Moment of Truth

We started our day with a breakfast buffet at our hotel in Christchurch.  If you have never seen BP vs. a buffet, you are missing quite a show.  After only a few minutes of gorging, he was up and back at the buffet again.  “Where did IT go?” inquired Hubby.  “Kellen saw a white area on his plate and totally panicked.” I told him. He came quickly back to the table with a pile of pancakes to fill the void.  Phew!

We Ubered over to the meeting spot for our trip.  Rich’s two volleyball players ended up being Baroot: a young dad from London taking a little family break, Marleen: a woman with grown kids out of the house, leaving her sedentary husband at home, and Laura: a ridiculously smart young lady from DC who has traveled to 42 countries and can tell you everything about them.  Our group is led by Tess, who had to repeat her name five times because none of us could make it out with her thick Kiwi accent. ” Is her name Tears?” I asked Hubby who shrugged. She finally spelled it out for us.  The other guide is (another) Laura, who says she has graduated from University but looks like she can’t be much older than Kellen.  And then there is intrepid bus Ernest or “Ernie” now “E-dog” (thanks Griffin) who is hauling our carcasses around South Island and “Kermit” or “Kermie” lagging greenly behind with all of our luggage and packs.

E-Dog pulling Kermie

Today was a driving day.  We needed to get to the Northern part of NZ to start our Active Adventure.  We learned about the earthquake that happened in Christchurch in 2016 killing almost 200 people and injuring thousands more.  The main problem was that  Christchurch was built on a hidden fault line and the buildings didn’t have the infrastructure in place to withstand a 6.2 shaker. The whole town just crumbled.  We saw all of the construction trying to fix the broken roads as we crossed the Southern Alps on the east side of the island.  The road was narrow and a bit harry at times with a steep cliff hanging off one side.  More than once I would glance up at Laura and panic:  wonder why on God’s green earth wasn’t she looking at the road ahead and having two hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock!


Before realizing that Tess, our actual driver, was doing just fine on the right side of the vehicle.  This happened at least 10 times.

With all of the road construction, there were many places where the two lanes went to one lane for a while and we would have to stop for 5-6 minutes to let oncoming traffic use the single lane before it was our turn to go.  Every single construction worker we passed smiled and waved at each driver.  It was amazing.  But no one, and I mean NO ONE was a happier bloke enjoying his day than this guy.


He smiled so genuinely at every single driver, you would think each person was family.  You know how they say that New Zealand has the friendliest people on earth?  Totally proven true today!


We stopped off at a park by the beach where Laura and Tess put together our scrumptious lunch.


The best part were Laura’s Chocolate Cornflake Cookies.  I am not leaving this island without her recipe!


We found a long cement slide with some cardboard, and Griffin went first.  Not gracefully.  It’s a must-see:

Griffin sliding to his death

From there, the drive down to the Kaikoura Peninsula was breathtaking, and we saw dozens of fur seals.  We arrived at our destination to do an “easy flat walk to stretch our legs” before the real hard stuff coming up we were told.

So now I know that the word “flat” is just a state of mind.  It’s all about perspective.  No this was not a terribly hard or long hike.  But “flat” it was not!  We started off with a really steep hill.  This morning I received some spam email from a company called Inogen, selling portable oxygen tanks.  I was thoroughly insulted.  Jeez, I’m still in my 40’s!  I threw it disgustingly away.  Someone somewhere knew something, because towards the top of that hill all I was thinking was how amazing a portable oxygen tank with a little extra O2 would be.

The beautiful pastures we passed were filled with cows, sheep, deer and Kellens.IMG_0155

View from the top of our “flat” walk.


Going downhill was great and I kept up with the group like a freaking ROCK STAR.

All of these white rocks were submerged until the earthquake two years ago.  The quake lifted the whole sea bed 2 feet in this area.  Now it’s a beautiful playground.  It looks like it should be great tide-pooling, but there’s not a sea creature to be found here.


Griffin having deep and meaningful conversations with Baroot

We climbed back into Ernie and went to our final destination.  We were told that although there would be a “shout out” at dinner, all other alcohol would be on us.  Rich panicked.  “Could you please take me to the nearest grocery store?” he said. “Well, we are already here at our apartment for the night.  Do you mean you want me to drive back to town and go to a supermarket so you can purchase alcohol?” said Tess.  “Thank you” from Rich.  So back on the road we went.  We decided to see who could find the weirdest food at the store.  BP won with these:


We finally made it back to the apartments, and were blown away with how fancy they were.  We were told not to get too excited, as not every place will be this nice.



