The French Corner is an adorable little cafe nestled on the 101 in Leucadia. You have probably driven by it a million times and didn’t even know it existed. There isn’t a huge sign out front and has no dedicated parking lot. But what it has on the inside is heavenly!
First things first. Are you in the mood for a savory or sweet meal? This is a tough decision. The sweet pastries in the display are sure to seduce you, but the paninis, quiches and other savory dishes on the menu sound so good too.
Gluten-free are ya? No problème!
What’s this I see by the register? Bits and scraps of something that smells divine. It’s a bowl of pastry samples- yes! So smart.
Whichever way you go, start off with some or other organic coffee drink. They have it all. I ordered a cafe au lait. It was perfection.
Hubs and I ordered paninis and BP (Our insatiable 14 year old, “Bottomless Pit”) ordered, what else? French toast. Always. But we let him pick out a goody to share while we waited. Remember, a shared goody at the table while one waits for their meal never has any calories. He chose a slice of banana bread. It was good but not my favorite. Not overly sweet which I appreciate, but almost too banana-y. Does that make sense? Can banana bread in fact have too many bananas? But trust me, it was devoured in record time between us all. And with my delicious, creamy, dreamy cafe au lait, the world was fantastic right about now.
(Hubby note: she’s nuts. The banana bread had an excellent banana count. There can’t be too many bananas in banana bread!)
There’s a nice deck wrapping around French Corner, and it’s outside seating only. If you come early like we did, you can get a prime spot.
We chose this portion of the patio which was very nice. They even have a few toys for the youngsters and authentic french music playing to put you in a french mood.
The service wasn’t lightening fast, it was more “classically french”. Which gave us plenty of time to notice our surroundings. They have adorned this tree with lights and succulents. Have you ever seen a tree decorated in succulents? Because I haven’t.
There’s also some…interesting…art to look at.
No need to wait to be served water. Get off your ass and get it yourself!
BP’s french toast looked great, but I am not a french toast expert. Here’s what the true connoisseur says: It’s good for a light breakfast. I would give it a 7/10. I’ll be ready for more food when I get home though.
Hubby ordered the Pesto and Turkey Panini. They knocked this out of the freaking park! The baguette was super crispy with the flavors of homemade pesto and a thick, balsamic reduction coming through. Trés fantastique!
Their baguettes are made fresh right here.
My caprese panini was equally amazing. The reason why these paninis are so much better than all others is that they really mash the panini maker down hard on these bad boys. These sandwiches get the cheese-wiz pressed out of them so that they are hot all the way through. Think about it. When was the last time you had a truly hot panini all the way through? I’m guessing never. Usually once the bread is toasted, they are deemed “done”. But they aren’t! And biting through warm bread into cold meat and cheese isn’t appetizing! But here….oh here, they know what they are doing. Smash these suckers as flat as you can French Bakery, and don’t stop until you have a completely warmed sandwich through and through. Now this is how to do panini!
Our only complaint is that our sandwiches were served with chips instead of the green salad. A mistake they promptly fixed.
BP’s other hobby besides eating is drawing. During our wait, he drew a very lifelike portrait of Hubby waiting for his food:
Bring your dogs, bring you kids, just don’t be in a rush. The reason your food takes a while is that it’s made with love. And you can’t hurry love. (Stop singing that song) Let me know when you are going to the French Corner, they are open daily from 7:30-4:00, because I will want to meet you there.
***THE LANAI IS CLOSED!! Meet us just south for dinner and dessert st Live Culture instead!
We want a BIG crowd for this one. It’s casual, it’s affordable, it looks like a lot of fun. I’ve never been, so the verdict is still out on the food. Have you been wanting to join Dining on the 101 but haven’t made it yet? Do it now! Looking forward to meeting some new friends!
I love sushi. Love love love. Like if-I-could-only-eat-one-food-for-the-rest-of-my-life love sushi. I was thrilled to try a new sushi spot right here on the 101. Well, new to me, not new new. And if dive/hole-in-the wall sushi joints are often great, then this place should be the best. Look at their sign, right above a cheesy auto trade advertisement. And the outside has that run-down, “don’t eat here” look to it. Good stuff.
I was surprised that we were able push tables around to accomodate a space for our group of 8 to eat together because this place is tiny! Having the seats close together all snuggly gives Umi a quaint, neighborhoody feel that is warm and fuzzy. And the people eating next to you elbow to elbow seem nicer than people eating at other places.
We only received one menu and even though we asked for more, didn’t get any. It took a long time for all 8 of us to pass it around and decide on what to order. The “Umi Special” menu looked really expensive. 5 pieces of sashimi for $25 was not up our alley. And I didn’t understand featuring Bluefin Tuna from Spain when we have amazing Bluefin being caught just 40 miles off our San Diego coast in the waters of Mexico. Why fly it all the way from Spain?
There were some recommendations on the wall, but for the life of me I have no idea what they were. I recognized the word “sake” so I assume these are all drinks? Maybe they are all different types of sake? Or maybe some are food? No idea.
We were told right away that they were out of all curry, which is a bummer. I was planning on ordering some curry dishes to offset the expensive sushi habit I have become addicted to. It was only 6pm, I don’t know why they ran out of curry so early.
Violet ordered the chicken spring rolls and Debbie ordered the vegetable spring rolls. Violet’s came out first and once they were gone, Debbie’s arrived. Then they noticed that the rolls had been switched and Violet was given the vegetable ones. We pointed out the mistake and our waitress kindly brought Debbie some vegetable ones again. Both Debbie and Violet were expecting Vietnamese-type of Spring Rolls in rice paper. These were fried and were really just egg rolls.
Jen and Greg shared shrimp wrapped in potato which was interesting. They were so small, there was no sharing. These were one-bite-shrimp.
Hubby and I shared an 8-piece sashimi plate for $20. Pretty steep considering how small the sashimi pieces were sliced. We inhaled our $20 fish slivers and were as hungry as if they never happened. The fish was very fresh and exquisite.
