Ajito TOGO Sushi & Japanese Bento

Review #13

Ajito 6

Ajito TOGO Sushi & Japanese Bento is a teeny tiny, itsy witsy little restaurant tucked away in the parking lot shared with Fully Loaded Juice.  I have never noticed it in all of the 16 years I have lived in Encinitas.  They are only open M-F from 10:30-3:00.  Closed all weekends?  How can a restaurant on the 101 survive closed on weekends?  They must kill it during the week.  They must be THAT good.

I LOVE sushi.  Let me rephrase that.  Death row.  Last meal.  Last bite of anything this worldly place has to offer.  For me, it’s going to be sushi.  When I was dating my now hubby, and he told me he didn’t eat sushi, it was almost a deal breaker.  Not into horses, I could handle.  An atheist you say?  Hmmm, ok.  BUT YOU DON’T LIKE SUSHI?  WHAT KIND OF FREAK ARE YOU??  I had to take him to my then favorite place, PB Sushi, to show him the error of his ways.  Luckily, he learned.

Ajito has a small area to sit out front, inside or on their back patio which is very cute.

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We came hungry, but the woman working there, let me add, the only person working there, was quite busy with a previous order and couldn’t give us the time of day.  We waited and waited, but could not get her attention.

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We looked around at our scarce options. There were a few TOGO items in the cooler, but not much.

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Then we saw some cooked items on the counter.  It’s summer.  It’s hot.  How long were these items on the counter going to sit there, unrefrigerated?  Sure, I’ve seen this in third world countries where everything is just out on a counter.  But we are in modern day Encinitas! We have refrigeration at our fingertips, and it’s a beautiful thing!  When it comes to food sanitation, I am a bit nutzo, I admit.  But how can they keep pork dumplings, chicken and fish, even cooked, on a hot counter?  It’s icky!

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When the woman working there finally looked our way I asked if she could make us some sushi since it was slim pickins’ in the cooler.  “Rainbow Roll” she replied.  “Anything else?” we stupidly asked.  “Just rainbow roll.”.  Ok, we will take one rainbow roll and a pre-packaged tuna roll from the cooler while we wait.  Did I mention how hungry we were?  We took our TOGO tuna roll to a nice table outside.

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It was very wimpy.  It was mostly just a loosely rolled ball of rice with a tiny bit of tasteless tuna in the middle.  Nothing special, not even very good.  There’s a reason why I don’t order pre-packaged sushi.  It’s this.  We waited and waited and finally got our rainbow roll.

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Not only did this roll look better, it tasted very good.  It’s certainly not going to win any aesthetic awards.  Look how unevenly it is cut and how the size of the pieces differ. When you are sharing one roll, you want each piece to be the same size so there is no conflict.  We actually got into a chopstick war over the piece on the left.  I lost.  I got the sad sushi.

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Bottom line: Ajito Sushi & Japanese Bento is an inexpensive take-out joint.  The bento boxes looked good, but I hesitate to take anything off a hot counter on a hot day.  The pre-packaged roll we ordered was not worthy, but the one freshly made was good.  If cheap sushi is the only way you can eat sushi, then this is better than the grocery store option.  But I’m a sushi snob and would rather hold out for the good stuff.  We left Ajito disappointed and hungry.  Good thing Hapifish is coming down the road soon to redeem this sushi experience!

 

Fully Loaded Micro Juicery

IMG_2037Review #12

Juices aren’t my thing, so when I saw that a juicery was the next stop in line down the 101, I was less than thrilled.  I love FOOD.  In my opinion, drinking juice is a waste of calories that I would rather chew.  But going to a juicery won’t be our last sketchy stop on the 101, because we still have Captain Keno’s coming up!

Fully Loaded is tiny, with only four chairs out front, so most of our group had to stand.  There is a menu of uber healthy juices on the board and they are all sold in glass jars in the refrigerator.  The ingredients are organic and the juices are cold pressed to retain as many nutrients as possible.  I suppose this can warrant the $12 price per jar, but my hubby didn’t think so!  I was told to order either the Yam Bam or Maca Maca by my Facebook friends, but I strayed from recommendations.  After sampling a variety of them, I settled on, in my opinion, the healthiest one.  If I’m doing this juice thing, then I’m all in and want maximum healthiness!  And if that means forgoing taste, by golly, I am worth it!  “RAWBRAH” straight up please!