Tess and Laura prepared  a beautiful dinner of steak, sausages, potatoes, garlic bread and two kinds of green salads.  It was all superb.  The pavlova cake Laura made was divine.


Over the next three days we will be split into two groups: The Kayakers and The Hikers. After dinner our guides had a debriefing with the 6 of us hikers ( Clarks, Rich and Laura) about the details.

Tess “I’m not going to sugarcoat this guys, the next three days are going to be tough, but totally worth it.” We’ll that’s very reassuring for someone who’s been a giant ball of stress for months over this.  NOT!

Tess went over how to pack our (huge) backpacks we rented with all the gear we would need. She kept talking about the importance of our rain gear ( we had some, not all) and our very warm clothes ( we thought sweatshirts were good enough, it’s summer here right?) and the dangers of cotton. We brought cotton. It’s not like they didn’t send us a packing list before we left, but we took it as more as a suggestion rather than necessity. When I questioned Hubby months earlier about all the ” Quick Dry” clothes it said to bring his response was, ” this is just a standard packing list they use all year round. We won’t need most of this stuff, it’s summer” turns out he was wrong.

Tess, “You’re heavy fleece (which none of us had) will make a good pillow. Now stop right there. Did she just say to use our clothing as a pillow?

Me,” What’s wrong with the pillows in the hut?” You already know the answer.

I’m a three pillow sleeper, and no ordinary three pillows will do. I need my head pillow that is so dense and heavy I can barely move it. Having said that, I love it so much I really almost brought it on this trip. My next pillow is a special foam one I bought from Chiropractic Lifecenter on Encinitas Blvd. (worthy plug) to use between my knees for back support. And the third is my hugging pillow which can be almost any pillow as long as it’s thick and firm. So not almost any pillow. My fleece top that I didn’t pack is just not an option, that is barbaric.

Oh and these cute rustic huts that were given NO details in the brochure, are not private sleeping areas with en-suite restrooms. It is one big bare room where we lay mattress pads on the ground and sleep with all of the other snoring backpackers that will be there. No electricity. The outhouse is a ways away. But there’s no guarantee we will even get spots in this hut so we have to bring tents too just in case. This is NOT the semi luxurious Glamping sold to me by Hubby, who was getting my Evil Eye so hard I thought he may burst into flames. This is straight out hard core backpacking and camping. In the freezing cold and probable rain. I did tons of this shit in my teens. I’m about to pull 50 and am so not there anymore. I like beds, warmth and pillows. Three pillows, did I mention that?

“Where should we pack our towels?” I asked Tess.

“You don’t need towels” was the answer I did not want to hear.

“So after all of this hiking and sweating we have no showers for three days?” OMG!!!!!  Can you imagine what that hut with all those other backpackers is going to smell like?  And if we are in a tent, will it be worse?

Tess continued,” Day One is a pretty flat hike (sure it is)  that’s just over 6 miles.” Ok, I can do that.

“Day two is where things get really hard Guys” informed Tess. ” We’re going straight up for 6-8 hours.” Something like 3500 ft. Since my training hikes have been about 1000 ft with no pack, I started shvitzing.

Hubby noticed the terror in my face and whispered, ” don’t worry. Remember the Kaanapoli Trail we hiked in Kauaii?   That was probably a 7 hour hike.” So I’m freaking out over nothing because apparently I already trained for this hike 20 years ago.

“Day 3 is going to be quite rough as well.  The trail gets very rocky and we will be doing a lot of bouldering.” What I heard was, “If Kori isn’t dead afer Day 2, Day 3 will most certainly do her in”.  I have had two back surgeries from horse falls.  I am fused at Level L5-S1 and there are metal plates still holding things together.  After the last surgery my doctor said, “No yoga and never go bouldering or do any hiking with a pack.  Never sleep on a floor and always use three pillows.” He may not have actually said the last few things, but I for sure have a get-out-of -jail -free pass for never having to do yoga.   I’m not going to lie, as my kids were jumping up and down at the thought of a ridiculously challenging hike that includes bouldering with large packs, tears were streaming down my face.

I walked back to my room in a shell-shocked daze.  After a few minutes there was a knock on our door and an extremely kind and understanding Tess came in.  Seeing my tears and look of doom, she gently said, “You know, there are other options.”  The kayak trip.  I wanted to hug her.  A wave of relief came over me so fast I thought I heard angels singing.