Jen and Greg shared an eel bowl. It was more like a small rice bowl with the essence of eel. That eel could still be alive and swimming missing such a small percentage of its body in this dish.
Our Crunchy roll was pretty but overly sauced and the pieces were very skimpy. Most of the pieces just fell apart when we picked them up with the chopsticks because they were so thin they couldn’t stay in shape. Tasty, yes, but not substantial at all.
Debbie, a sushi virgin, asked if she should eat the shrimp tails.
“Debbie, at these prices you need to eat every single thing on that board. Tails, ginger, wasabi, even the banana leaf. Not a grain of rice or sesame seed should be left behind!” I told her. And she did.
I asked our waitress to please send the owner over so I could ask him some questions about the restaurant to share with my readers. I told “Kazu” about the blog and asked him how long Umi has been here. He told me to wait one minute then brought over a framed article from the wall for me to read. Maybe he was annoyed that I called him over because he really didn’t want to give me the time of day. He didn’t even ask me what my blog was called. He just handed me the framed article and walked away. Though he was game for having his photo taken.
Jen and Greg said their Hamachi Kama was very good. It was the most food on any plate we had seen tonight and the rest of us hungrily watched them devour ever morsel of flesh off those bones.
Our last roll was the Seared Salmon roll. But unlike the teeny tiny piece of delectable salmon sashimi we had, this salmon had the flavor seared right out of it. It was small and without that delicious salmony goodness.
Our waitress said, ” Can I offer you all some dessert or are you pretty full?”
“Neither” I answered honestly.
We couldn’t order any more food without taking a second mortgage out on our home, so we had to be done even though we were still hungry.
When our check came, I noticed a few weird things. First of all, Debbie had ordered a glass of Sovereign Blanc that was listed with a “$0” for price. Giving us a glass of wine on the house would be nice, but they didn’t say anything like “Happy birthday. Please enjoy this glass of wine on the house.” (We, ok, mostly I, may have thrown around some words in front of our waitress that mentioned the fact we were celebrating my 50th. Hey, I get ALL of May, and part of June. It’s 50 after all!) So this $0 wine must be a mistake. Plus, since I was the one writing the blog, wouldn’t I be the one to get “buttered up” with a free drink? Definitely a mistake. I also noticed we were charged $25 for our miniscule 8-piece sashimi order. And I thought the $20 price tag on the menu was outrageous for how little food was served!
When our waitress came back Hubby graciously pointed out both mistakes, stating that it was in their favor to fix them, but we want to be fair. (Honestly, I was in favor of taking the free glass of wine and over-looking the $5 sashimi mark-up but both Debbie and Hubby wouldn’t have it. Those rule followers! I need to hang out with shadier people.) So the waitress took back the bill and recalculated it. When we got it back, we paid for it, but I took another look. I noticed that Debbie’s once “free” glass of wine was put back on for $11.
“Wasn’t your wine listed as $8 a glass?” I asked Debs.
“Yes, but let’s not worry about it and just go.” But I couldn’t just go. No way, this isn’t right! How can they over-charge her for the wine after she was honest enough to point out their mistake on not charging her in the first place? They didn’t even thank her for her overrated honesty!
I went to the counter and explained it nicely to the gentleman working the bar. The owner, Kazu, overheard me and came out to ask what was going on.
“There’s a discrepancy in our bill.” I explained to him, expecting an apology and, I don’t know, maybe making the glass of wine free again. Instead, without a word, he turned around and went back into the kitchen! Not a word. Nothing! I was shocked. The waitress who had made all of these mistakes was flustered and embarrassed, but not at all apologetic. She kept giving excuses like, “well, it comes up that way in the computer so it’s not my fault”. And “The prices keep changing and the computer can’t keep up.” And this is our problem….how? Then she says roughly, “So what do you want me to do? Put the difference back on the credit card or hand you actual $2 in cash?” she said a bit sarcastically. I looked her in the eye and said, very slowly, “It’s t-h-r-e-e dollars, not two.” She handed the cash to Debbie and as we walked out I knew it would be the last time I would ever be there again.
We walked over to Live Culture for some fro-yo to finish off our measly dinner that we just paid through the nose for. I can’t tell you any more about Live Culture because we will be blogging them in a few weeks and I want to do a thorough job then. (It was delicious and they are sooo nice!).
I’ll start with the good: The small, surfer-style, local restaurant is quaint and has nice character. The food was beautifully presented and was very delicious. We didn’t order any ramen so maybe missed the boat in that arena.
The not-so-good: The prices. The servings are small and the prices are high. Really high. The service was mediocre. Our water glasses were filled once, but then glasses stayed empty for the rest of the meal. Our server served the wrong spring rolls but at least fixed it right away. They were sold out of curry, which is a big deal when the only things on the menu are sushi, ramen and curries.
The unacceptable: Having so many problems on the check and not owning up to them! After we sent the check back the first time to fix, they should have double checked that things were correct. And when they over-charged Debbie for the wine she was honest enough to even pay for at all, they should have, at that point, given it to her for free! Of course it should have been taken off the check! People who can’t do math should not be in charge of the bill. A computer that can’t print out correct prices that match the menu should not be used. An owner who lacks customer service skills should stay clear of their customers.
So when people ask me if I get special treatment from establishments once they know I’m blogging about them, I can definitely say, not always!
Umi is a fine place to go if you are rich and not hungry. Just double, I mean, triple check your bill when it comes!
POSTPONED until June 2nd!
Our next blog will be on Sunday morning, June 2nd at 9am at
I don’t understand why people kept telling me how lucky I was to have my birthday on Mother’s Day yesterday. Are people insane? I only get two measly days a year. Having my birthday fall on Mother’s Day this year doesn’t make the day “double special” it cuts my “special” days down by half! Well, I’m not having it. No sir, not for 50! I declare a do-over. I’m taking a day in June to celebrate 50, so please save all your birthday wishes for me then. Birthday on Mother’s Day is total crap. Not doin’ it!