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I took a sip and wondered which neighbor provided the lawn clippings I was drinking.  I took another sip and laughed that they thought by adding a bunch of cayenne to this green muck, it might hide the taste.  “Wow, the flavor is nice and spicy!  That’s all I taste.  Yup, just spicy.  Not one bit of the raw plants, flora and shrubbery here.”  The rest of my group were total wusses and ordered sweet, fruity juices.  My son ordered the “Avatar”.

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His best description was it tasted just like lemonade with BLUE ALGAE in it.  Who wants blue algae in their lemonade?  Not him.  After two sips, he was done.  I wasn’t going to let his $12 juice go to waste so I mixed a bit of his algae with my bushes, and guess what?  It was palatable!  I made my hubby take a sip now that I doctored it up. He took one sip, handed it back to me, and met me at the car!  Leslie ordered “Summer Fling” and my father in law ordered “Ginger Snap”.  Both were fruity and very sweet, nothing that will grow hair on your chest like mine though.

Bottom Line: If you are into juicing, then Fully Loaded Micro Juicery is a high quality way to go.  They sell subscriptions for people doing long term cleanses, and even offer delivery.  You can find them at the store front or every Sunday at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market across the street.  If you want to order a juice that tastes great but won’t break your bank, you know where a Jamba Juice is.   If you want to drink something that will  leave you feeling refreshed and healthy, I suggest ordering one of their greener juices like the “Rawbraw”, and mixing it with an Avatar so you can get it down.  With three pounds of vegetables in each juice, I am pretty sure I don’t need to eat another vegetable of any sort until August!

Pannikin Coffee & Tea

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Review #11

July 2, 2017

The cute, yellow, Victorian house was an actual Santa Fe Depot train station built in 1888 and was originally located up the road and across the street from its Leucadia home today.  Still keeping its train roots in the decor inside the building, Pannikin Coffee & Tea is as quintessential Encinitas as anything can get.

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When we first moved to the hood back in ’01, we were told to go here by our realtor, Klara Strauss-Henkles, from Premier Homes Director Windermere Homes & Estates (call her!) “Bring your dogs” she recommended.  Not only is this place kid and dog-friendly, there was a pet llama parked out front while it’s owner was inside ordering. And if you have a train obsessed young child as we did, it can’t get better than a REAL train depot by the tracks where the big, loud trains goes by regularly, selling all the chocolaty drinks and sugary goodies your child could ever dream of.  As long as you don’t mind listening to “Train! Train!  More train!” this is the kind of place you can hang out all morning!

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You will see many bikers and runners ending up at Pannikin, so today, our group of eight decided to hoof the few miles there.  If you don’t show up to Pannikin looking a little sweaty or work-out-worn, you will feel self conscience. If you must drive, I suggest a squirt of the water bottle on your clothes, and a rustle of your hair before going.  Just to fit in.

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Be prepared to wait in long line on a weekend morning, but no fear, this line is a great place to make new friends, or just people watch while you are Procaffeinating.

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If your first time going is on a weekend, things can be stressful.  The menu is located on a chalkboard by the baked goodies, which is right by the register.  So by the time you get to see what’s on the menu, or in the display case, it’s your turn to order.  And make it fast because you have some grumpy procaffeinators waiting behind you!

As you walk up the stairs and inside, there is an adorable store filled with tantalizing coffee, teas, mugs and other related chatchkes.

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When you take a few steps closer to the display case, you will see signs telling you about what a good choice you made to come here.

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Now you have finally made it to the display case and menu where it’s time to order. But oh no!  There are soooo many sinful looking desserts staring at you, daring you to try them.  How can you choose?  Can you order one of everything?  Too piggy?  You  hear the kids whining about their hunger behind you so you know you have to choose fast.  But by ordering one thing, you have given up on all of those others!  Ahhh!

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Decisions, decisions!  Ok, you need to narrow this down. Is it a sweet or savory kind of morning?  Do you want muffins and scones or eggs and bagels?  This morning we decided on some egg dishes, but ordered a blueberry scone for the table while we waited (they were out of lemon poppy seed by 9:00 am, bummer!).  IMPORTANT TIP: Always order a goody for the table while you wait- there are no calories in these “for the table” items.  I suggest having your baked goods served warmed up.  If you ask nicely, they will slice and toast your scone instead of microwaving it.  Having the outer edges a little crisp is definitely the way to go.

