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Lunch List - North County SD

As one of the many working stiffs up in Carlsbad (and as one who absolutely refuses to eat at the awful food court on Faraday) I'm constantly on the lookout for new (good) places to get lunch. Sadly there are a lot of olive garden/ soupplantation type deals up here so this isn't as easy as, say, boston or culver city. (I don't miss the traffic or the weather, but man I miss the food) Looking for places in Lunch-break driving distance from faraday in carlsbad- so north encinitas/La Costa, Carlsbad, West Vista, South Oceanside. I'm pretty new to the area, so any help to keep me from soupplantation is appreciated!

Lunch places I've been to:
India Princess (the buffet is good, the tikka masala is better)
Random Hawaiian BBQ places (surf brothers etc, these are pretty much all the same)
Pho Lucky (good pho and bun bo)
Lotus Thai (not horrible lunch specials)
the French Bakery Cafe (great sandwiches)
Joey's BBq (only decent tri-tip I've found down here, sadly not Santa Maria style though) Las Olas (cute place with some good food)
Knockout Pizza (can't wait til the one in Vista opens!)
MiMi's Cafe (Tip: don't get the apple crisp, it's brown slop with a scoop of ice cream on it) Juanita's (good but kind of far for lunch break)
Argyle (really good, sadly too expensive to be other than a special occasion)
King's Fish House (love this place)
Bellefleur (thought it was overpriced)
Manhattan Bagel (mm bagels! not really manhattanstyle but whatever)
random mexican places (los primos, tacos del mar etc)

And of course the chains...panera bread, islands, souplantation, olive garden, togos, Chipotle, etc.

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  1. Sushi on the Rock in the Carlsbad Forum is good, although on the higher side for lunch. Lots of creative sushi rolls plus bento boxes, etc. It's a trendier kind of sushi place.

    Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad off Palomar Airport Rd (near Costco) is supposed to be very good for sandwiches, etc. I have not been but it is often mentioned on the board.

    In and Out Burger off Palomar Airport Road is a chain and gets busy during lunch but they do good fast food style burgers.

    There is a decent pizza place off El Camino Real, between Encinitas Blvd and Gardenview Rd. The name is completely escaping me but it's on the west side of the street, near or next to a Rubio's and in the same parking lot as an older movie theater. They are a small chain and they have locations in Portland. The name has "pizzeria" in it.

    If you want fast, cheap and good pizza or hot dogs, Costco is actually quite good. You'll be sitting outside on picnic benches, but you'll get good food.

    11 Replies
    1. re: daantaat

      Pizzicato ?

      1. re: daantaat

        Over the years I have tried Tip Top Meats several times for lunch. I have not been impressed with the quality of their sandwiches. That is not to say they don't have a very good butcher shop.

        The pizzeria that daanaat refers to is Pizzicato. A Knockout Pizza is soon to open on the corner of El Camino Real and Encinitas Bld in Encinitas.

        1. re: Encinitan

          Yes, it's Pizzicato. Thanks to honkman and Encinitan!

          1. re: Encinitan

            The Knockout Pizza in Vista is open, went there for lunch today. It has a new name though, known as "Flippin' Pizza" although the owners and the menu are the same as Knockout. I guess the Encinitas one is opening next week under the same name.

            I like the Vista location -- the guys working behind the counter were older guys (not snotty teens) so there was a lot less of the surfer-idiot attitude that you get the carlsbad one. Seemed pretty cool and hung out talking to customers between orders. The place is fairly small and basic pizza joint, the slices are large and very good NY-style pizza. (and Yay for a chewy crust that you don't cut your mouth on!)They have some odd combos too, such as artichoke white pizza (which was very good by the way).

            they seem to close pretty early (like around 7:30-8 on weekdays), but they do serve beer, so I assume they will be open later as they get more established. Best part is that they deliver so I finally get decent delivery pizza =)

            1. re: Jeters

              "and Yay for a chewy crust that you don't cut your mouth on!)" - There is nothing worse than a chewy crust.

