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Photo courtesy Hacienda de Vega
ColumnsLick the Plate

The Fabulous Hacienda de Vega in Rancho Santa Fe

For years I’ve heard good things about the original Hacienda de Vega in Escondido then in Carlsbad and when I heard they opened in early 2018 near Rancho Santa Fe it was about time to check them out. The new 4,200-square-foot Rancho Santa Fe Plaza location in the former Bentley’s location has a smaller footprint than the former 1-acre Escondido location with with 114 seats indoors and 115 on the beautiful patio. It also has a private dining room with a communal table and a full bar. They gutted the former Bentley’s space and put in all new furnishings, including a new wood floor and new furniture and decor from Mexico. The dining room now features a nice fountain, hanging lanterns and illuminated trees.  It’s nestled in a colonial-inspired building reminiscent of a center square in Mexico with cobblestone patios and 32-year-old Jacaranda trees overhanging candlelit tables.

It’s a fairly obvious translation but for those without any Spanish, Hacienda de Vega translates into “House of Vega” and it’s the Vega family that opened their first location in Escondido in 2003. The first Hacienda de Vega in Escondido was a fully owned and operated family venture run by Patricia and Alonso Vega.  It was by mere chance and good timing that their lives and that of their son Alonso Vega-Albela (who now runs the Rancho Santa Fe location) coincided at the right time.  His mother, family matriarch and executive chef Patricia Vega ran the kitchen and dad ran the business side of things. Alonso operated the front of the house and they built a substantial following in Escondido.

The Enchiladas de Mole at Hacienda de Vega  in Encinitas. Courtesy photo

The new location serves the same menu, developed by family matriarch and executive chef Patricia Vega. She was raised in Mexico City and her dishes reflect the cuisine and ingredients of that region. There are no combination plates or American-style yellow cheese on the dishes. Patricia developed the original menu, from beginning to end.  A long journey brought her to her mid-life transition from Mexican homemaker to San Diego restaurateur. She was introduced to the joys of cooking at a very young age and spent many happy hours in the kitchen helping out with family meals and holiday feasts. Having done a lot of social entertaining she decided to acquire a more formal training and attended the Maricu Culinary Arts Institute where she was certified as a “Mayora” in Traditional Mexican Delicacies. She went on to participate in numerous workshops with renowned Executive Chefs such as Paola Olayo, Patricia Quintana and Monica Patino where she perfected what she calls “the flavors of my people” and developed her own culinary style. 

She is now retired but Patricia Vega continues to develop ideas on her spare time and regularly supervises the creation of them from paper to table as well as the quality control of her original menu items. That is always a good sign!

Speaking of the menu, it’s a good one but there are dishes that stand out and have folks driving from all over San Diego to experience. Their mole is legendary and is one of those dishes that people flock to the restaurant for. The Queso de Vega is their oldest, simplest and most popular appetizer and I can attest to the yum factor of that dish.

Tampiqueña is one of Mexico’s most traditional dishes, which can be found, practically, in every city of the country and is another big seller. It’s a filet strip, rice, beans, chicken taquito, mole sauce and guacamole.  On the seafood side the Ajillo Mahi Mahi is a very light and flavorful dish infused with imported chiles.  The Sabana Invierno is layers and layers of different flavors that make this ¼-pound beefsteak melt in your mouth plus Manchego cheese which is an interesting twist.  There are several soups available but the Sopa Azteca is the standout. It’s a truly traditional tortilla soup that starts with beef broth and spice after spice.  For dessert the Churros are the way to go served with 3 dipping sauces.   As mentioned there is a full bar and the 18 oz. Hacienda Margarita, a secret house original is a favorite.

There is a modest selection of 35 wines from Latin America. Monte Xanic from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe and Maestro Dobel tequila from Jalisco, Mexico are represented plus selections from Chile and Argentina.

The restaurant is now serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch and is located at 162 Rancho Santa Fe Road, Encinitas. 760.738.9804