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You can sit choose to sit on two different levels indoors, or enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather in an array of tables outdoors.

 

 

DEBBIE’S TIP: Always match your nail polish to whatever you are ordering

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Bottom Line: Pannikin is a gotta go kind of  place.  We always take our out of town guests here because of its very cool vibe.  Although the made to order menu items are good, they aren’t memorable.  Get the delicious scones, cakes, coffee and teas.  These are the true Pannikin gems. Come directly from your morning workout. Just please sit outside.

Vigilucci’s

Review #10Vigilucci's sign

June 25, 2017

We left the kids at home, put on our fancier clothes (still with flip flips, it’s Encinitas after all) and headed over to Vigilucci’s for an upscale Italian dinner.  It’s had the same owner for the past 20 years but has been changed from Robbie’s Roadhouse to a pizzeria to Vigilucci’s which it has been for the last three years.

There was outside seating, but we were placed at a large table for our party of eight inside an elegant dining room with large, comfy chairs and handsome decor.  There was a piano player at the opposite side of the restaurant who we could barely hear.  It worked out fine, because the acoustics were wonderful, and we could actually hear each other perfectly in our cozy nook of the restaurant.

The wait staff was very formal, polite and friendly, but it did take a l-o-n-g time for bread to come to the table, and we came hungry!  When it did arrive, it was warm from the oven and served with classic olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  I, for one, never quite know how to do the whole bread-with-olive-oil-and-vinegar correctly.  I always aim my bread over the vinegar, dive it in, only to have it come out soaked in oil only.  So I asked my friends how to do this properly.  I was told by Kelly, an olive oil and vinegar connoisseur, that one is supposed to “swish” one’s bread around in the middle to get both oil and vinegar absorbed onto the bread.  I listened doubtfully, but it actually worked.  I just needed a better “swish”.

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Although I have never been to Vigalucci’s before, I knew it wouldn’t be cheap.  But when I saw the price for my go-to Italian favorite, Cioppino, I almost lost it.

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Umm, not going to order Cioppino tonight!  Instead, my hubby started by ordering an appetizer to share called Calamari alla Luciana.  For $14, it was very Cioppino-like with tender, baby calamari swimming in a delicious, spicy tomato sauce.

Vig calarmariCalamari alla Luciana

Our other friends started their meals with Carciofini al Forno, oven roasted artichokes hearts stuffed with Italian cheeses and olives, and an Insalata alle Pere which had organic baby greens, walnuts and sliced pears.  Both dishes were beautiful and were fully enjoyed by their owners.

Vig artichokeCarciofini al Forno

Vig saladInsalata alle Pere

After our waiter read the specials to us with a beautiful rolling rrrr for rrrrisotto, my husband and I decided to take his advice and we shared the Pappardelle con Funghi e Capesante.  It still had a steep price but was less obscene that the Cioppino. As the waiter brought it to our table, it was game over.  It had thick ribbons of homemade pasta served with mushrooms bathing in a luscious white truffle and brandy cream sauce.  If that doesn’t sound decadent enough, it came with three giant, perfectly seared, buttery diver scallops on top.  The chef was kind enough to split the dish for us which is a good thing for my husband, because this way he was actually able to get some of it.  Everyone enjoyed what they ordered, but I tuned them all out.  I was on a high.  This was sooooo good.  I mean, this was REALLY FREAKING GOOD.  I closed my eyes and made love to just normally ate, my rich, sinful Pappardelle con Funghi e Capesante.

vig fungiPappardelle con Funghi e Capesante

My husband does this weird thing with his food when something is really good.  He saves his favorite part until the end, calling it “dessert”.  When I saw that beautiful scallop sitting there on his plate, I thought it would be funny to snag it when he wasn’t looking.  It’s only food.  Not only was it NOT funny, I now know that I am just a scallop away from being served papers.

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We were all too full for dessert which was too bad because they have a warm chocolate lava thing-a-ma-jig over vanilla ice cream that I’ll be dreaming about for a long time to come. We took a little tour of the rest of the restaurant before we left and noticed the awesome wood-fired pizza oven.  I’m not sure that this is the kind of place I would come just to order pizza, but I bet it’s d-lish.