              1. re: honkman

                I don't mean chewy in a bad way at all.

                the crust has a nice crunch and chewy on the inside but not in a bad way -- like artisan bread. I can't stand NY pizza where the crust is so hard and crunchy it feels like you could cut yourself on it.

                1. re: Jeters

                  I guess we have different preferences (but that's the reason why we are on chowhound and discuss about those "important" issues) because for me great pizza has to have a very thin, crunchy crust. If it tastes like bread something is terrible wrong.

          2. re: daantaat

            On the Northeast corner of El Camino Real and Mountain Vista Drive is a place called Jorge's Mexican food. The sign from the street simply says "Mexican Food". It is located in between a kid's eyeglass store and a dry cleaners, and from this understated location serves what I think are some of the best Mexican tacos in all of San Diego (and I've happily tried as many as I can find over the years). I now live in the Midwest and day dream of Jorge's crispy chicken tacos and his homemade Mexico City style chicken soup. On that rare rainy day in San Diego the line is usually out the door with people waiting to buy his soup. He does not use lard, and all of the chicken comes from whole birds that he cooks all day to make his soup broth and then shreds the white meat into the soup along with fresh avocado, onion, mexican rice, and other goodies. I've tried in vain to replicate the recipe, but somehow just can't quite get it to turn out the same. The crispy chicken tacos are made with fresh tortillas fried to order and the shredded chicken meat. They are so juicy that it will run down your hands to your elbows! Even if you get them to go on your lunch break, it's worth the drive to pick them up!

            1. re: ExercisetoEat

              awesome! sounds like what I (sadly) had today from Rutherfords cafe down the street, but much much much better. I'll be on the lookout.

              1. re: ExercisetoEat

                Jorge's chicken soup is AWESOME! If you like soups, there's also La Especial Norte, on Hwy 101, just south of Leucadia.

                Tuscan Sun deli at the corner or El Camino Real and Leucadia/Olivenhain (near El Torito) has good panini sandwiches.

                The Shell gas station at the same corner has a small Persian restaurant (grill, really) that serve good wraps---chicken or beef or koobideh with salad wrapped in lavash bread. Their rice bowls aren't too bad also. Unfortunately, I forgot the name.

                El Carribe at El Camino Real and Dove Lane (near Wells Fargo) has good spinach salad with chicken. Their burritos are ok (some people like them, some don't). It's not Mexican food, exactly. They have burritos and tortas, but their food has a different flair.

                Believe it or not, Vons (El Camino Real and Aviara Pkwy) serve pretty good sandwiches. I like their rustic Italian bread. The main drawback is that it takes them a REALLY long time to make a sandwich.

                Joey's BBQ in the Vons shopping center at El Camino Real and Aviara Pkwy has good hamburgers. Their BBQ is pretty good, but my SO loves their burgers.

                Yanagi at El Camino Real and Dove (east side) has pretty good Japanese food.

                Another person replied about the restaurant at Palomar Airport. It is no more.

                Another person replied about the Chinese restaurant at San Marcos Blvd/Palomar Airport Rd and Rancho Santa Fe. It's called Panda Garden, and their noodle soups are pretty good (not as good as they used to be, though, when they used to make noodles by hand). I personally don't like the lunch specials but many other people do.

                In the same shopping center as Panda Garden is a pho place. It tastes good to me, but I don't know all that much about pho.

                In San Marcos Restaurant Row, there is China Wokery. I've only had the stir-fried rice noodles, the stir-fried fun noodles there, and they were pretty good. Haven't been there in several years, however.

                There is a Mexican restaurant shaped like a train at the southwest corner of San Marcos and Rancho Santa Fe. I like their burritos---the tortilla is nicely chewy and stretchy (probably has lots of lard or something else I don't want to know about).