I was embarrassed to tell Rich I was bailing on the 3-day and told him that I cried when I heard the details.  But Rich told me he totally gets it and that he almost cried too.  Rich.  Strong Rich.  Canyoneering, super outdoorsie, very physically fit Rich.  Thank you for that validation.  Thank you for almost crying too.

So I will part ways from my four boys tomorrow, and join Marleen and Baroot on a three day kayak trip that includes no packs and comfy beds at night.  I will miss my mangy crew but couldn’t be more relieved.

New words for today:

Sunnies- sunglasses

Jangles- flip flops

Scroggin- trail mix

shout- free drink as in  “I’m going to shout you one tonight but that’s the last one.”

Steps today: 10,316

Big Lines and Big Hair

I would document the day, but who the hell knows what day it is?  Traveling over the equator and the international date line totally messes up your sense of time, space, and direction.  Everything is backwards like driving on the other side of the road, and the need to sleep on the opposite side of the bed.

I won’t bore you with stories of our airport travels.  Lots of waiting.  Lots of turbulence.  Hubby and Griffin slept like logs.  Kellen and I white knuckled it for 13 hours.  Blah blah blah.

I took my friend Jennifer’s advice and started reading a book so funny she laughed out loud on a plane called “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson.  I, too, laughed out loud on the plane.

When we arrived in Auckland we had plenty of time to get through customs and switch planes. We had to choose the “Something to Declare” line because I made a ton of granola for us to have on our hikes.  Granola has dried fruit and it needs to be declared.

“I declare your granola to be delicious!” announced Hubby, yet they still made us go through the longer line.  customs

We also were told ahead of time to have our hiking boots clean for inspection.  New Zealand is VERY uptight about foreign contaminants.  The adults had their boots cleaned fine, but the two teenagers did a half-ass job on theirs and we got redirected to the “YOU SUCK AND WILL PAY FOR IT” line.  It took an extra hour to get through the inspection, which included a kindly old man literally washing the boys’ shoes, which is more than I would ever do for them, obviously.  This delay made for a mad dash to catch our next flight.  We barely made it and we were hot, sweaty, tired and stinky.  Man I felt bad for the other travelers around us.

The only other thing worth commenting on is that I may or may not have run right past Top Chef Michael Voltaggio in the airport.  I really wanted to stop and ask if it was him but we were literally running at top speed to catch our flight.  Plus my family hates when I stop to ask strangers if they are famous because I am almost always wrong and I totally embarrass them.  But I still do it.  Often.

We landed safely in Christchurch and met up with Rich, our family friend who goes on most of our trips with us.  Rich is a professional traveler and arrived in Christchurch rested, fed and properly buzzed from The Admiral’s Club.  He arrived much fresher than The Clarks.


We checked into our hotel and took much needed showers.  Then we headed out for a beautiful walk to town for dinner.  We bought Rich the best shirt ever.


Can we please address the elephant in the room?  Griffin’s hair.  For weeks and weeks I have been suggesting, encouraging, pleading, begging, bribing and nagging him to death to get a haircut.  Being 17, he’s way past the point of wanting my opinion.  Plus his girlfriend likes it long.  The problem is that male Clark hair doesn’t get long.  It just gets BIG.  And this thing is now so BIG and poofy I’m surprised they didn’t make us pay for an extra seat on the plane.  He is now finally in agreement that it needs to be cut.  But it’s a day short and a continent too late.  Good luck trying to find a barber on our trek!  We agreed that we are more likely to find a sheep herder who, for a few bucks, may sheer him.  So that’s our plan: to get this thing shorn before we get home.

We chose a nice looking restaurant for

I was intrigued with the menu item that included “eggplant textures” and regret not ordering it.  I may never know what eggplant textures are and I’m sure they’re awesome.


We ordered some Truffle Fries for the table.  They were served with mayo- blech!  I will also add that no actual truffles were harmed in the making of these Truffle Fries.


Kellen (also referred to as Bottomless Pit or BP) inhaled his Fish and Chips.  Why are they called “fries” when they are “truffled”, but “chips” when served with fried fish?  Head scratcher.  They served his “chips” with, not mustard, but yellow curry!  Now this I can get on-board with -yum!fish_and_chips

The rest of us ordered the Fresh Fish plate.  If you chose to order fresh fish over the other menu items like lamb or burgers, you are probably doing it to stay light and healthy, right?  Here, they smoother the fresh fish with chorizo.  Another head scratcher.


