The Short and Skinny
Large windows open onto Highway 101, pulling the ocean breeze into Encinitas’ newest vegan food and beer destination.
Dozens of cyclist fly by as the crowd slowly forms outside of The Far West Lounge by Modern Times in Encinitas. Within 20 minutes of opening, the bar is full of breakfast sandwiches and beer flights.
Curling around a marble top horseshoe bar, friends sip beer as their kids climb the underlit stadium seating in soccer practice threads. The papered walls wear badges of the company's strong “mid-century maximalist” branding—from trays of felted TV dinners to cross-stitch rackets by Modern Times’ inhouse “art gnomes.” In the corner, a mini mart offers beer cans, coffee beans, and Modern Times branded swag to-go.
Brass taps gild the back wall of the bar where no less the 30 Modern Times brews are on offer. Favorites like the sour gose body of Fruitlands are poured alongside of small batch kegs like the Broken Shadow, a hazy rye IPA. The location was originally planned as a tasting room, but after local concerns about oversaturation of alcohol-consumption based business and the success of the Los Angeles and Portland food programs, management re-envisioned the space as a restaurant—to the delight of their homebase San Diego community.
The Encinitas planning commissioners are holding The Far West Lounge to its restaurant plans. Modern Times must show annual documentation that alcohol does not exceed 50% of gross sales. When ask if there was any worry over meeting this threshold with an all-vegan menu, Dan Reed—aka the Communications Metabaron—said, “So far, the feedback on the menu has been overwhelmingly positive from both our vegan and omnivorous friends, and we’re confident that it stands on its own, plant-based or not.”
Modern Times is perhaps San Diego’s strongest example of an ethical vegan company embraced fully by the mainstream—not as an novelty, but simply as good food and beer.
A gentleman eyes the menu, confused. Flagging down a bartender he asks “I read everything here is plant-based… so, what is this Double Burger?” She explains that the patty—by California-based Beyond Meat—is a course grid of mostly pea protein bound with coconut oil and tinted in beet juice and annato. The double patties comes smothered in melted vegan American cheese and grilled mushrooms on a pretzel bun smeared with roasted tomatoes and shallot jam. He orders it.
Beer is scattered throughout the menu.The Chilaquiles come drenched in Modern Times Ice (pilsner) stewed borracho beans and beer braised onion dress the Bratwurst. The menu is an abridged version of it’s LA sibling. Working with The Far West Logue's smaller kitchen, Executive Chef Jesse Moore brings tried and true favorites—like the Double Burger and Cheesy Potato Croquettes—to San Diego.
What to Order
A crescent of cheesy potato Croquettes ($9) sit proud over a swipe of smokey vegan ranch with a scattering of chives and paper thin radish rounds. The deep fried balls burst open to reveal silky smashed spuds with a distinctly cheesy aroma.
Plump ears of Kimchi Elote ($7) are a rewarding mess to eat. Slathered in charred scallion butter and drizzled in kimchi mayo, the kernels are flecked with black sesame and chili powder under a tuft of micro cilantro and slivered green onion.
Fat sweetcorn pancakes capture a sausage-seasoned Beyond Meat patty and tofu egg in Modern Times’s fetching pun, Griddle Times ($12). Oozing with melted coconut-based cheese and spicy mayo, the breakfast sandwich’s mystique is completed with typical cubes of potatoes and a cup of bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup.
While the menu leans towards classic comfort foods, the unconventional Som Tum Salad ($11) makes curiously good bar food. Ultra-fresh ribbons of green papaya and rainbow carrots come soaked in a dank peanut lime vinaigrette. Pops of red and gold cherry tomato and plumes of basil and micro cilantro finish the dish along with crispy bits of fried garlic and rice.
Pro Tip: Get a seat at the bar to avoid the line and order directly from a bartender.
Modern Times Far West Lounge
470 S. Highway 101, Encinitas
Hours: Daily, 11am-10pm
For those who are celiac, gluten-intolerant, vegan, lactose intolerant, or all of the above, consider this list your dining guide.
Every January hundreds of people take the Veganuary pledge to go vegan for the first 31 days of the year. This year, it’s even easier in San Diego.