With that said, I had a lovely Mother’s Day yesterday with my mom, family and close friends. Organic Tacos for Mother’s Day dinner sounded like the perfect dinner for me. I have friends who wanted their husbands and kids to make them dinner with actual cooking involved. Like I said, going out for Haggo’s Organic Tacos was exactly the right thing to do for me!
I’m an Organic Girl. I buy all organic foods and almost all organic products for my home. I’m anti-GMO’s, Monsonto, and all that’s evil and wrong in our food industry. Hubby and kids call it obsessive. I call it diligent. And they are welcome even if they think I’m nuts. I LOVE supporting restaurants who share my same philosophy. I already loved Haggo’s by name alone. And the fact that a very obscure Smiths song was playing when we got there cemented my love.
Our group of 10 took over this small open-aired taco joint. And by doing so, they were instantly over their heads. Only one young woman was working the whole front. Taking orders, clearing dishes and wiping tables. It was way too much for one person, but she flew around the place showering us with apologies and thank-yous for our patience. One could hardly get upset.
Haggo’s menu is fantastic with grass-fed steak, free-range chicken, whole wheat tortillas and a menu that is almost entirely organic. MY KIND OF PLACE! Cage The Elephant was playing, keeping things awesome.
This is a DDD place for you Food Network junkies, and Guy Fieri’s mug is on the wall to prove it. You can watch the episode here. Pretty cool to have Guy come to our little town of Leucadia!
We all placed our orders, looking forward to the nachos and chips with guac to start because we were all really hungry. This was only BP’s first dinner and he could barely contain himself. Back of the house must have been as busy as front of the house, because nothing came out for quite a while, and when it did, it all came out together, appetizers and all.
The nachos were only ok, not at all worthy of the extra $4 we spent to add chicken. I would call this a side salad with the essence of chicken on top of chips more than “nachos”.
The chips and guac were about the same caliber. Guac was yummy but all and all, nothing too special here.
Tracy ordered “House Pickles” from the menu.
Instead of regular “pickles” she got pickled carrots. Now she was in a pickle! Should she return them or go with it? They did taste good, but these are usually free at the salsa bar which they also don’t have here. But since they are organic carrots, no points lost. She kept them but most were left over.
Hubby ordered one Organic Immortal Taco and one Grilled Fish Taco.
He said the Immortal Taco was forgettable (so actually mortal) but they nailed the fish taco. Winner! Serving everything with healthy organic red beans and brown rice is a nice touch. (Needs more salsas!)
As our background music started going from obscure Smiths, Cage The Elephant and a fantastic lost Jimmy Cliff song to mainstream Stones, Police and Weezer, our food started to lose it’s coolness as well.
Bottomless Pit enjoyed his Loaded Quesadilla but inhaled it and then quickly asked what else there was to eat back at home for his “real” or “second” dinner.
It was suggested to me by our hostess/cashier/bus woman/server to try The Ron Burgundy burrito: grass-fed steak with cabbage slaw and caramelized onion. They have his picture on the wall too, but no evidence that he’s actually been here.
The burrito was good with lots of juicy caramelized onions. But the steak got lost and I didn’t really taste it. Which is too bad because I don’t eat a lot of red meat, so when I do, I really want to enjoy it. I would have liked a few more salsa options to spice this baby up. There was nothing wrong with it other than it tasting a little dull.
Turning 50 isn’t too bad I guess. It’s better than the alternative. I’ve switched out my coffee for green tea and racquetball for Pickleball. I used to run marathons and now I power walk. On the treadmill. And my bedtime went from 11pm to 9:30pm. Ok, 9pm. Switching greasy Mexican food from a CTS, to a place like Haggo’s is probably a good next step. It’s just that there is a limited number of burritos left in the world that I will get to eat. An actual number. And I want every single one to be more delicious than the last.
I left Haggo’s Organic Taco feeling healthy and satisfied but also slightly disappointed. I wanted to LOVE all the food here. It has all of the organic and healthy ingredients I crave. It’s like getting the treat of going out for dinner, but staying within the clean eating I like to do at home. But for me, the flavors just fell a bit short. I was impressed with the pricing, expecting way steeper for organic food. The price point on most items here was very fair and not inflated which is a breath of fresh air.
I love what Haggo’s Organic Taco is bringing to the area, I really do. But when Guy Fieri says he’s in “Flavor Town” I want more flavor! To have an all organic restaurant in Leucadia is awesome and I will be back for those fish tacos!
Having seen lines out the door for Fish 101 in the past, we decided to come for a 5pm dinner this Sunday night. Hey, I will be turning 50 in a few short weeks and 5pm doesn’t actually seem all that early to me anymore now that my bedtime is around 9pm. That’s what happens. You young whippersnappers will see.
Parking wasn’t easy on the 101, but we squeezed into a spot close by behind a blue VW just in front of a driveway. Sorry if that was your car. I really hope you were able to get out. Hubby noticed the cute couple walking ahead of us and said, “You know they are dating because he’s holding her hand. You know we’re married because I’m holding your crap.” I glanced over and saw what a good sport he was carrying my sweater, my purse and the lens cap so I could have full range of motion getting my first restaurant shot.
We were lucky getting a large table in the front patio for our group of 9 because even at 5pm it was starting to get crowded. There must be other folk rounding 50 here. You order at the walk up counter and then wait at the table for your food. The menu looked promising with many delicious sounding items.
Tracy started with an Arnold Palmer. They make their own lemonade here. If I drank tea this time of night I would be up until Thursday. Some people can handle an evening AP, others just can’t.
The food came out sporadically. Some ate while others didn’t. Then others ate while some were finished. Just the way it goes here.