Vig wood fired

Hiding in the back was more outdoor seating and a very cute cottage style house that they rent out for private events.  If anyone reading this needs a great place to rent for a private party, this is perfect.  And please invite me!

Vig rental 1

 

Bottom Line: Vigilucci’s in Encinitas has really good food.  The restaurant has great outdoor and indoor seating with beautiful ambiance.  If you are on a date with your spouse who you have been married to for many years, a nice meal and music without talking might be just perfect.  Sit on the South side of the restaurant near the piano player. If you are with a group of friends and you give a hoot as to what they have to say, opt for the quieter, North side. The place is quite large and they even offer valet parking around the corner.  Come here for a very special occasion like you won the lottery or Amazon just bought out your small company.  Here’s a tip to help offset the very high price tag here.  Are you listening?  Go to Costco and buy the restaurant gift card.  There are two $50 cards that will cost you $70.  That’s 30% off!  They are accepted at a number of different places, and Vigilucci’s is one of them!  Though even with 30% off, I couldn’t justify ordering the Cioppino.


After leaving Vigilucci’s, we passed by Bread & Barley (refer to Review #8) to get to our car.  When Alonzo saw us, he ran out front and gave us all big hugs.  I invite you, my readers, to go by Bread & Barley to get your hug from Alonzo.  Tell him I sent you.  It will make your night!

B&B Alonzo with beer

Birdseye Kitchen

Review #9

June 18, 2017

Birdseye

After reviewing gastropubs on our last two Sunday dinners out, we were relieved to be eating something not fried or in a bun.  Birdseye Kitchen is a Thai/Vietnamese fusion restaurant offering, but not limited to, healthy cuisine.

The sign out front boasts Pho (No, you can’t pronounce it Fo, like Fo sure!  It’s Fuh.  It sounds wrong saying it too.  Fuh.  Fuh you!  Fuh this!)

It’s the kind of place one cruises their bike to for some good, Asian grub.

The decor is tasteful with music playing quietly enough to actually hear the conversation you are having.  Word on the street about this place is that the service is poor.  We waited only a few minutes too long before someone came to take our order.  No biggie.  Although the wine and local beer list looked good, we decided to stay on the wagon this week.  Still recovering a bit from last week!  The menu was quite overwhelming, with plenty of vegetarian and Gluten-Free options I may add,  so I decided to have a chat with our waiter about what to order.

Me: Can you please recommend something popular that has chicken and is not too spicy?

Waiter: Everything is good.

Me: I’m sure it is, but what are one or two of your most popular dishes?

Waiter: The curry, the stir fry or the noodle dishes are all good. Also the salads and Pho are very popular.

Me: So pretty much everything on the menu is what you would recommend?

Waiter: Yes

Me: Got it.

As helpful as that was, I made a decision and ordered the Lao-style stew.   It had me at lemongrass. It also had organic cabbage, mushrooms and free-range chicken.  I did an upgrade from white to brown rice. They call it a stew, but it was a clear broth, so in my book it’s a soup.  It was delicious with the lemongrass happily coming through in the broth, er, stew.

Birdseye Stew

Our friend, Leslie, ordered something called a Bun Bowl because it had a cool name.  It came with roasted pork, vermicelli noodles, peanuts and a vinaigrette. The grilled pork was extremely flavorful.  There were no buns of any kind, however. And it was served on a plate.  Interesting name.

Birdseye bun

My husband ordered the Cashew Stir fry with brown rice and free-range chicken. It had eggplant and other organic veggies.  Those cashews were like little golden nuggets of yumminess! (Why does Spellcheck underline in harsh red so many of my adjectives?  Of course “yumminess” is a word!)

Birdseye Cashew

My older son, the non-picky eater, ordered the Wild Fish Curry that came in a coconut curry broth.  The flavors were good, but the fish was so finely cut, they minced it right out of this dish.  Better to leave some bigger pieces so you actually know you are eating fish.  It was my least favorite dish on the table, but still very good.

Birdseye fish

We decided that the best way to tackle this meal was for each to try their own dish, then pass it to the right.  Take a bite or two, and then keep passing the dishes until you end back up with your own.  This was the way to go, and the way I hope to eat all future dinners out!

