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I still think about Big Jim’s Roast Beef Sandwich daily. Photo via Facebook/Big Jim's Roast Beef
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The best of Lick the Plate in 2022

As food experiences and discoveries go, 2022 was right up there with the best I’ve had.

One of the many things I love about writing Lick the Plate in The Coast News (and as a radio show in San Diego, Detroit and northern Michigan) are the regular deadlines that motivate me to feature both new and time-tested food and restaurants.

It’s rewarding to have these platforms to tell the stories of the folks in the culinary world whose passions and work ethics are inspiring and provide inspiration to me on weekly basis. Plus, these creative types tend to just be fun to hang out with.

Living a full life — for me anyway — is all about constant discovery and Lick the Plate is my vehicle for that. I celebrated 15 years of writing this column in The Coast News in 2022, a random milestone but it was a hoot looking back at some of the fun I’ve had with this gig.

Enough of the waxing poetic, let’s talk about what I covered in 2022 that I still can’t stop talking about.

I’ll start with a day trip on Amtrak to Los Angeles for business that involved a glorious lunch at Philippe’s Original French Dip, a short walk from Union Station. Besides my love of train travel, this sandwich, potato salad and slaw were as good as I’ve had. A glorious experience all around and so much better than driving to Los Angeles.

Ponto Lago at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad was a high-end feast for the culinary senses that blew me away on several levels.

Then I had the new Boston regional food discovery from James Jones, chef and owner of Big Jim’s New England Style Roast Beef, where I looked up from the beautiful pile of beef before me at The Leucadian Bar, gazed out toward the Big Jim’s rig parked on Coast Highway 101, and proclaimed loudly, “You are the king of roast beef and I worship the ground you walk on!” Enough said.

Lab Collaborative in Oceanside, another gem in the ever-expanding Oceanside culinary scene, left me wanting more. Another Oceanside standout is Naegi, another stellar offering from chef/entrepreneur extraordinaire William Eick. His fast casual Japanese sandos take sandwiches to a higher level.

Wrapping up my Oceanside favorites was the expanding “campus” of Switchboard Restaurant and Bar, North County Roastery, Korean food lounge Haetae and their latest addition, KNVS, all attached to the boutique Fin Hotel. You can’t go wrong with any of these selections and hats off to owner Kevin Shin, whose creativity is driving these creative projects.

I experienced my first luau at the Catamaran Resort and this surprisingly good feast for the ages was a melting pot of ethnicities. It was like a United Nations of luaus, with the common thread of like-minded people gathering to celebrate good food in huge quantities and some fun Hawaiian entertainment.

I dove deep into my bagel obsession, driven by my belief that bagels done right, toasted and served with a schmear of cream cheese and lox, are one of the great culinary pleasures of my life.

This stemmed from a bagel experience at A Little Moore Café in Leucadia and led to the discovery of Top of the Bagel in Carlsbad, Garden State Bagels in Encinitas, Carlsbad and Del Mar, and a recently discovered 101 Bagels & Subs in Oceanside. All proved to be more than worthy to this self-proclaimed bagel snob.

My love of a good burger, smash style, was rewarded with two more worthy options in North County. The fabulous Shake Shack landed in Carlsbad and Crispy Burger joined the established Hamburger Hut in Encinitas to provide a trifecta of burger delights to choose from in the area. Hamburger Hut has the added bonus of a killer bar to help build that burger appetite and don’t overlook its amazing Fish Burger.

Ranch 45 in Solana Beach served up the best steak and eggs I’ve had, and Gold Finch in the Torrey Pines area of La Jolla put a modern spin on traditional deli fare with outstanding results.

I also came to terms with, and actually embraced, the gluten-free menu at Nectarine Grove and discovered the benefits of what I call a “gluten aware” diet. I won’t ever give up gluten completely, but there are enough edible gluten-free options available now that I’m dabbling in it on a regular basis.

I’m still waiting on the promised Tony Hawk-backed chicken joint that caused the closing of local gem Fulano’s, sitting empty for way too long.

Other than that, it’s been a great year for food locally and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2023.