Taste of the World, East of I-5
by: Kierstin and Katrina Hill
My sister and I ate our way through a world-tour in Oceanside! We went into each restaurant with an open mind and asked what the most traditional or most popular dish was – and just blindly ordered the server’s recommendation! We definitely ate some menu items that we never would have considered in the past – i.e. the tail of an ox (spoiler alert – it was ah-mazing!). We focused on nine different restaurants east of the I-5 with various cultural cuisines and ate extremely delicious food along the way.
Guahan Grill – Walking into Guahan Grill is as if you are transported to a tropical island: Guam! Reggae music plays in the background, complimenting the brightly colored walls decorated with photos of Guam’s beautiful beaches. They make it easy to relax and enjoy a delicious meal. For those interested in learning about Guam, the menu has a feature on the history of the Island and the native Guamanian food.
A sign saying “Hafa Adai” (pronounced “half-a-day”) hangs over the bar and greets guests as they walk in. Hafa Adai is a friendly Guamanian greeting similar to the Hawaiian version of aloha.
We ordered the “Maga Lahi” plate which translates to “chief” and it’s easy to see why this plate is called the chief! The plate is stuffed full with chicken, ribs, steak, rice, salad, and your choice of a side. For an appetizer we ordered the traditional chicken fried rice and lumpia; all of which was delicious!
Ocean Thai Cuisine – Conveniently located on the corner of Mission Avenue and El Camino Real, Ocean Thai Cuisine is easy to find. This place is definitely worth a stop! There are dark, romantic walls decorated with orchids, intricate wood carvings and a fish tank. Plants are everywhere and add greenery to the restaurant. The menu is extensive and features a fascinating history of Thai food.
We got there in the peak of the lunch rush and the service was great. The food was hot, delicious and very timely! The server recommended the yellow curry dish which came with chicken, vegetables, a heaping mound of jasmine rice. We also ordered the chicken and vegetable drunken noodles plate and picked our spiciness level from 1-10. To top everything off, we ate Coconut milk ice cream (dairy free, but did not taste like it) covered with caramel and nuts and garnished with mint leaves.
I Love Pho – Patrons are welcomed into this Vietnamese restaurant with a beach-themed palapa and water feature creating the soothing sound of running water. The walls are colorful and happy, with green accents and authentic Vietnamese wood carvings. They have a few big screens playing ESPN which makes this a great, unique place to watch the game.
We came at the peak of the lunch rush and the service was great. The food came out quickly, hot and fresh. This place definitely has the local lunch crowd vibe, which makes sense because it’s located at the 78 and Plaza, a perfect stop while you are out shopping or running errands.
We ordered egg rolls, spring rolls, vegetable and tofu pho, in addition to the “B11” plate - chicken, beef, shrimp, egg rolls, rice noodles and veggies. We had plenty of food to take home for dinner that night - always a plus!
San Luis Rey Bakery – San Luis Rey Bakery and Restaurant is a truly authentic Mexican restaurant. There are bright colors everywhere with open windows giving tons of natural light. They serve menudo on the weekends (thumbs up to that!). In addition to the full Mexican restaurant, they are also a full-service bakery. This place is long established in the community, with over 50 years of restaurant service and the current owners have operated it for about 10 years.
It is a mom and pop family-owned restaurant with a friendly staff. The bread and pastries are baked fresh daily. It’s located just west of Mission San Luis Rey, at the corner of El Camino Real and Douglas, across the street from Heritage Park.
We ordered the Combo #1 which came with a cheese enchilada, chile relleno, taco, rice and beans. We also ordered chicken fajitas. Again, tons of food to take home for the next day! The food was freshly cooked, timely and hot. Later we learned the owner is the head chef and bread maker.
Maan’s Mediterranean Grill – Located on Oceanside Boulevard, east of College, Maan’s Mediterranean Grill is a true gem. We always look for places that have beer and a patio and Maan’s has just that! There is indoor and outdoor seating with beer and wine. They have a good selection of unique, bottled beer from all over the world as well as a few local taps. In addition to traditional Mediterranean food, this place has big screen TVs as well as a coffee and dessert menu. Owner Maan Charik lives in Oceanside and opened the restaurant in 2011. Maan was originally born and raised in a Christian family in the Mediterranean area.
We ordered the shawarma chicken, tekah chicken and gyros – the shawarma was our favorite, but all were spectacular. Each dish came with jasmine rice covered in sumac (herb) seasoning, humus, pita bread, various sauces and a side salad. The food was incredibly fresh and tasted as if it came homemade from a traditional household kitchen in the Mediterranean.