Bottom Line: Birdseye Kitchen is a great option stuck between an Italian restaurant and an upscale gastropub on the 101.  The portions are just the right size, and the vegetables taste crisp and fresh.  You will pay $14-$15 a dish which is worth the price when they are using organic ingredients and grass-fed meat.  They don’t mind adding spice, so if you do, you better speak up!  Go with a group and do our Taste-And-Pass, so you will get to try everything. Plus it makes the meal more fun!

Bread & Barley

B&B signReview #8

June 11, 2017B&B front

So a girl walks into this gastropub with her husband, a friend, a couple of cousins and one of her three mother in laws. Sounds like a good start, right?  It is!  Bread & Barley is in the third week of their soft opening, with the grand opening happening this Friday, June 16th.  It’s a small space with an open concept.  The bartender is waiting with a smile and the witty waiter is ready to please.

We were the only people there to start and made ourselves at home at the comfy bench table, large enough for our party of 6. The beer menu looked serious, but who could tell which ones were good?  There was only one thing to do: Sample the goods! This is one Jewish girl who likes a free sample!  Yes, I do have a large collection of hotel shampoo bottles.  Yes, I do go around to all of the cosmetic departments to hoard as many tiny perfume vials as they will give me.  And the beer samples at Bread & Barley did not disappoint!  The portions were huge!

B&B samples

Cousin Adam shared in my sampling joy, and ordered three of his own. Yes, these are just SAMPLES!  Ohhh, I knew I was going to like this place!

B&B Adam

Our waiter, Alonzo, was having such a good time with us, he brought us out samples we didn’t even ask for.  We finally picked “real” beers to drink.

B&B Alonzo with beer

 

I settled on the #12, and it was just delicious!  It wasn’t peppery at all, and had just the right amount of peachiness without being sweet or overly fruity.  It was GOOD.  It was STRONG! They will offer even more beers on their menu after the grand opening.

B&B beer list

We were having such a good time, that one of the chefs came out to check on us.  He was so cute and jolly!  He let us know that they hand pick many top beers from the LA brewery scene and drive them from their LA restaurant to this one, such as the #12.

B&B chef

We started our meal with some appetizers.  The bruschetta came out first and was as delicious as it was beautiful.  Chef Aldon explained that he goes to the local farmer’s market, picks out whatever seasonal vegetables look good, and uses them on the brushetta that day/night. Tonight, we got ours topped with lightly roasted beets and carrots, just picked from the farm.

B&B bruschetta

Next, we ordered Sambal Cauliflower.  It sounded good with ingredients like lemon and garlic.  What we didn’t know is that “sambal” is the ingredient that gives Siraccha sauce its kick in the ass.  Needless to say, it was very spicy!  But, OMG, so good! It was cooked perfectly with the cauliflower inside staying crisp, yet tender.

B&B cauliflower

We also ordered a plate of beer battered Portobello Mushroom Fries topped with crisp bacon, Parmesan and truffle aioli.  Because if we were going down, we were going down HARD! This was beyond decadent! I’m talking, death row, last-thing-you-will-ever-want-to-eat-good here.

B&B portobello fries

For main courses, my cousins shared a Hanger Steak Salad and a Pork Belly Banh Mi sandwich.

B&B Steak salad

They loved the salad, but thought the sandwich wasn’t quite as good as everything else we ordered.  Except for one thing.  The Sweet Potato Tater Tots!  It is very hard to get sweet potatoes crispy without burning them , yet these tots were crunchy on the outside and creamy sweet goodness in the middle.  There was a lot of, “Adam, look over there, I think someone is calling you” (five hands reach in and snag tots off his plate). The hand in the photo?  Not Adam’s.

B&B Bon mi

Really, everything served at Bread & Barley should have a side of these sweet potato tater tots with it.  Even the desserts.

I didn’t know what to order so Alonzo told me to let the chef pick something out.  He brought out a bacony monster burger with my favorite, a side of Brussel sprouts!  How did he know? These were crispy, but surprisingly not greasy.

B&B mystery

By the end of our meal, we were all drunk, full, and singing full out, top of our lungs to all of the 80’s songs they were playing.  We were hugging (poor) Alonzo and blowing kisses to all of the staff as we left.