Tomorrow morning, we meet up with our tour group.  We heard that there are two other people signed up to join our Active Adventures group who will travel with us over the next two weeks.  All we know about them is that they are women.  Rich ordered two Swedish, mid-forties, volleyball players.  We will see.

Steps today: 13,700 not too shabby for a travel day!


The Roxy Encinitas


Review #74

I remember the old Roxy quite well.  It was one of three places Hubby and I used to dine at on the 101 before starting this blog.  I remember a shoddy looking restaurant with great quality, healthy food.  It was a Black Bean Enchiladas on Whole Wheat Tortillas kind of place.  The old Roxy is gone.  The new Roxy is much classier.  It has a been restored to have a 1920’s vibe.  Our waiter wore suspenders. That kind of place.

After 38 years of business, why would Roxy change a thing?  With skyrocketing rent, Roxy was able to keep their “regulars” but they weren’t getting the additional new customers they needed to pay the bills.  They felt a big change would wake up the community and bring in more people.  I know exactly what they mean.  When my friend “Carly” got divorced, she decided to put in some big bucks into her own renovation.   She too looks nothing like she did before which helped her land some new clientele as well.  It works.

Yup, they’ve gone old school here, bringing the sense of what a 1920’s speakeasy would be like.



I was impressed that they went through such lengths as to hire a band who actually played in that same year.

Chuck Crossen

I was hoping for something a bit Jazzy or Bluesy but Chuck belted out Sinatra like the best of ’em.  Salt of the earth guy that Chuck is.

Although Roxy touts, “Our menu is designed to create a sense of community between friends, family and neighbors.” I found it to be just a very basic menu with regular appetizers and entrees.  I’m not sure how that is designed to create community except that eating together does that just about anywhere you go.  If you are having a picnic of leftovers together in an alley, you are still enjoying a sense of togetherness, are you not? I’m not seeing how this menu is special that way.  In fact, the menu is very limited with none of the old healthy items I remember and loved.

I’m a sucker for Brussels Sprouts so Violet and I ordered some for the table.  These were decedent with salty little treasures of bacon lardon throughout.  Although tasty, the sprouts were very heavy with oil and one or two pieces was enough.  But who stops at only one or two pieces?  After five or six my mouth had a nice coating of oil that wasn’t going anywhere.


Mom and I both ordered The Roxy Burger with a side salad.  No dressing needed for that salad, I brought my own still stuck to my mouth.


The salad was nothing special at all.  I would have liked to see some different organic greens or sprouts mixed in for a little excitement.  But that burger was outrageously good.  It was super juicy, flavorful and so big, mom could only eat half.  I only ate half too.  But then I ate the other half.  Hey, I went on a huge hike that morning and was starving!  Plus did you see how I ordered salad instead of fries?  So stop judging me!

Violet ordered the Tandori Spiced Chicken Skewers appetizer for her main meal.  She said it was ironic that they use the word “spiced” in the title because she found it pretty bland.  And measley in size if you ask me, even for an appetizer.


Hubby ordered The Roxy Chef Salad with Chicken.  Ok, so they did add some sprouts to liven it up, but you know what?  Still not exciting.  Pretty boring in fact.  It tasted “fine” he said.  Shouldn’t “fine” be a kiss of death when talking about one’s food?  I love to cook and I know I would take offense.



Bottom Line:

The new Roxy Encinitas was a bit of a let down.  Although they did a great job aesthetically speaking, I was hoping for more from the kitchen.  Our service was great.  I love that they have live music every night of the week.  I just wish their website gave a blurb about what kind of music it is.  We wouldn’t have chosen Sinatra night.

SUPER annoying that there are no prices on their website!  I want to have an idea of what I am in for both gastronomically and financially before I go out to eat.  Having said that, I thought the prices may have been a tad steep, but we weren’t gouged for what we ordered.

Most of our food was “fine” with the exception of The Roxy Burger which was fantastic.  All in all, we weren’t impressed.  Maybe the charm is to come here for drinks and live music, with the food taking a back seat to that.  It’s not our favorite place, but they’ve got some good bones here.  Keep improving and we may be back Roxy!

