Let’s add another arrow to the quiver of fine restaurants to join the Oceanside dining scene with Switchboard from owner Kevin Shin. I had the chance to experience a fabulous meal there and the charm that comes with being located adjacent to the renovated Fin Hotel that was built in 1927.
Everything I’ve tried on the menu was delicious and I’m looking forward to more trips back when Kevin opens the coffee shop portion of his venture in November. I should note that Switchboard opened during the pandemic while Kevin is serving as a captain in the Culver City Fire Department. That, my friends, is a hard-working man and he deserves your support … which should not be difficult given the quality of the food at Switchboard.
Part of my meal with Kevin included a 101KGB Lick the Plate interview and I followed up with him after that to learn more as his story is a good one. Below are some highlights from those conversations.
LTP: Tell me about growing up and what were some of your earlier food memories?
Kevin: I was born and raised in the South Bay of Los Angeles and my food memories were really focused on my mom’s Korean food that she would make. From recipes like kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce), bibimbap, and her oxtail soup. I remember being embarrassed as a kid when friends would be puzzled by the smells and sights of our food. It’s so enjoyable that Korean food has become more prominent as a global cuisine these days.
LTP: Part of your growing up was an association with a band we all know — tell me about that.
Kevin: Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s near Long Beach I would say that I immediately got hooked on listening to Sublime. Bradley Nowell had this unique gift to combine some of my favorite genres (punk, reggae and ’90s hip-hop) and create one of his own. I’ve had the honor of befriending Kaleo Wassman of Pepper and he connected me with the Nowell family. So proud to say we are working with the Nowell Family Foundation to help build Bradley’s House, a proposed recovery facility that will provide treatment for the music industry with opiate addiction. Partial proceeds from the restaurant will help build his house, and look for the collaborative tribute album from Law Records, “The House that Bradley Built.”
LTP: You have a career outside of Switchboard — tell me how that happened and how the restaurant came to be.
Kevin: Well, first of all I was in the Marine Corps, and I have an incredible love for Oceanside and North County. Currently, I’m a fire captain with the Culver City Fire Department but I’ve always had a passion with the food and service industry. In the last few years I’ve also had a passion for roasting coffee. When I found out that The Fin Hotel in Oceanside was seeking someone to build out a restaurant and coffee shop, I was completely in. My wife, Christine, has been such a bedrock of support and is allowing me to pursue this dream. Love ya, babe!
LTP: I love the Hawaiian influence on your menu. Tell me about your chef and what he brings to the table.
Kevin: Chef Justin Haupt spent almost a decade on Maui and Kauai mastering his culinary skills. He spent over eight years at Mama’s Fish House and really learned the Hawaiian culture, cuisine, and fine dining. Justin is a great family man and I cherish his culinary abilities for us, but most importantly, his character. His creativity for cuisine is second to none and our goal to create an ohana experience has set the culture of our restaurant.
LTP: There is some historical significance to the building Switchboard occupies that influenced the name — tell me about that.
Kevin: The owners of The Fin Hotel and City of Oceanside expressed that this 1927 built hotel maintain its historic heritage. I found out through the Oceanside Historical Society that during World War II, this hotel was commandeered as a switchboard-operating center in support of the war effort. With that in mind, we pay homage to the hard-working women that worked here then by branding our restaurant as The Switchboard Restaurant and Bar and ensured that the decor reflected that era.
LTP: For first time guest, what five items on the menu do you love?
Kevin: The Pan Seared Halibut on a bed of Coconut Polenta with Lobster Guacamole on top is a must have. Following that we love making our Drunken Miso Mussels, Korean Fried Chicken with Dill Aioli, and don’t forget our Korean Loco Moco. For our weekday brunch we love our Crab Cake Benedict and newly made Upcountry Chicken and Waffles.
LTP: And your soju cocktail program … that is fabulous as well — tell me about that.
Kevin: As we wait for our full liquor license, we currently create soju cocktails. Wyatt DeMars has taken the lead on this and has made some of our signature drinks such as the Scattered Peaks that incorporates charred kiwi puree, mint, lime, and ginger beer. We also stock local and Hawaiian beers and wine.
LTP: Anything else you would like to add?
Kevin: Opening up a restaurant during a pandemic while still serving in the fire department has been challenging to say the least. I can honestly say that any success has been a family effort. Not just my personal family, but also the employees here that I now consider family, and the City of Oceanside that has brought us in as family. Love you all.
Find Switchboard at 131 S Coast Highway, Oceanside or www.theswitchboardrestaurant.com