B&B Alonzo with Sally

I am seeing the DALAI LAMA speak next week, but nothing he will say can be as profound or will touch me as deeply as Alonzo The Waiter’s parting words to us: “Thanks for coming guys, and remember….Always be happy.”

Bottom Line:  Go.  Just go.

Prioroity Public House

Review #7

June 4, 2017Public front

I didn’t realize that Priority Public House was the name of this establishment until we decided to go there tonight.  The sign above looks nice and prestigious in this photo, but is faded and very hard to see in real light.  Especially with beer goggles on. I always drove by it seeing a sign for Eats & Drinks. I thought Eats & Drinks was the perfect name too.  You knew exactly what to expect and what you could get there.

Public eats and drinks

Walking in to Eats & Drinks, er, Priority Public House, the sign out front let us know that they mean beer business.

Public sign

Seeing the taps inside made me giddy!

Public tap

Their beer menu was prominent and framed as it should be.  This was something to be proud of!

Public menu

I remember a friend recommending the Lost Abbey, and on the menu it said it was a “Dubbel” which is a fancy German way of saying, “your beer will be small, but double the strength”.

B&B samples

 

Bottom Line: Priority Public House is the perfect watering hole with upscale bar food.  With organic, grass-fed meat and fresh, locally sourced ingredients, it is worth the price. Come for the burgers which are crispy, juicy and totally worthy.  There is a beer for everyone here and they offer live music many nights of the week. Play Battleship or Connect Four while you wait for your grub.

La Especial Norte

 

 

Review #6

May 28, 2017

Before my review, I must first complain about La Especial Norte’s margaritas.  We ordered some pitchers and I had 3 or 5 glasses and can say they definitely don’t put any alcohol in them!  What’s up with that Special Norte?  They tasted really nice, especially after letting my eldest drive me around all day on only the second day of having his permit.  But surely there was not so much alcohol in the margaritas but they tasted so good and I liked them a lot.  Now I’m going to lie down and finish blogging later  good night.


 

Let me start by saying that Steve and I are the biggest, most pathetic losers in the history of Encinitas when it comes to trying local restaurants, until now.  Really, who is lamer than us for not trying places like La Especial Norte, which are the bones that make up the city we have been living in for 16 years? We’ve driven by it a gazillion times and have heard lots of people rave about their soup, but have never gone until now.

Being a bigger restaurant compared to the places we have been to thus far, we had a slew of friends meet us there.  La Especial Norte has their own parking lot, how nice!  We got a large table crammed into the middle of the place where we could all eat together.  We started off with chips and guac.  And margaritas.  I kind of remember mentioning something about those, but my memory is a bit fuzzy.

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The guac and chips were pretty standard, and the salsa was nice and spicy.  Too spicy for me, but my eldest seemed to be drinking it.  I was drinking something else.  Did I mention margaritas?

I started with a cup of chicken pozole that was recommended to me by someone on Facebook.  Now remember, if I am a food snob, then I am a soup….nazi?  Well, I need a word snobbier than snob.

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I want to say I loved it, but it really wasn’t anything more than a bowl of thinned out enchilada sauce with some hominy and scant pieces of chicken.  And where were the corn tortillas usually served with pozole?  Apparently they were uninvited to our table.  My son ordered the chicken soup.

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This soup was pretty good, definitely better than the pozole.  Honestly, I like my own Mexican soups better than anything here, if I’m being perfectly honest.

My friend’s young son ordered some rolled tacos that looked pretty good.

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My son ordered “Pulpo a la diabla” which translates to “Octopus with red sauce so spicy it will burn your balls off”.  I think.

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My husband ordered the three grilled fish taco plate.  The tacos were overpowered by the white sauce, and the fish flavor was a bit lost at sea.  But notice the double corn tortilla vessel?  Remember from my Review #1 how this is an important feature?

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I ordered a combination shrimp taco and shrimp enchilada plate.  NOTICE SOMETHING FISHY WITH MY TACO?

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Just one tortilla!  Why does the fish taco deserve a double vessel but the shrimp only a singular, flimsy single layer?  And guess what folks?  It didn’t work!  My (smallish) shrimps swam away from my bite and ended up in a pile on my plate.  They needed that second layer! I will say that swapping out my rice for Mexican cabbage salad was a good call. It was yummy.

