Hapifish

Review #15

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Having to eat Crap Tacos on our last dinner out, and sad, counter-warm sushi the week before, we were due to hit a winner this week.  We were OWED good food.  Thank goodness Hapifish didn’t disappoint!

We were a party of six last night, showing up early to take advantage of the Hapi Hour offered every Mon-Sun from 3-6 pm, and all day Wednesday.  We brought our Middle-Eastern student we are hosting from Hands of Peace (great organization I am happy to plug here). He said he loves sushi back home, and was excited to join us.

The restaurant is surprisingly large with a cool, beach vibe.  There were plenty of hip surfy Millennials, as well as small children and pet dogs. We were seated by our Hapi server and ordered Garlic Edamame to start.  They went so fast, I couldn’t even get a picture!  Although they were good, I am a purist when it comes to edamame and prefer it plain.   Same with popcorn.  Why muss it up with so many toppings?  It’s good just the way it is!  Stop sprinkling artificial flavors and sugary junk all over popcorn that tastes perfect the way nature intended!  But I digress.

We took advantage of the Hapi Hour menu and ordered a mix of rolls from it as well as the regular menu.  The food was stunning! The Beach Bum was filled with crab, tuna and cream cheese.  It was gobbled up so fast, we had to order another.

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Julie ordered a Tofu Salad which looked nice but had no sushi.  WHAT’S THE POINT?

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My hubby ordered a Poki Taco appetizer.  Yes, it really is THAT good!

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The rest of the rolls were a blur of pure Hapiness.  I don’t know which was what.  Grabbing hands were happening so fast, I barely got photo time.

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The blue fin sashimi was over the top.  It literally melted into your Hapi mouth while you went to your Hapi place.  It was divine.

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Our Middle Eastern guest just kept saying, “Thank you.  Thank you.” Apparently the sushi where he is from is nothing like this.  Oh, he was indeed Hapi!

Bottom Line: Hapifish is definitely California-Beach type sushi.  I’m just assuming the sushi in Japan isn’t offered with Cajun spices, sweet potato fries and tomatillo sauce.  But it works!  If you don’t want to spend a fortune, stick to the Hapi hour menu, and for Pete’s sake, don’t bring your hungry, athletic 16 year old son!  Sure, our dirty plates could have been cleared quicker, and our waters refilled better, but the Hapi servers are so sweet, who can get mad?

Hapifish girls

Next Sunday, August 13th, the blog hits the one, the only, Captain Kenos!  Oh, you don’t want to miss this one!  Stay tuned on Facebook for the exact time!

 

 

 

Juanitas Taco Shop

Review #14Juanitas8

Wouldn’t you expect Juanitas Taco shop (not Juanita‘s Taco Shop) to be filled with Juanitas?  Nope, nada one!  And speaking of expectations, let’s talk about mine.  First impression of this joint is that it looks like a small, Mexican jail that one would find in Tijuana, rather than on the prosperous HWY 101 in Encinitas.

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I expected Juanitas Taco Shop to be exactly what it was: a “crap taco shop”.  Which isn’t necessarily bad mind you!  Crap Taco Shops, CTS, are part of the wonderful culinary make-up of our San Diego city!  You just need to be in the mood for one.  Or you need to be under 22 years old, in which case, you are always in the mood! Being a self-proclaimed food snob, I am rarely in the mood for a CTS, so please keep this in mind when reading this!

There was a huge line out the door with serious Jaunitas fans waiting for grub. The strong smell of tortillas frying in oil almost knocked us off our feet.  With a line like this, they seem to be just a California Burrito sale away from being able to afford getting the rust scraped off the bars.  Or maybe that’s the charm of this place.

Once you order, you can scoop out some spicy marinated vegetables from a bucket.

It was hot and stuffy inside, so we waited for a table outside and prayed we wouldn’t get hit by the teenagers parking their cars along the curb that butt right up against the outdoor tables.

My picky son ordered a plate of rice.  It looked like… rice.

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Our friend, Jennifer, ordered a California Burrito.  It looked and tasted like every other burrito ever sold at a CTS.

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Hubby and I ordered chicken tacos, thinking they were on soft corn tortillas.  Nope.  They were in taco shells fried to a greasy finish, just like we smelled when we arrived.  See the center laden with oil? The innards were decent, though, with plenty of white meat chicken.

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Bottom Line:  This place is a Crap Taco Shop exactly the same as every Crap Taco Shop out there.  Roberto’s, Filaberto’s, Riberto’s, Alberto’s, Humberto’s, they are synonymous. Now, I know that some people swear that one place is their favorite and is better than all of the others, but you are wrong!  They are all exactly the same!

Juanitas offers a great beach goer/surfer’s meal, or is the perfect place for your after drinking munchies. The food here is cheap and  Juanitas has an “A” rating, I checked.  If you are a teen, you will find your people hanging out here.  If you are a mid-late 40’s food snob looking for high quality dining on the coast, this ain’t the place for you!  The pictures of what this place looks like from the outside are EXACTLY what you would expect to find in the food inside!

 

Ajito TOGO Sushi & Japanese Bento

Review #13

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!