*** Please follow my new travel blog to read about our upcoming adventure in New Zealand at

We will be back on the 101 on Sunday, March 10th at 6pm at:

Maurizio’s Trattoria Italiana



Review #73Plum sign

I couldn’t understand why the staple Thai restaurant on the 101 in Encinitas that’s been around forever, “Siamese Basil”, would close down.  But then to find out it was being replaced by another Thai restaurant called “Plum”…that didn’t make sense. If Siamese Basil couldn’t hack it serving both vegetarian and carnivorous options, why would Plum, a strict vegetarian restaurant do better with less options? And don’t we already have enough vegetarian restaurants on the 101? We meat lovers are getting the boot and I’m a bit disgruntled.  You Plant People can always order options without the meat, but at your restaurants, we carnivores have no meat options at all.  Totally unfair.

This sign hanging out front explained everything.

Plum signage

I’m going to be honest here.  I forgot my reading glasses.  And as I head into the big 5-0 this year, I’m blind as a bat when it comes to reading without them.  So I took a picture of this sign and waited until I got home to read it.  I just read it.  I am so blown away by the story!  Not only are they supporting our own community with their profits, they are supporting their home country as well.  How very Paul Newman of them.  Ok, I LOVE them even more now!

Entering the restaurant, we noticed the lack of decor and stark white walls.  This makes much more sense now that we know that they are in transition. Same with makeshift sign hanging over Siamese Basil’s.  I now have clarity.

Our waitress was very friendly and attentive and we were excited to order dinner.  We started with a bowl of Tom Yum to share among the 5 of us.  Tom Yum is a hot and sour soup with mixed vegetables and fresh chili.  I thought we mentioned to our server to keep things at a level 2 (out of 10) on the Thai spice scale. Lynne took a ladle of soup off the top and didn’t think it was very spicy at all.  But those dangerous red flakes were looming just below the surface.  The broth was so good, I couldn’t let the pain stop me from enjoying it.  So it was take a spoonful of soup, ow ow ow, put some ice water in my mouth.  Soup-ow-ow-ow-ice water.  Soup-ow-ow-ow-ice water.  I looked around to see how the others were managing, and there was John, adding spoonful after spoonful of extra hot condiments into his bowl.  I couldn’t believe it.  He told us that he was the only American to order something in Thailand with a “10” and lived to brag about it.

The broth was a powerhouse of flavor. My only minor complaint is that I wish it had more of the delicious vegetables in it.

Plum soup

Here is what my bowl looked like after I was done.  That’s a mighty spicy bowl!

Plum spice

We shared an appetizer sampler platter. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am not usually a fan of “mock” meat.  But slap my ass and call me Judy!  These satay “chicken” skewers were to die for!  In fact, everything was delicious and presented  beautifully.

Plum appetizers

Our next course was the sautéed eggplant with an option of jackfruit, which none of us had ever had. We were living large tonight.  Taking chances.  Going for it. We conquered that spicy soup.  We took down that mock chicken.  Jackfruit?  Bring it!

Though I was intrigued to try jackfruit, I was also a bit nervous.  I mean, have you seen one?  They’re not pretty.


I found the texture and appearance of the jackfruit pieces to be a lot like the eggplant, without the purple skin.  I took a nibble, then ate the whole piece.  Not bad actually.  It tasted a bit like…chicken? No, artichoke heart.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the brown rice option we chose was actually a medley of grains, giving great texture and nuttiness to the rice.  And what a nice touch to make it into a heart.  We ♥ that.

plum eggplant

The next dish was one I ordered called, “Pad See Iw” only I can’t pronounce it correctly.  I butchered the pronunciation so bad in fact, that my server had no clue what I was saying. When I told her it was the one with the thick egg noodles and broccoli she said the name of it back to me which sounded nothing like what I told her.  Oh well.  She got it right and it was delicious!  It was truly outstanding with the “chicken”.  Everyone loved it.

Plum se ew5

Katie ordered the Pad Thai.  I have had Pad Thai so much in my life, it’s not something I order anymore.  Too boring.  Been there, done that.  And the thing that brings Pad Thai to life is the fish sauce, so I’m sure it wouldn’t be very good here without it.  WRONG! Not only was this Pad Thai with tofu amazing, I think it may be the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had.  I will absolutely order this again next time.  Fan-friggin’-tastic!

Plum Pad Thai

And that my friends, is a wrap.  Or so I thought.  Our friends started sniffing at the dessert menu. I didn’t need anything.  I wasn’t going to order any.  But if someone else happened to order the chocolate lava cake on the menu, I wouldn’t exactly kick it out of bed.  But when Lynne started ohhing and ahhhing over the Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, I thought she was nuts.  DID SHE NOT SEE THE CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE ON THE MENU??  But since I wasn’t ordering it, I had no say.