The memory of the rest of my meal gets blurry along with my pictures.  The reason rhymes with Nargapitas.

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Bottom line:  La Especial Norte is a nice place to eat Mexican food with friends and family.  Personally, I didn’t find it so “especial” but I’m a tough taco to crack.  Everyone else in my group raved about their meals.  The service was slow, and the price was high.  And their margaritas need real alcohol.


 

 

Mozy Cafe

Review #5IMG_2056An ode to the Plantain

Oh plantain, you kooky non-banana

You are here in Encinitas, as well as Havana!

Vitamins A, B and C to boot,

you act more like a vegetable than just mere fruit

You are a starchy being, who’s not too sweet

your potassium count has your sister beat.

You are prominent in my Mozy burrito

I would like to find you in my next Mojito.

You are a Caribbean memory with steel drums at night

you are soft and sweet with every bite.

Oh amazing plantain, you lovely, weird thing

shoved in my burrito, happiness you bring.


You know when you are trying to plan a family vacation and the parents are like, “let’s go to Jamaica!” but the kids are all, “No!  We want to go to Cabo!” and no one can agree so you just end up on a stay-cation in Encinitas?  Mozy Cafe is the place you’d find yourself.  It’s hippie Rastafarian meets health nut muchacho and they have a restaurant, no, a beachy food shack together. It’s Mexican-Caribbean food.  Mexibbean.  Carixican. Whatever.

We walked into the shack and saw a huge chalkboard menu of interesting, unique and delicious sounding options.  I would like to tell you Jimmy Cliff was playing upon arrival, but it was Pink Floyd- darn it, they missed that one!

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There are a bunch of pictures of random people by the vegan, gluten–free cookie jars, and I was kind of hoping to get asked to join the wall.

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We ordered a Cuban burrito, Acai bowl and The Insanity Bowl, because my hubby was just feeling WILD!

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We sat at a table at the adjacent room which is painted Caribbean yellow and has an open air feeling with large windows.  Good, because it was HOT out!

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The acai bowl came out first and it looked so good and refreshing!

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It was for my son’s friend, but I had to take a bite for the blog’s sake.  But really, how much can you taste in one small spoonful?  I’m sure he understood when I went back in for more.  This is not because I wanted to eat more of that icy sweet goodness, bursting with bananas and blueberries, covered with yummy crunchy things on top.  It’s for THE BLOG! Once he wrestled it back to his side of the table, I tried the Cuban burrito I ordered.

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Was it the best burrito I ever had?  No, but mmmm, plantains!  Being a bit sweet, it needed a touch of something spicy to balance it out.  There was a bottle of Tapatio and another of generic “Louisianna” sauce.  I went for the latter and dribbled a bit onto the checkered paper.  I dipped my burrito, and ay caramba was it spicy!  But so good!  I downed a glass of water and did it again.  Dip, bite, down the water.  Repeat.  Repeat.  You get it.

You know how there is like five minutes to get the perfect avocado?  You may have only had one or two in your whole life.  A minute sooner and it’s too hard.  A minute later and it’s on the train to Mushville.  There is really only a five minute window to get one perfect, and Mozy hit it.  Firm, not hard.  Soft, not mushy.  It was the highlight of The Insanity Bowl.  Lots of fresh veggies and tasty hummus.  VERY SPICY.  More water, more water.

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Bottom Line:

I recommend hitting Mozy Cafe on a hot day like we did and to smother your food in the Louisiana hot sauce to fully enjoy this Mexibbean experience like you would if you were in Mexico.  Or Jamaica.   It is a great place to eat after the beach.  Grab an acai bowl or smoothie to cool down, or get your plantain fix on.  They have a cool vibe with vegan & GF options making this a quintessential Encinitas stop if you like to eat healthy.  They never did ask me to join their photo wall.  Their loss.

Peace Pies

REVIEW #4

peace pies

When Steve and I told our boys that the next stop down the 101 is a raw vegan restaurant, I realized we lost them at the word “raw”.  Our youngest just stared at me waiting for me to speak English.  The other one started stuttering, ” wh wh why?  Why?  WHY don’t they cook their food???”.  After explaining to them that nutrients are destroyed when food is heated, I quickly understood that tonight’s dinner would be without the kids.  Fine by us- they would have taken the peace out of our pie anyway!