                Russo's Pasta at the Vons shopping center in El Camino Real and (near) Mountain Vista (I forgot the name of the closer cross street) has good pasta. The same guy has been there for at least 15 years. It's a no-frills place for pasta, but their pasta is very good (really al dente). I love their pesto sauce, and their lasagna.

                Another person replied about Pickles Deli at El Camnio Real and Faraday. I like their lentil rice bowl alot. It's lentils with rice, a cucumber/bell pepper/onion salad (shirazi?), and pita bread. The rest of the food is just ok.

                1. re: tctking

                  I second Russo's Pasta. I think they opened a new restaurant (Russo's House) on University Ave. in Hillcrest but haven't tried it yet.

            2. A couple of options I'd recommend would be Pelly's fish market (killer fish taco) and Pollos Maria both in Carlsbad.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Luigi1963

                Just went to Teri Cafe yesterday -- will have to remember that place, its hard to find somewhere that makes their own noodles!

                Tip Top Meats I've been to a lot, but not to eat -- I go to the butcher there.

                1. re: Jeters

                  Can you give more info on Teri Cafe? What are the homemade noodle options? What all is on their menu? Location? Thanks.

                  1. re: maestra

                    Teri Cafe is in the strip mall over by Target in oceanside off of El Camino Real (apparently there is a decent korean bbq place over there too that I've never been to)
                    They serve Japanese/Hawaiian food -- plate lunch, rice bowls, teryaki, tempura -- some sushi, although it's not the focus. They also make all of thier own noodles apparently, Ramen, Udon, Soba, Yakisoba etc.

                    The place is packed at lunch (always a good sign), and there is a good bit of indoor and outdoor seating although the place is not large.
                    Most people seem to get the plate lunch, (miso soup, salad, entree w/rice or macaroni salad) but I was very excited to find a place that serves fresh ramen so got that. They have tonkatsu-style ramen with pork, ramen in miso broth and "Banzai" ramen with sauteed veggies, chicken and fish cake, which is what I got. They also seem to have a really yummy looking chicken cutlet plate--have to go back for that.
                    My ramen was very tasty, good broth (tasted chicken-broth based) just the right amount of salt, lots of sauteed bean sprouts and veggies in there and the noodles were excellent, not under or overcooked. The chicken was good although I wish there was a little bit more white meat (personal preference). The prices are pretty cheap (I paid about 6 bucks for my bowl of ramen) and the portions are HUGE.

                    1. re: Jeters

                      is Teri Cafe in N. County the same as the one off Clairemont Mesa Drive, across the street from 99 Ranch?

                      1. re: daantaat

                        Yes.

                        Their website gives details about the factory and a second Oceanside location opening soon:

                        http://www.tericafe.com/contact.php

              2. Try fish house Veracruz (Carlsbad Village or San Marcos). Much better and less expensive than King's. Really good fish, ho hum side dishes.
                Sansei in Carlsbad outlet stores has very good inexpensive and seemingly healthy Japanese food with great salads and brown rice option.
                Jay's in Carlsbad has decent Italian with large portions that could be split between two.
                Fidel's in Carlsbad for Mexican, I usually order the Tostada Suprema and ask for Frijoles de la Olla.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pantani

                  I was at Fish House Veracruz for dinner last week. I wasn't very hungry so I ordered the "appetizer" of steamed mussels. Fortunately I found my appetite (and had help from my dinner companions)... the "appetizer" came out in a cast iron kettle! Huge helping of plump, fresh steamed mussels. Great stuff.

                  Other hits at the table were outstanding grilled shrimp, monkfish and a bluenose (I think) fish of some sort, oh and the scallop rumaki. And the fresh, hot bread!

                  Anyhow, I'd highly recommend Fish House Veracruz if you've got the time in your lunch break for it.