Tracy ordered the Grilled Mahi-Mahi plate with fries and coleslaw. She ate silently and to herself finally announcing with a completely clean plate, “Excellent fish and best coleslaw I’ve ever had.” Yet there wasn’t even a morsel left for me to taste! She said it wasn’t the mayonnaisey kind, which is exactly why I would have liked it, but I won’t know until next time I go. I will need to watch her more closely next time. The quieter she is, the quicker my fork will have to be!
Hubby and some others got fish/shrimp tacos. Hubby said his grilled fish and shrimp were pretty good. Dave said his fried fish tacos were excellent. Personally, I’m a sucker for a do-it-yourself salsa bar. The little sides of accoutrements were nice but not the same as a full blown bar. The tacos at The Taco Stand will always win in my book.
Diane really loved her Grilled Fish Sandwich and we both thought the side cucumber salad was flavorful and yummo. She said she would drive back here all the way from UTC just to order this sandwich again.
Jen’s Market Salad with shrimp was large and beautiful.
Greg’s side of potatoes get points for having chimichurri but was too skimpy for a side costing $8. There should be twice as many potatoes on that plate if you ask me. There were so few, I felt bad even taking one to taste! They did look crispy and delicious.
Dana and I each ordered the Seafood Curry that was recommended to me when I was ordering at the counter. I asked if it was spicy and was told “No, not at all”. When I took my first bite I wasn’t sure I could handle the heat. It was borderline too spicy for a wimp like me, but I dealt with it like a champ. Then Dana said she was disappointed in the lack of heat in hers, so there you go. It really depends on how wussy you are. Some call it mild, I call it level 9. It was presented beautifully and I was happy to be able to choose brown rice over white. Was it the best curry I have ever had? No, but it was good. The veggies were perfectly cooked and the seafood was superb.
Rick ordered Fish and Chips. I didn’t try it, but I’m sure it was pretty good by the look of his cleaned plate. Fried fish and potatoes, how can that be bad?
Tracy ordered a Chocolate Crème Brulée for dessert. The crisp burnt layer mixed with the creamy custard tasted delicious but the chocolate on the bottom was too thin and cold. Not my favorite. I also thought it was a small serving.
Diane ordered a Tres Leches for the table. Again, it was too small. It was also too sweet and not creamy enough. Jen complained that she could only taste one leche. The only Tres Leches cake I’ve ever had is at Q’ero and I felt that I was cheating on it. I was embarrassed and ashamed at myself for straying. It won’t happen again.
I’ve heard that Fish 101 is a family owned, pillar of the community kind of place, much more than just mere restaurant. It was too busy for me to ask anyone about this when I was there, so I figured I could learn a few things on their website. Their website shows their menu (only a partial menu actually because most of the things we ordered weren’t on there), Instagram photos of amazing fish being caught and lots and lots of surfing photos. There’s also a section to purchase apparel. I figure they must have info on their home page about the kids they sponsor surfing, and about the fresh fish they catch, but all I could find in small letters was #fish101themovie. Desperate for more info I clicked on it and found a cool, yet strange, 38 minute movie, mostly on surfing. With some fishing and shots of the restaurant in there too. It shows Fish 101 mentoring “groms” through surfing, fishing and diving, but doesn’t really explain who these kids are or how they get chosen. Lots of surfing. I was left with questions and after 38 minutes of their movie, I was just done asking. But I can see that local surfers and fishermen love this place and the people behind it. I definitely got that.
Fish 101 is a very cute, totally Leucadian eatery with some of the freshest fish in town. It’s an upscale surfer’s hangout where most everyone is a regular. For our experience, we would give our food a 7.5/10. Everyone liked their meal, but no one thought it was the best they’ve had. The service was good, and the prices were only slightly elevated. We’ve seen much worse. The fish sandwich got the highest mark along with some of their sides like the coleslaw (from what I hear) and cucumber salad. The fish tacos and curry landed in the middle and the desserts finished at the bottom.
Would I come back to Fish 101? Sure I would if I were on the Leucadia side of town jonesing for seafood. With just a few minor tweaks, this place has all the bones to be amazing. But in this blogger’s opinion, the seafood at The Encinitas Fish Shop takes the tuna in this market. I held Hubby’s hand on the way back to the car, ’cause after 21 years of marriage this Thursday, I still want to be dating.
Join us in two weeks, May 12th (Mother’s Day) at 6pm at
I feel bad writing this blog for two reasons. First, because I am not the most qualified. I am not a donut person. I can tell you exactly the last time I ate a donut. It was July 19th, 2018 when we blogged VG donuts. And before that was between the years of 1987-1991. I rode horses competitively for the UCD Equestrian Team in college and we had a rule that whenever someone fell off, they had to bring the barn back goodies. I remember bringing donuts. Often actually. But that was many years ago…
Now my family lives a more health conscious lifestyle where donuts don’t fit in. Not that we don’t partake in plenty of alternative not-so-healthy choices, because we do. But we would rather have something other than a donut. Like ice cream. Brownies are nice. Fresh baked cookies don’t get thrown away. Have you tried the desserts at Q’ero, East Village, Plum and Chiko that I recommended yet? Worth it. Donuts? Nah.
And second, because it’s Passover and all good Jews are not eating leavened bread for one week. But I pride myself in being more of a hypocritical Jew, following the laws and guidelines as they fit conveniently into my lifestyle, and ignoring or altering the ones that don’t. So for us, it’s donuts for breakfast and matzo for our seder dinner. Because we are hypocrites, not barbarians.
But we are good blog-writing, restaurant-trying sports here, so we took one for the team and went for donuts. Not that it was hard. Donuts are delicious and when having one because you have to, it takes all the guilt away.
We arrived Sunday morning at 9am and expected a line, but it was pretty dead.
I was excited to look through the glass at all my choices, but those were pretty dead too. 9:00 on a Sunday morning is too late for donuts here. We missed the crowds but they cleaned everything out. I asked if more donuts were coming but was told this was all there is.
We managed to scrape up three that looked good. The last buttermilk donut for me, my favorite. A lemon cream for Bottomless Pit and a chocolate cake donut for Hubby who actually doesn’t eat donuts because he doesn’t like them, all fat, sugar and calories aside.
