Like much of the county, Oceanside is emerging from its military history and growing into a dynamic, diverse community. With a population of more than 175,690 (U.S Census Bureau 2015 estimate), it’s the third largest city in the county. And in recent years, Oceanside has seen an influx of residents from various walks of life who yearn to live in relative proximity to the ocean without paying the astronomical premiums of points further south, such as Del Mar and La Jolla.
I began my own research into the local scene with the usual question: where do all these folks go out to dine?
When I first visited Oceanside several years ago, it seemed that the only culinary game in town was The Flying Pig, a member of the Slow Food Movement that claims the title of “The Original North County San Diego Farm-to-Table Pub.” In 2013 they were joined by Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, an outside-the-box sushi shop by Chef Davin Waite. (For more on Waite, check out the “Local Talent” column of this issue.) Waite further stoked the fire with the opening of his ramen house, the Whet Noodle. But others have since fanned the flames. Oceanside now has more quality restaurants than one can sample in a day trip.
Harney Sushi, known for being both delicious and sustainable, will satisfy more traditional sushi enthusiasts. They have earned a list of well-deserved “Best Sushi” accolades over the years so you can’t go wrong dining there. The Privateer Coal Fired Pizza and sister restaurant The Privateer Marketplace & Wine Bar have developed a loyal following, as has 608, which brings hip, modern, farm-to-table cuisine to town. And craft beer lovers have been thoroughly hooked by Local Tap House & Kitchen, which has 32 beers and ciders on draught, most of which are from close to home.
Oceanside also possesses several breweries worth your time, with Oceanside Ale Works having begun the charge in 2005. Bagby Beer Company, which inhabits an 8,500 square foot space and also serves up tasty plates, was featured in Imbibe Magazine’s 2015 list of “75 People, Places and Flavors that will shape the way you drink.” Breakwater Brewing Company took a gold medal in the 2016 World Beer Cup, and Legacy Brewing Company has taken their success further south with a second location on Miramar Road. Oceanside also hosts Golden Coast Mead, whose noteworthy bottles have attracted attention on both coasts.
The restaurateurs who are guiding Oceanside’s culinary renaissance pride themselves on showcasing local produce, and when it comes to farming in Oceanside the name on everybody’s lips these days is Luke Girling of Cyclops Farms. Cyclops is the supplier of choice for the burgeoning restaurant community, and Girling has made a name for himself among diners themselves with his monthly “water bill dinners.” These communal meals on the farm, each helmed by a different chef, are intended to entertain, showcase local talents, and raise money for the monthly water bill, which is by far Cyclops’ largest expense.
If none of the water bill dinners fit your schedule, you can also visit the farm stand at Cyclops on Saturday mornings. And to pick up fresh local produce in downtown Oceanside, remember that Thursday is Farmers’ Market day. Vendors set up on the corner of Pier View Way and S. Coast Highway in the morning from 9AM to 1PM and from 5PM to 9PM in the evening on Pier View Way and Tremont St. for the Sunset Market.
I would suggest taking the Coaster or the Sprinter to Oceanside and bringing your thirst and a hearty appetite for some of the best examples of local food and drink in the county.