When the Sticky Rice arrived, we all took forks and scooped it up (except Hubby who won’t eat anything with coconut).  Ohhhhh my.  This was amazing beyond words!  I closed my eyes to savor the deliciousness of the rich, creamy, coconutty rice with the sweet mango.  I tuned out the world around me and immersed myself in these few bites of heaven.  Do other people know about this???  Lynne, who has spent time there, told me that this is the traditional dessert served in Thailand, and yes, everyone knows about it.  And now I do too.

Plum dessert


Bottom Line:

Do not come to Plum Encinitas because you are looking for good vegetarian Thai food.  Come to Plum because you are looking for good food.  Even if you’re a dedicated carnivore, you will miss NOTHING.  The mock chicken and organic tofu protein options complete any dish.  They also have mock duck and beans you can add that we didn’t try.  Try the jackfruit option if you’re feeling adventurous.  I found the prices to be spot on for the quality and organic ingredients used to make these scrumptious dishes.  I am on-board with these Plant People.  Plum is not only fantastic, it is special.

Join us next week for live music and dinner on Sunday, February 10th 6pm at

The Roxy

A few shameless plugs here:

*** Please follow my new travel blog to read about our upcoming adventure in New Zealand at


*** Please come and support my team “Spinheads” at a super fun event this Saturday, February 9th from 7-10pm at the Encinitas Elk Lodge as we raise money for the Encinitas YMCA!  There will be a fantastic live band to dance to, snacks, silent auction, raffle prizes and more!  Tickets are just $10 each and you can buy them here:

Thank you for your support!!!



Encinitas Cafe

encinitas cafe sign

Review #72

The only thing better than breakfast in the morning is breakfast for dinner.  Hubby and I went on a long hike this morning, and were going to see a show later at the Belly Up Tavern.  A large carby-gluten filled dinner was in order.  Isn’t there a saying like, “pancakes before beer makes your brain more clear”?  I’m pretty sure that’s it.

We brought our hunger over to The Encinitas Cafe.  A place we have driven/walked by a thousand times but had never been inside.  The Encinitas Cafe is a real authentic throw-back diner where you would expect to see Mel yelling at Flo and Alice from the kitchen.

encinitas cafe inside

It was a nice evening, not too cold so we opted for a table outside.  It was such a great place to people and dog watch.  We ran into a bunch of friends and really enjoyed being right on the 101 amidst the Saturday night hustle and bustle.

Our first server, Katie, was extremely sweet and attentive.  When Hubby told her to please forgo filling our waters and asked her to bring a whole pitcher, she obliged without question.  When he asked for some lemons, she brought a whole bowl full.  Which our friend Geoff proceeded to bathe in.  Hubby took some lemon and squirted it into his water glass (prevents kidney stones). Geoff took some lemon and squirted it onto his hands, arms and face  (prevents friendships.)  With a large piece of pulp hanging off his chin he asked what I was staring at.  Geoff understands the topical health benefits of lemon so doing a pre-dinner lemon cleanse isn’t really as weird as it sounds.  I mean, it may not be for everyone when they’re out in public, but at a certain age, you just stop giving a hoot. I know I have! I almost joined him, but decided nah.

Our next server, Claudia, came out and was as nice as could be.  I asked her for some history on the Encinitas Cafe.  She told me that it has been around for over 85 years as a diner of one sort or another.  The last owners had run the place to the ground, owing all of their employees tons of pay then they sold it and split.  What kind of person in charge would allow struggling people to work for days on end without pay? Hmmm?? The community came together to save the restaurant.  Someone bought it and one of the waitresses that had been working there, took over.  She turned the place around and paid back all the money owed to everyone.  Some of the employees here today have been around for over 40 years. Claudia wasn’t sure if she got this story exactly right and asked me not to quote her, so I’m not.  The point is, it is now owned by good people, keeping an old fashioned diner true to it’s roots while treating their employees and customers like family.  You can read the full story here:

Most of my group ordered this:


Basically, you are getting almost everything on the breakfast menu in one meal.  It’s a lot of food.  Hubby’s Banana Walnut Pancakes came out first and they were huge!

encinitas cafe banana pancake

Here were the eggs and potatoes that came with it.

encinitas cafe eggs

I ordered one Banana Walnut Pancake and one Oat Pancake with my Encinitas Special.  “Oat Pancake” sounded like some hearty, cakey, pancake treat.  It wasn’t.  It tasted like bland fried oatmeal.  Hubby liked it and finished it up.