There is not a chance in hell I was eating donuts without coffee, so I brought my own organic cashew milk to go with it because I wanted it to be perfect. (NOT because I’m a coffee and food snob as Hubby says). It’s a do-it-yourself coffee station which I really like so I can leave the exact right amount of room in my cup for my cashew milk that I want.
BP loved his lemon cream and was very happy.
Hubby’s chocolate cake donut was on the dry side, but it tasted great. And with coffee, a little dry is fine with me, like a scone. Yum. Now scones I love. But BP fixed the dryness of the chocolate cake his way. Dip it into the lemon cream. That kid is genius.
My buttermilk donut was as delicious as I remembered a buttermilk donut to be. But after half, it was more sugar than I could muster. Thank goodness BP wasn’t full after eating his lemon cream and most of the chocolate cake so we didn’t have to waste the rest of that delicious buttermilk.
As we were leaving we saw all of the shelves being restocked with fresh donuts. Hey!
For not being a donut person, I must admit that our donuts were oh so good. You know what my buttermilk donut reminded me of? EVERY OTHER BUTTERMILK DONUT I HAVE EVER HAD. That’s right, I’ve said it. I can’t tell the difference from one to another. They’re all good. Obviously I don’t mean store bought ones. But every donut shop donut I have had is basically the same. I know everyone reading this is going to want to know which place is better: Leucadia or VG’s. And I’m sure everyone will have a strong opinion. Everyone but me. Because to this donut non-connoisseur, a donut is a donut is a donut. Good with coffee. But second to a scone. Or muffin. Or bagel. Or a crepe. Or…you get it.
This is a cash only donut shoppe, so bring your own dough!
Join us Sunday, April 28th at 5pm (any later and it will be too crowded) at
Cancun Mexican & Seafood is literally a hole in the wall. And the wall is adjacent to a gas station, which is next to a 7-11. None of this fine 101 dining with ocean views here. Let’s be honest. We were scared.
The old, faded, cheesy pictures of their food on the front window did little to ease our concerns.
Walking in we thought the establishment was very clean and there quite a few people eating here which was a good sign. You can order in one line if you have a credit card or you can order in the other line with cash. Both go to the same cash register, so make sure you get in the right line. Exactly.
Any restaurant boasting “seafood” in there name requires me to order some. I chose the Seasoned Grilled Sea Bass which sounds very fancy for a fast-food Mexican hole-in-the wall next to the gas station.
Their salsa bar is impressive with delicious additions such as grilled onions and marinated carrots. It’s also the best labeled salsa bar in town. Most places have you guessing by color which sauce will burn your face off. Thank you Cancun! The only downside is that there’s a sign on the glass stating patrons are limited to three small cups from the salsa bar. But I didn’t see that sign. What sign? No picture of it, I must be wrong. I may have taken 5-6. Oops.
In addition to the regular soda dispenser, they have one full of sweet Mexican drinks.
Our food came out quickly. Jen ordered the chicken soup which came with so many condiments, it was a really large meal. The other soups looked just as good.
Joyce got the enchiladas and said they were delicious. She said she would rather come here to eat over Casa De Bandini any day of the week. Except they have the margaritas at CDB.
Hubby (still too nervous about eating at a gas station) played it safe and only ordered one chicken taco. He was impressed.
The grilled fish tacos were as good as anywhere, and hats off to the double tortilla vessel. Well done.
Kelly was in love with his Machaca burrito but I found the side salad hilarious. Not sure he could finish all that salad!
Kelly was impressed with the large number of peppers inside his burrito and wants to show you.
My sea bass was delicious! A little heavy on the onions, but it didn’t bother me. The fish was well seasoned with crispy bits on the ends and flakey meat in the middle. It came with rice, beans and a Miami Dolphin container of tortillas. I would order this again next time.
(No, of course I don’t know that blue and orange are Miami Dolphin colors. I bring sporty friends who know these things.)
Everything was going great until this giant beast of a vehicle started backing up into the spot right by Kelly. Eat near the window at your own risk!
Cancun Mexican & Seafood was a nice surprise. For a cheap(ish) Mexican fast food joint, this place rocks! You can grab a burrito here, get some gum, magazines and condoms at 7-11 all while filling up your car at Berri Brothers. Now that’s convenient!
Why fly all the way to Cancun when you can get a piece of it right here in Leucadia?
Good to know: Rumor has it that Berri Brothers matches Costco’s gas prices and has the cheapest gas in town!
Blogging the Leucadia Farmers Market is an important milestone because it was here, two years ago in April, maybe even to the day, that I came up with the idea for this blog. Hubby and I were leaving the market and I looked across the 101 at all of the restaurants that we had never tried.
“What if we commit to starting a project to try them all, in order and I’ll write about it?”. Seventy-seven reviews later, we are here, finishing up our loop.
The Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 10-2. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the parking sucks. All of your nice, sweet neighbors become beasts in this cut-throat game of “Paws off bitch, that spot is mine!”. The best time to come, if you want parking, is close to closing, but you take the risk of the vendors being sold out of premium stuff. The best option for us is to walk there. If I end up buying more than can fit in my backpack, I just Uber home.
The Paul Ecke elementary school is otherwise the perfect spot for a farmers market. It is so country-cute with their own gardens and chickens. Bring the kids, there are tons here, but leave your dogs at home. They are not allowed here and the ones I see tied up at the fence are usually hot and whining. I come here to be happy and this makes me sad.
The Farmers Market isn’t just my happy place, it’s BP’s too. We often come here together, just the two of us. Today he made a b-line for his favorite spot, Masala Cottage Indian Cuisine. It’s kind of amazing I was able to grab this picture without the crowd because there is always one here.
This Indian food is as good as I’ve ever had. My only complaint is that their naan bread is not my favorite. And good naan is such an important part of the meal! However, this never stops BP, he just goes naan-less. He barely held off attacking his plate so I could take this picture.