Felix BBQ with Soul - We can’t forget the US as part of the “taste of the world!” Felix’s BBQ with Soul brings traditional Southern food to Oceanside, in the Ocean Ranch Business Park. The owner, Felix Berry, was born and raised in Alabama, where he learned the art of Southern Soul cooking from his mother. The interior of the restaurant manages to be both grand and spacious, as well as homey and comforting. Its brightly colored walls are adorned with historic photos and drawings, and the staff are friendly and warm. Felix’s BBQ would be a perfect place for large gatherings, and they offer an all-you-can-eat buffet on Sundays.
The servers greet you with warm, freshly-baked cornbread as soon as you sit down. We ordered the sample platter which comes with four meats and four sides. We chose catfish, shrimp sautéed in garlic butter, pulled pork, and fried chicken. As our sides we had the Hoppin John (black-eyed peas), mac-n-cheese, candied yams, and collard greens (a sautéed vegetable similar to kale or spinach). The sample platter easily fed two people for lunch plus leftovers for dinner! The food was extremely flavorful and delicious without being too heavy – the perfect combination. Our favorites were the Catfish and the Pulled Pork, although it was hard to choose favorites.
One Love Island Cuisine – This amazing Jamaican place is located in the same shopping center as Ralphs and Rubio’s, on the corner of College and Oceanside Boulevard. Walk into the intimate restaurant, and you’re surrounded by bamboo features, beautiful beach scenes, posters of Bob Marley and the movie Cool Runnings. The Rastafarian colors of red, yellow and green brightly adorn the walls, and reggae music fills the room. In this relaxed atmosphere, you order at the counter and sit wherever you prefer. They also have outdoor seating, where you can drink a beer with your meal.
We ordered the popular Oxtail and Jerk Chicken as our two entrees, and we had plantains, steamed cabbage, dumplings and butter beans for our sides. The Oxtail was one of the best foods we’d ever eaten! They pressure cook a cow’s tail, and the tender meat falls right off the bone. It was a unique “melt-in-your-mouth” type of deliciousness. We both agreed we had never tasted anything like it before. The Jerk Chicken and sides were extremely tasty as well. One Love Island Cuisine is also a food vendor at the Sunset Market on Thursday nights.
Go-Go Japan Sushi – Go-go Japan is a must-go place if you’re a sushi fan. The restaurant has an intimate setting, with bamboo paneling and traditional Japanese paintings and lanterns. The staff is friendly and you can either sit at a table or at the bar, which surrounds the sushi chefs making fresh sushi right in front of you. The food is delicious, and go whenever you can, but we highly recommend their amazing lunch specials, which come with miso soup, salad, edamame, and two sushi rolls.
We ordered tuna Nigiri-zushi (the simple slab of fish on top of rice), a super crunch roll (cooked), and a rainbow roll. Either plain or topped with ginger and wasabi, all were mouth-wateringly delicious. Go-go Japan is also known for amazing teriyaki chicken. There are local craft beers on tap, a variety of choices of sake and Japanese drinks, and ESPN playing on big-screen TVs – many reasons to check this place out.
Le Rendez Vouz French Bakery – An authentic French bakery lies in the heart of Oceanside on the corner College and Oceanside Boulevard. Walk into the shop, and you’re transplanted to the smells and tastes of Paris. On one side of the store are desserts as intricate and beautiful to the eye as they are to the taste buds. On the other side are scrumptious “croxnuts” (a mix between a croissant and a donut -- crispy on the outside and with a delicious donut filling on the inside), donuts, pastries and croissants. And of course, fresh French baguettes and bread a-plenty line the back wall.
The owners of the store are from France; the husband is a professional baker and the wife a pastry-chef. They moved to the U.S. and opened Le Rendez Vouz ten years ago, and the business is the product of their combined talents. They take their art seriously, and it shows. They arrive to work at 2:00 am every day to make everything in-house. They make all their menu items from scratch, including the custards and creams. Their savory food is so in-demand that not only do they sell directly to the public in the store, but they supply bread to local restaurants, and are at weekly farmers markets in Vista and Carlsbad.
We ordered lemon and pistachio macaroons, a cream puff, a croxnut and a petit four (translates to bite size) fruit tart – all of which were incredibly savory. We paired these treats with cappuccinos, and we felt like we were in France!
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