encinitas cafe oat cake

Eggs, bacon and hash browns came with those pancakes.  It was quite a feast!

encinitas cafe bacon

Geoff ordered an Angus Beef Sandwich with Onion Rings.

encinitas cafe sandwich

He said the onion rings’ batter was too thick and the sandwich bread was too buttery.  His wife, Mary, rolled her eyes and gave it to him.  “Your bread is buttered perfectly and that’s exactly how onion rings should be!  Personally, when I come to a diner, I want overly-buttered bread and a little grease with my fried food.  That’s why we are at a diner!”  I lifted up my plate and showed her the grease underneath my hash browns and she nodded approvingly. Plus Geoff, they serve breakfast all day.  Skip the lunch and dinner food and get breakfast because you can!

Bottom Line:

Even though the 101 Diner and Honey’s Bistro are similar diner-style restaurants located across the street, there is good reason to choose the Encinitas Cafe.  They are open for dinner and serve breakfast all day!  Is it the best breakfast I have ever had?  No.  But you will get a huge portion of food for a good price.  It’s exactly what you would expect from a diner that has been around this long, it won’t disappoint.  Eating here makes you feel good supporting our wonderful community. The Banana Walnut Pancakes were excellent. And if you forget to shower or don’t smell as April fresh as you could, just ask Katie for a bowl of lemons.  They work in your water, your food, or all over your body just ask Geoff.

Join us next week, Saturday, February 2nd at 6:00 at

Plum Vegetarian Thai





Death by Tequila

death sign

Review #71

I was excited to try Death by Tequila.  We walked by the place last week on our way to Eve Encinitas where good smells were coming from inside.  It had tasteful decor and looked nice.  They take reservations which is handy. There was a beautiful table set up for our group of 10 by the time we arrived.

death table

Although their website proudly boasts “with  over 100 brands of curated tequila” they had only a teeny tiny fraction to offer us.  Look at the tequila menu with everything scratched out except the piddly few things they had available.

death tequila 2

Our server explained to us that they are waiting for their new shipment of tequila.  I asked when would it be here and she said she has no idea but it must be very soon because they are sold out of almost everything.   It’s a TEQUILA BAR WITH ALMOST NO TEQUILA!!  WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!  If you are phasing out some bottles, have others available before you run out!

“Then you must have what’s left on clearance” piped in Hubby. That would be a “NO” with a distasteful look from our server. Made perfect sense to me.

I was about to ask our server a question about which of the three tequilas I should order, when Hubby rudely interrupted me and said, “remember Rich’s wedding…”.  You see, Hubby was scared that I was going to have the server just choose one for me.  At Rich’s wedding back in 2000, Jennifer and I wanted to do something special.  We went up to the bar and asked for a shot of their finest tequila for the groom.  We were willing to split the assumed $20-$30 shot for our friend Rich.  It was his wedding and he deserved a shot of the best!  Rich drained that shot, thanked us and went back to the dance floor.  “That will be $150” the bartender told us.  So you can understand Hubby’s fear here.

We chose to try a “Melagro Select Barrel” for $15. A small price in comparison but a $15 shot is still $15!  Wouldn’t it have been nice for the server to tell us a little about what we were drinking?  Share some tequila knowledge at this tequila bar?  Nope.  But I’ll tell you what, I thought it was outstanding!  A little rough going in but very smooth and sweet going down.

death tequila shot

Joyce tried to order a glass of rosé and was told they were sold out of that too.  There is literally a liquor store across the street.  If you are sold out of rosé, run over and buy your customer a bottle.  You know what else they sell there?  Tequila!

Dave ordered a drink called “El Jefe” and was surprised at how bitter it was considering there weren’t any bitter components to it.  On a positive note, we all liked the very square ice cubes .

death drink

Oldest’s girlfriend ordered a Baja Street Tostada for $10.  She picked at it but was unimpressed and didn’t finish it even though it was quite small.

death tostada

We are a guacamole-lovin’ family and were excited to try a flight of three for $15. They looked pretty, but not a single one was very good.  The “Poblano Pepita” was bitter, the “Pineapple Chipotle” was just sweet not smokey and the “Original” was totally bland.  But the worst part was that the chips were stale.  I asked our server if she could please bring us some fresh ones.  I’m pretty sure she just warmed up these same chips and put them back in front of us.  They were chewy and awful.