Hubby ordered a plate from here too. That’s how good this Indian food is.
I wanted something really healthy so went with the Kenyan vendor, Rafikiz Foodz. They offer lots of vegetable options and everything is MSG, gluten, dairy and soy free. Yet still very flavorful. You can get samples if you don’t believe me. Plus it’s fun trying something new, and how often do I get to eat African food?
I got a plate of stewed chicken, braised cabbage and collard greens over coconut rice. Abzolutely Deliciouz! I don’t know why the spork isn’t more common. It is so darn useful. Need a fork for stabbing and a spoon for scooping? It’s all here in one!
BP and I strolled among the vendors while we waited for some of our friends to join us. Lots of vendors give out samples, and BP tried each and every one. It’s like the giant plate of Indian food never happened.
“Bring me back sweet potato pie!” yelled Hubs.
“I’ve never seen that, where is the vendor?” I asked.
“He’s THE nicest guy at the farmers market. You will know!”
So off we went.
Here are a few of my favorite things:
Baba Foods: Good luck sampling the hummus here and not bringing home a tub or five. I can’t do it, I’m a total sucker.
Loose Leaf: LOVE my tea girl, she hooks me up! Organic, loose, delicious organic teas with tons of variety. My favorites are the Gunpowder Green, Matcha and Oolong. (Read “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See and you will start drinking Oolong before long too! See what I did there? Oolong before long? Hubby says if I have to explain it, I shouldn’t say it so there’s a very good chance this part will be edited out.) If they run out of Oolong or Matcha (both popular) , I pay for it and it is shipped to my house in just two days.
Hopkins Almonds: These almonds are so good, but you shouldn’t trust me. Sample away my friends! BP’s favorites are: Mexican Chocolate, Vanilla, Honey Cinnamon, Italian and Dry Roasted. But he’s never sure so has to try them all every single time we come. These almonds make nice gifts. But if you are bringing them on a train for your friend in LA, they probably won’t make it all the way there. I think.
Driana Foods: Do not skip Diana Foods. This gorgeous Spaniard is a magical genius in the kitchen. Her sauces are TO DIE. We mix them with chicken and pasta or quinoa for a quick dinner. And the Spanish olives are our favorite. They aren’t salty which is so surprising. My boys sure do love them some olives. I always have “regular” olives in the fridge for them and then hide a tub of these safely in the vegetable drawer for me. Shhh.
What’s better than buying local raw honey? Nothing! And bring back your glass jars to get $.50 back. I always have 2-3 jars of this at home. Try the Grapefruit Honey when you’re there.
Booboo’s Sweet Potato Pies: I found the nice pie guy! No, not nice. NICEST. EVER. How can someone be so enthusiastic about their pie and you not buy one? Just $3 for a small, so I bought a few to bring back for our table.
This sweet potato pie was cold and creamy, almost like frozen custard. It didn’t have as much cinnamon and nutmeg and my tastebuds were searching for, but on this hot day, this was delicious and refreshing as hell.
One of the kids in our group scrunched up his nose at the word “sweet potato”.
“It’s your thing, you just don’t know it. Get into it.” I told him. (“Get into it” is a phrase I picked up on my recent trip to New Zealand.)
“Whoa…say that again. What you just said.” from our new friend Billy.
“What? It’s your thing, you just don’t know it. Get into it?” I asked.
“Yes, I love that. True wisdom.” He even wrote it down.
Katie and Jack ordered from another one our favorite vendors, Sushi Drift. But it was long gone before I could get a picture of their meal. They have really good sushi, and since sushi is my all time favorite food, I can say this with confidence.
John said his steak sandwich with avocado and arugula was delicious but this was all that was left. I believe him though.
Come hungry to The Leucadia Farmers Market. You can sample your way around to fullness for free or order something wonderful from one of the many food-truck style vendors around. There are always new vendors popping up so it never gets old here.
They also sell wonderful produce, bakery items, succulents, clothing, oils, candles, even worms for your gardens.
You might tell me that there are better Farmers Market in the area. The Carlsbad one is bigger. There’s one in Oceanside I should probably see. All true, but you would get a great big “Nope” from me. This is MY Farmers Market. Not since I went to school in Davis have I found a better one. (That one still RULES!) This is where I run into my neighbors, my gym friends, my kids’ teachers. I get an ocean breeze while I enjoy my walk over. It feels so good to be out in my community, supporting the local farmers and businesses. Even if it means paying a bit more, I’m ok with that.
Shame on you if you live in the area and have not been to the Leucadia Farmers Market. You are probably the same people who pay a premium to live close to the beach and never go. I will never understand your kind. I bet it’s really your thing. You just don’t know it. Get into it!
There’s a new kid in town and we got here just in time to get the skinny on them. Usually when I blog I get, “What do you mean you have never been there before?” Like to VG Donuts, Angelo’s Burgers and The Kraken. Places that have been around forever and a day, yet they have all been new to me, someone who never got out much. But this time, I’m at a new place before many of you even know about it and I feel so hip and cool. Until I just read that back. Nope, I’m still a dork.
Chiko is located on the east side of the 101 next door to Encinitas Surf Shop. I love the Encinitas Surf Shop but I hate going there because of the parking. Pulling in is easy enough, right off the main highway, but trying to leave is nothing less than hellish. Trying to back out onto oncoming traffic is very scary. I was a bit nervous going to Chiko for dinner. In the dark.
Before Chiko opened last November, this location was Shibari Organic Ramen that was there for about five seconds. Nope, never made it there. Before that it was Bull Taco for a short run. Prior that is was Jamrock and before that DB Hackers. Before that there wasn’t an internet so who the heck knows.
The place is small and elongated. You order at the counter and then can choose from a few tables to the left or right. There is a nice outdoor patio but it’s pretty small. I bet it’s great to eat outside there on a warm night. They were very accomodating to our “large” group of 8 and put some tables together for us inside. It was actually really nice and we could have the kind of restaurant conversation you can hardly find anywhere. We could hear each other!
