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Sago restaurant in downtown Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Sago
Sago restaurant in downtown Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Sago
ColumnsFood & WineLick the Plate

Sago brings modern dining to historic Encinitas building

The building where Sago resides, alongside the La Paloma Theater and Moonlight Music and adjacent to the classic Encinitas sign, could be considered the most iconic piece of real estate in town.

I also have a very personal attachment to the corner, having held my wedding at La Paloma and reception at Martini Ranch when it occupied the space. I also booked music at “the ranch,” as we called it, from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays, which was a very fun gig.

First, a bit of history. A big thanks to Tiffany Weis, an Encinitas local with deep family roots in the area, who provided some history on the corner before my arrival 23 years ago.

I may be off on some of these exact times, but going way back, the corner building has been a bank. Then, jumping up to the 1970s, it was known as Moonlight Gardens. In the 1980s, it was Bobby G’s, then eventually Full Moon. After a short-lived stint as Millennium around 2000, it then became Martini Ranch, D Street, Home & Away, and now Sago.

I landed in the area while it was Full Moon and watched in confusion as the owners of Millennium tried to enforce a dress code with a no-jeans rule in one of the most beach-casual towns anywhere. Needless to say, they didn’t last long.

Before Sago, the building was home to Bobby G's. Screenshot
Before Sago, the building was home to Bobby G’s. Screenshot

The evolution of the tenants in the space somewhat reflects downtown Encinitas itself. A sophisticated modern supper club with a jungle theme probably would not have flown 10 years ago but now seems perfectly suited to the young, clubby crowds flocking to the nightlife in the area.

The 120-seat Sago restaurant and lounge gets its jungle-inspired vibe from real Kentia palm trees that are about 20 feet tall. The space also features an indoor atrium, a hydroponic lighting system, a high-end Funktion-One sound system, and semi-private lounge areas.

I had to know what a Funktion-One sound system was all about, and some research revealed it is “a state-of-the-art series of sonically and visually imposing loudspeaker systems delivering an unprecedented level of power combined with breathtaking transparency and purity with a strong eye-catching visual aesthetic.”

Perfect for when this modern supper club transforms into an up-tempo lounge and nightlife experience around 11 pm. Dale Polselli, of Starlight Hospitality Group, owns Sago, Shelter and The Saloon, which are located just across Coast Highway 101. The Saloon is still a favorite of mine, retaining its old-school vibe and one of my favorite murals anywhere.

One of my favorite features of Sago is the huge front windows facing the street that open all the way, giving that indoor-outdoor vibe I’ve enjoyed in the past. I also like that it’s next door to my favorite theater ever, La Paloma, and I will make Sago part of an early movie night to grab a bite post-movie.

I went to Sago early on a Wednesday and found that timeframe to be perfect for enjoying the upscale atmosphere without the club-like vibe that happens later on. And honestly, I’m sure there will be a point when I venture there later to hang with the beautiful people, just for kicks.

Sago is a jungle-themed restaurant along Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Sago
Sago is a modern supper club with a jungle theme along Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. Courtesy photo/Sago

The menu focuses on shareable food options and a “light, globally influenced menu,” as they put it. It was helmed by executive chef Frank Fleisher, who cut his culinary chops at Juniper & Ivy in San Diego and has put together a simple, yet elegant menu that we enjoyed.

The Hamachi Crudo with citrus-cured Hamachi, shaved pickled Serrano, blood orange ceviche liquid, lemon verbena oil, and micro cilantro was fabulous. I could have eaten several of these plates. There is also a tuna tartare and oysters in the raw section of the menu.

My dining companion went with the seared salmon medallions with honey lemon butter, minted Feta, green olive salsa, and pistachios. He devoured that dish with pleasure, so thumbs up on that one as well. I went with the 8-ounce burger on a brioche bun, Harissa tomato bacon jam, white cheddar, bread and butter pickles, avocado, charred red onion, and house-cut fries.

In the land of many burger options, this is another very solid option. We shared the Blistered Brussels, which was delightful, and they also offer up a couple of nice-looking pizzas in the Margherita Burrata and Sausage.

The kitchen closes at 10 pm daily. Brunch service is available on Saturdays and Sundays.

Of course, there is going to be an emphasis on cocktails at a supper club that transforms into a nightclub, and Sago delivers on that. They feature a tropical cocktail program with three categories: “Refresh,” which includes spritzes and lighter vodka and gin-based cocktails; “Savor,” which highlights drinks with infused rums and bourbons and rich flavors; and “Adventure,” focusing on fruity, herbaceous, and playful notes.

SAGO is now open Wednesday 4:30-11 p.m., Thursday 4:30-12 a.m., Friday 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-1:30 a.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-11 p.m. The kitchen closes at 10 pm. Friday and Saturday nights offer a live DJ, with acts announced regularly via SAGO’s Instagram page: @experiencesago. Brunch service is available on Saturdays and Sundays.

Find them at 485 S Coast Hwy 101 and

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