death trio

Oldest ordered the Spanish Octopus for $23.  He took one bite and said he couldn’t eat it.  For a $23 portion of tentacle,  it was not going to waste. Pass that bad boy over!  The octopus was way too chewy but I really loved the flavor.  I thought the pickled vegetables went well with it.  It was just ridiculously over-priced.  This is NOT what a $23 plate of food should look like.

death octopus

For comparison, the last time I remember eating octopus was at Union Kitchen & Tap.  (See Union Kitchen & Tap review here)

Below is the masterpiece we ordered there which is about four times the size of Death by Tequila’s for a mere $14.95, compared to Death by Tequila’s $23 octopus.  This one was not only scrumptious but tender.

union octopus
Charred Spanish Octopus at Union Kitchen & Tap

Joyce and Kelly tried to order a Baja Street Tostada but were told that Oldest Girlfriend had just ordered the last one.  Sold out again! They shared a Caesar Salad and really enjoyed it.  Joyce loved the radishes and light dressing.

death salad

They also shared some Mahi-Mahi Street Tacos which they loved.  Joyce said she would come back again for these tacos. Then again, Joyce has never been to The Taco Stand.

death tacos 2

The trio of tacos were ok but charging $16 for three tiny street tacos should be illegal.   $16, Really?

death tacos

Diane tried to order the Market Fish Vera Cruz but was told, do I need to tell you?  SOLD OUT!  What the flip is happening here? On an already too small menu to have so many things sold out is freakishly weird.  She was told that since the restaurant is closed on Monday they are using up what they have. But they will have a full menu next week.  Basically, we are hosed for coming in on Sunday.   Can a restaurant toting a Top Chef All Stars competitor have his name connected to a restaurant this poorly managed?  Or are we being watched on a camera somewhere to see our reactions while we are getting Punked?

The “Bomba Chicken” tasted ok, but the blood orange vinaigrette tasted to me like a weak Thai peanut sauce. Why was I getting Thai flavor from a Baja restaurant?? Hubby labeled this dish “Four-Bite-Chicken”.  For $17!

death chicken

Hubby and I shared some Spicy Mole Potatoes with Chimichurri and Pickled Onions for $7.  At least this seemed to be a reasonable price for a side dish. I asked how spicy this dish was and the server was honest.  “Pretty spicy” was her answer.  I figured if they were too spicy for me, Hubby and Oldest wouldn’t have a problem with their fire-proof mouths.  I cut a tiny piece. popped it into my mouth and WHOOO WEEEE, I was breathing fire!  I’ve had spicy before but this was unbearable in my opinion.  I would like to say that at least it had a nice mole flavor to it but it really didn’t.  It was just HOT.  Hubby and Oldest powered through from mere hunger not enjoyment.

death potatoes

Oldest and Girlfriend got up to leave soon after.

“Where are you two going?” I asked

“To The Taco Stand for food, we’re starving” replied Oldest right after we signed for our $100+ small-plates dinner for four people that included only one drink.  With a bill this hefty, it needed a leather binder to contain it.

death bill

Nobody likes spending too much money on food they don’t like.  But when I tell you nobody hates it worse than Hubby, you must believe me.  There’s a whole new level of bitter and disgruntled I had to deal with on that drive home.  Once we got home, Hubby feasted on a pile of frozen waffles.

death waffels

Bottom Line:

This was by far the most disappointing dining experience we have had on the 101.  It was not the worst food we’ve had but fell way way short of my expectations.  If you are going to serve “small plates” don’t price them the same as big plates!

If you are at the bottom of your stock on tequila, wine and food, then whatever you have remaining should be on “special”.  Otherwise your option is to close business until you can deliver what you should or, I don’t know, here’s a crazy concept, KEEP YOUR SUPPLY FULL! Have some standards and hold yourself to them!  We were told multiple times to come back another week when they had more tequila.  And wine.  And food.  But we were here tonight and expected to be served what was on the menu.  Silly us!

I always try to find positive aspects of each place because no place is all bad.  Although the octopus wasn’t tender, the flavor was delicious.  Joyce and Kelly loved their tacos and salad though neither did it for me.  And they have cool square ice cubes, I will give them that. So the most positive thing I can say is…. nice ice cubes.

Kelly was disappointed that we left not only thirsty for tequila, hungry from such small portions, but we didn’t even learn a thing about tequila.

If you really are looking to drown yourself to death in tequila, don’t come here on a Sunday.  They don’t have any!  TWO THUMBS DOWN.

Join us next week, Saturday, January 26th at 6pm where we will be eating breakfast for dinner at

Encinitas Cafe