I like that the menu isn’t too large. They carefully picked their dishes to be unique and clever. They don’t need a ton of them.
We ordered a bunch of things to share and they had no problem keeping things nut-free for Oldest’s girlfriend.
Andrew Kim, the owner, was there and came over to talk to us. He is very excited to have opened this Encinitas location to add to the two he has opened in Washington DC. He also let us know that as of tomorrow (which is now today) Chiko will be opening for lunch. He was practically giddy about the sandwiches on the new lunch menu. Kimchi + Cheese = Kimcheese!
Our food arrived quickly on family-style plates. You get to serve yourself in these cool, little metal bowls which makes sharing and eating more fun. I’m not really sure why, but it does.
Mary sat down with a small can of Sac-Sac. What she was hoping for was something refreshing with a light grape flavor. What she got was a redo of the pregnancy glucose drink. Moms, remember that sickening sweet, syrupy thing we were forced to drink to see if we had gestational diabetes? Yep, that!
The Wok Blistered Chinese Broccoli was a very nice portion for $8. It included sauteed shiitake mushrooms and crispy garlic. D-lish! I really like that it was chopped up into bite-sized pieces. It was great to add to all of the other dishes we put into those cute silver bowls.
The San Diego Spice Bag had crisp shrimp and tater tots “Honoring DB Hackers” (it states on their menu) for their well-know fish and chips from back in the day. Nice touch. These fried shrimp were honestly the best I’ve ever had. This batter is superb! The Chili Miso Aioli (on the side) disappeared but they brought out more for us to use with the rest of our meal. Oldest ate most of it. He’s a Spice Bag.
I heard rumors before coming tonight that the Pork and Kimchi Potstickers were great, so we had to get some. Who can say no to crispy yet soft Chinese-ish dumplings filled with yummy stuff? Not us!
Jen and Greg ordered the Asparagus Special. Here’s Jen’s review, “Scrumptious. Tempura”ed” the perfect amount. The sauce was flavorful without burning your mouth or clearing your sinus. ” And I will add, beautifully presented!
The Smashed Salmon with Wild Mushrooms and arrived and this was my favorite thing. The salmon was cooked just right, not a second longer than necessary. It melted in our mouths.
Next came the Fried Rice that Mira told me was so good when she was last here. Ok, so some people have made it here before me, but not that many! Does Mira know her stuff? Can fried rice really be worth recommending at a place like this? The answer is hells to the yes! Best fried rice we have ever eaten.
And finally came the Orange-ish Chicken. Again, the batter they use for frying is out of this world good.
Andrew Kim came over to check on things and we raved and applauded our meal. He was very pleased and then told us we had better not be too full for dessert. We were, but come on. What does being hungry or full have anything to do with ordering dessert? He was really talking it up, and I wouldn’t be doing this blog any justice without at least trying it, right? It is a “Sesame Custard” with caramelized dragon fruit, blood orange sorbet, candied almonds and rehydrated basil seeds. It was cool, fruity, creamy, textured and wonderful. When you have a dessert this good, there only needs to be one on the menu.
Time to leave and my palms started to sweat. I had to back up out of the spot, in the dark into oncoming traffic. Hubby offered to get out but that wasn’t practical. If there is an opening without cars coming, there is no time to get him back in the car before I would have to high tail it out of there. So I took my chances, backed out blindly but really slowly, saw lights bearing down quickly on me, and I lead-footed the gas pedal, burned tires and raced the car forward. One car had to swerve out of my lane to miss me and there were lots of horns blazing. Someone may have screamed. But we made it out of there alive. Not the best part of the meal.
Not only did we love the food at Chiko, the service was exceptional. Although the restaurant is small, the seating arrangements worked out great and we had actual conversation with each other without yelling. (Isn’t this something only old people talk about? Shit.). This is the finest dining you will find at a walk-up counter. This unique, funky, tasty little spot is exactly what Encinitas needs on the 101.
We didn’t just have a great meal. We had a great night. Come here with friends. Try something new. Order the desert. Come for lunch, because of the new sandwiches and because there is daylight for when it’s time to leave.
Chiko= Chinese + Korean
CaWaToCoB= Can’t Wait to Come Back
Sunday, April 7th at 11:30 we will be heading over to where it all began:
I thought I should give you an update on our plans. You may have noticed that we are heading towards the finish line of the 101 in Encinitas. A couple of things going on:
1.) We made a last minute decision to skip Lofty Coffee East last weekend since I have already blogged Lofty Coffee West and it’s the same thing.
2.) When we started this endeavour, we started it on the west corner of Leucadia Blvd. and the 101. That was WRONG! We should have started it further north at La Costa Blvd. In order to do a complete loop that encompasses all of the 101 in Encinitas, we will continue on from where we are going north, cross over to the west side at La Costa and then head back to Leucadia Blvd. where we started.
3.) Then we’re done, right? Not so fast. Plenty of new places have opened up since we started so we will do a “101 Clean Up” to hit all of these restaurants, still in order, until we have looped back around again. And if need be, we will do that again. And again. This may end up being the Golden Gate Bridge of Encinitas, where as soon as we finish, it’s time to get the new places again. But once we really get a leg up on that, we will officially be done with Encinitas.
4.) The option now is to finish the blog Dining on the 101, Or, continue on! This project has just been too much fun and we don’t want to stop. So after Encinitas, we plan to head up the 101 to Carlsbad, then all the way to Oceanside. There’s really no end in sight!
So that’s the news! Please join us this Sunday March 31st at 6:30pm to try a new restaurant in town called Chiko– Chinese+ Korean = Chiko
Thanks for reading, sharing the blog and for all of your supportive comments. I know not everyone agrees with my reviews, but I hope I’ve contributed to eating out more at our wonderful local establishments. We have some great places, don’t we?