I had a preconceived notion as to what this raw, organic cafe would be like, and I wasn’t far off.  I grew up with hippie parents.  We ate at Good For Your Heart in LA.  Neil Young and Bob Dylan were constants on the stereo.  And the leafy greens growing in our yard, well, they weren’t for salad.  I was ready for this place. I got this.

Peace Pies is off the beaten path from 101, so you really have to want to go there to be able to find it.  It has a cute patio and cozy inside seating as many of these darling places along the 101 have.  We were greeted by friends following this blog, and we all ordered different things to share.

They have an apothecary of unusual healthy take out food.  I’m pretty sure that no one can ever really have too much hempnola, am I right?

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Our Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes came out first, and they were beautiful!  They got mixed reviews from our crew, some thinking they were too bland.  Honestly, I liked them very much. pesto tomatoesI ordered the Mystical Mushroom Quesadilla with walnut meat.  It came on a house made coconut wrap.  Again, the meal looked like it came from a 5 star restaurant.  It was quite tasty. The kale chips were the bomb! Yowza!  More please!!

 

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I started thinking.  If they aren’t cooking their food with heat, are they really even cooking at all?  Aren’t they just assembling?  I think the chef is really just a brilliant assembler.  So is he still a chef? Do you have to cook food with heat to be a chef? Hmm. Next was the Loving Lasagna.

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By this point I was cocky.  There was no reason to be frightened, this raw stuff was actually really good! Sure, some if sounds a bit out there, with hemp based this and cashew cheese that.  But it all tasted great. That is until…..Mushroom Stroganoff.   It wasn’t fair, my guard was down.  It wasn’t a good moment. I took a huge fork full of kelp noodles and once in my mouth, there was no going back.  This was WRONG!  My mind was screaming, “RETREAT!  RETREAT!” but there was nothing I could do but chew.  And chew.  And chew those vile “noodles”.  The “Alfredo sauce” was nothing more than a milky liquid that the “noodles” were swimming in.

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“Quick, someone pass me something good to get rid of the kelp that is poisoning my taste buds!”.  I was passed the Magical Mango Curry Wrap, and life was good again. Let’s be honest, I went straight for more of those kale chips!

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Meanwhile I watched in horror when the woman at the next table over was served the Mushroom Stroganoff!  Should I warn her?  OMG, what do I do?  Do I have a moral obligation to stop this before it happens?  Sure, I was able to finish my bite, but I’m pretty positive her first bite is coming straight back up and I am in regurgitating proximity!  I ducked my head and waited for the inevitable kelp shower.  But it didn’t happen.  I carefully looked up to see what was going on, and this lady was going in for a second bite of that kelp-tastrophe!  Could she actually like it?

After eating so healthfully for dinner, I thought we deserved a little dessert and chose their cinnamon rolls.

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Considering how stunning the rest of their food looked, these tiny little things fell short visually.  They actually looked rather sad sitting in their plastic take out box.  I took a small bite and that was enough.  Under no stretch of my imagination did I envision cinnamon rolls.  They tasted like carob protein excuses.  Not what I was hoping for dessert.

Be prepared folks, for your peace will come at a price here. With all of the organic ingredients, and feelings of health you are left with, it’s probably worth the price for peace.  Upon check out, the waitress asked if everything tasted ok and I was honest.  Most was very good, some not so much.  Not only did they take the Stroganoff off the bill, a slice of Strawberry Pie was given to us on our way out, no charge.  Nice touch Peace Pie Peeps!

Bottom Line:  The food is beautiful, most of it is surprisingly delicious and the staff was attentive and nice as pie.  But look, this place isn’t for everyone.  Would I bring my conservative meat and potato eating father here?  No.  Would my yoga teaching, health nut mother like it?  Yes, she would.   If you love someone, please come in and buy them a box of kale chips.  Yah, yah, I make my own too.  But nothing like these.  Trust me here.

It is not easy making organic, vegan, gluten-free and soy-free food look and taste good.  I give high kudos to Peace Pies for doing such a great job with something so difficult. But I do like some heat with my food.  To melt the non-cashew cheese.

Peace (pie) out!

Due to extreme Mother’s Day brunching, we will postpone Mozy Cafe until next Sunday, May 21st-  628 N. Coast HWY 101