed your eclectic tastes in music, refresh me on some of the memorable shows you got to see growing up and in Boston?
John: VB is a great place for live music and my first show was KC and the Sunshine Band in sixth grade. Luckily, I’ve been able to see the Talking Heads, The Police, Ramones, Violent Femmes, Blondie to name a few. In college, I promoted clubs and managed some college bands. A great memory was bringing Blues Traveler to Boston.
LTP: The New Zealand style meat pies are a big part of your menu, describe the story behind them and how you became a fan?
John: My interest in a “proper” meat pie, was started by Bert Todd, a family friend and owner of Kiwi Kuisine. Bert brought pies over to the house one day for the guys to try. Meat pies were not on our day to day menu, but they were delicious. Five years ago, my son was starting to play rugby with the Coastal Dragons, the rugby club for Encinitas.
The club needed a meat pie supplier and that became me. I have sold pies at local rugby tournaments, farmer markets, and street festivals. Opening the Coastal Eatery is the first brick and mortar place for me. We are carrying a wide selection of pies, including gluten-free and veggie. For people in the know, we carry a “proper” meat pie!
LTP: You offer a wide variety of meat pies, what are a few of your favorites?
John: I like all the pies, but my favorite is the steak n cheese. The steak, bacon, and blue cheese has a great flavor and the chicken curry has been a local favorite too.
LTP: Besides meat pies, you have a solid selection of sandwiches, flatbreads and salads, tell me about those offerings.
John: We also carry delicious sandwiches, hot and cold with all the traditional flavors, turkey, roast beef, chicken. We will be serving a hot open-faced sandwich soon, along with a side of mashed potatoes. Our flatbreads have multiple kinds of cheese and veggies, along with delicious sauces.
We carry a house salad, Caesar, and a garden salad. All of our ingredients are locally sourced when possible and all products are handmade daily. We also carry Kombucha and a new Kalo drink, which is infused with CBD.
LTP: Coastal Eatery is a family affair, who else is involved in the business?
John: I started the Coastal Eatery with a high school friend, Craig Woolard. Craig has worked in many restaurants and paid his way through law school by working at local restaurants. Craig is the chef behind our eclectic menu/recipes.
My son Jake is a senior at La Costa Canyon HS and he also helps with working at the Eatery. My daughter Emily, a freshman at UC IRVINE, has helped with artwork and design. Craig’s wife, Angela, helped out with setting up our corporation and the plan submission to the health dept. It has taken the efforts of both families to put the Coastal Eatery together!
LTP: How would you describe your fabulous location?
John: This point has to do with the “vibe” of our little place. We have had many people come in and just hang out. Either to have a cup of coffee, watch football or rugby, do some work for their job. They have all said, it just makes them feel comfortable to be there. We like that and think it has something to do with the community that we are located in. A few have commented on the “positive energy” they feel at the Eatery.
Find Coastal Eatery at 466 N. Coast Highway, Encinitas.