I don’t think it’s possible to live in San Diego and not know about Leucadia Pizza. They send coupons out in all the local mailers, support numerous local community events and have drivers everywhere at all times. In fact, I bet these delivery cars are just driving around town doing marketing as much as they are delivering pies.
A few small wonky details set us on our “off night”. Their website under “About Us” says they have three locations, but under “Locations” it lists six. None, ironically, are located in Leucadia. When I called ahead of time to make a reservation for 13, I was asked if I wanted to sit inside or outside. I have been there before. There is no outside seating. Weird. We all arrived promptly at 6:00 and had a long table set up for us. They brought out garlic bread right away. Nice touch!
Unfortunately, the bread was drowning in butter and very sweet. I didn’t care for it at all, but our group gobbled it up. We were all hungry.
Bottomless Pit noticed that not all menus were the same. Some had menu items listed on them that others didn’t. Kind of weird to not have uniform menus, right? We put in our order for drinks, some salads, a few pastas and some pizzas.
Our water and beers arrived promptly and as the sun was starting to set, we enjoyed this spacious, comfortable restaurant with beautiful ocean and sunset views.
After a while some of the food arrived. Oldest and Girlfriend ordered the Santa Fe Chicken Pasta. I took a bite and almost burned off my tongue. Spicy! Luckily those two didn’t have a problem with it. I was surprised to taste something that hot without being advertised as spicy on the menu. I would have sent it back.
We ordered a full Greek Style Salad for the table to have with our pizzas. The salad arrived, but no pizzas. Here is the description of the Greek Salad:
Greek Style Salad
Mixed greens with sweet bell peppers, Greek olives, feta cheese, pepperoncinis, and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with a lemon-herb dressing
But what we got was a spinach salad, NO mixed greens and No feta. This is nothing like a Greek salad. And is this seriously a “full” size? Wow.
We happened to have a very distinguished food critic with us tonight with the most discerning palate. Luckily the Mac-N-Cheese passed Lily’s scrutiny.
Dee ordered the salmon which is a nice choice if you are dairy-free or just don’t want pizza for some reason. Which I can’t imagine. She said it was very good.
So you might think that our pizzas were coming soon, but oh, you would be wrong. As everyone finished their entrees and we ate our Not-At-All-Greek-Salad, our waitress came to clear plates.
“Anything else I can get you guys?” she asked as if we were finished.
“Just waiting on those three large pizzas” I reminded her.
“Yep, just clearing out some space for them.” But it sure did seem strange that half our group who ordered entrees were finished, and our salad that I thought we would have with the pizzas was gone too. This would have been a good time for her to actually check on those pizzas, no?
Now it was 7:15, we had been here since 6:00. Hubby got up to go and ask where our pizzas were. It wasn’t that crowded, and no other wait staff had been over to check on us for a very long time. Hubby came back red in the face.
“Well, there’s no good news and the bad news is that no one ever put in our pizza order. Do we want to leave or wait?”
We were all really hungry and didn’t see the point in going somewhere else now so we had them start our pizzas. But half our group couldn’t wait. They were mostly the ones who ordered pastas and salad so they paid for these and left. I sent my boys with Girlfriend home in an Uber.
“At least the dinner will be comped” someone said bitterly.
The manager came over to our table overflowing with apologies and excuses.
“I would like to offer you half off of your meal tonight to make up for your wait. Is there anything else I can do for you?” She asked apologetically.
“Actually there is. You can also comp the other half.” said Rich.
“We’ve been waiting for our dinner for almost two hours and half of our group left hungry.” I said less friendly than Rich. The manager looked at our now half empty table.
“I see. Let me comp your entire dinner except for the beers. I can’t comp alcohol by law.” We accepted.
We waited hungrily but we had our beers and were all happy to be in good company. And our time wasn’t wasted because I learned something very important that I never knew before. Did you know that squeezing your sphincter muscles can calm you down? I know, how did the conversation just go there, right? I mean, I can’t even remember ever having a conversation about my sphincter. And at the dinner table? I will admit that this is an area that gets very little mental or verbal attention. Here’s how it went down:
I was asked how my flights were to and from my recent trip to New Zealand. I commented on how much turbulence there was. Dee, a very knowledgeable yoga instructor, explained that clenching one’s sphincter helps combat the feeling of falling when there is turbulence. Who knew? Then Minnie piped in that awhile back when she was having episodes of heart palpitations, her doctor recommended sphincter clenching as well! Dee said that every part of our body needs to be acknowledged and loved. So although kegeling may be for women only, sphincter clenching is for everyone. Admit it, you’re doing it right now!
I glanced over to the men’s side of the table and was fairly certain that they were not talking about sphincter clenching. I was glad the boys and Girlfriend weren’t here for this conversation. They would have been mortified.
It still took 35 minutes to get our pizzas, but when they arrived, they were piping hot and delicious!
My only complaint on the pizza is that the crust is really sweet. The BBQ Chicken Pizza had very sweet BBQ sauce, and the sweet on sweet wasn’t for me. But everything else about the pizzas were terrific. They were cheesy and loaded with fresh toppings.
Leucadia Pizza does 60% of their business through delivery and this is where they shine. They knock it out of the park by having tons of drivers and valuable coupons which makes pizza delivery quick and affordable. I don’t love the sweet crust, but that’s a taste preference. Most people I know really love their pizzas. And they deliver right to Moonlight Beach! We have had exchange students from both Spain and Israel, and they were blown away to have pizza delivered to the sand. It’s cool.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. It’s not about having the perfect meal or perfect service. It’s about how you handle things when something is “off”. Even though someone forgot to put in our pizza orders, had the wait staff done a better job checking on our large group, it could have been caught faster. But “Thank You” to the new manager (only been there one month) who felt terrible about our experience and ultimately did the right thing by comping our pizzas.
But my God Man! Pull yourself together Leucadia Pizzeria! You have been a pillar in the community for over 40 years, now act like it! Update your website. Have menu conformity. Greekify your Greek Salad. Train your staff. Breath. Clench!