                  Kathy/Kuisine

                  1. re: Kuisine

                    At Fish house vera cruz you must try the seafood salad with the smoked fish absolutely the best

                2. Holy Cow, Jeters, do you work with me?
                  I'm always fending off the Claimjumper suggestions. And thank heavens the Red Robin closed down.
                  I work in the same area, and my work friends are picky and not too adventurous. They like chains. You didn't mention Noodles & Co. in you list of chains, but it's not too bad. And there's Ruby's at the Carlsbad Outlets, Pei Wei in Encinitas. Oggi's pizza in Vista has lunch specials, and there's an Original Pancake house in the same mall. When you said French Bakery did you mean the Market Street Cafe (or what is it called?) in San Marcos? Bobby's Hideaway on El Camino Real is not great, but has homestyle food.
                  One of the office park delis (Charlie's deli at the end of Priestly) has a decent California Roll special on Fridays.
                  I try to bring lunch.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Dumkling

                    heh, considering there are are ton of tech companies over here on faraday probably not, but you never know...small world =p I don't eat out NEARLY as much as some of the other people that I know work around here do, the Gaming companies in particular who keep all the restaurants for miles around in business.
                    I know the feeling about Claim Jumper, although I don't mind it every once in a while.

                    I'm actually sad that Red Robin closed down. I have fond childhood memories of that chain, and now its hard to get a decent burger other than Fudruckers. (are there any decent non-chain burger places over here?!)

                    The French Market Bakery is off of Carlsbad village drive right by the I-5 next to albertsons. it's easy to miss because of the whole strip-mall thing, but they have good pastries and yummy panini sandwiches, worth a trip. the quiche is pretty good too.

                    I've been to the Market Cafe in San Marcos but only for dinner, it doesn't seem like a lunch place to me.

                    We used to go to Original Pancake House every sunday, but I personally don't like the food too much, it's too heavy or something. and the baked omelet that's all crispy on the outside is just wierd, where are the eggs?!

                    Noodles & Co. is pretty decent, had that before but the one in San Marcos is too far -- where's the one in Encinitas? And...I'm afraid to try Bobby's, sad to say. I pass it all the time,maybe one of these days.

                    As for the local deli's...Rutherfords and JJ's are both pretty good and delivers. I hear Southwest Deli has some decent breakfast burritos but haven't gone there yet.

                    1. re: Jeters

                      With the caveat that it's been a few years since I too worked on Faraday... ;-) Some places that haven't been mentioned:

                      The Airport Cafe at Palomar Airport serves decent burgers and at least used to be pretty reasonable.

                      Penny Lane opposite the San Marcos restaurant row had decent English Pub food (if that isn't an oxymoron), burgers, fish+chips, shepard's pie are things I remember.

                      There was a fairly decent Chinese Noodle place at the NW strip mall at Palomar Airport Rd./Rancho Santa Fe Rd. All the Koreans I used to work with loved it.

                      Chin's in the NE strip mall at Palomar Airport/Rancho Santa Fe was OK for gringoized Chinese.

                      Bobby's wasn't bad, it was OK for burgers.

                      1. re: mikec

                        I think that Chin's location disappeared several months ago. I was in that shopping center in October and didn't see it there anymore.

                      2. re: Jeters

                        I LOVE the Hunter Steakhouse's burgers. 1/2 lb of succulent, well-seasoned beef on a roll that's been lightly buttered with garlic butter!! You can add sauteed mushrooms or onions. I like mine with a nice slice of Jack cheese. YUM!! They'll even cook it medium-rare if you ask nicely. And they're cheap! I think it's $6.99 for a burger and fries! IMHO, they blow Fudruckers out of the water.

                      3. re: Dumkling

                        Hah, there's a colony of us? I too work off Faraday x El Camino Real.

                        I've picked up breakfast burritos from the Mexican deli just at the corner of Farday and El Camino Real with mixed success. They're ok, but close enough that I give them repeat business. I like their mixed "bowl" lunch too - decent rice, beans, guacamole, salsa fresca and your choice of meat with some tortilla chips. Sort of make your own nacho.

                        The only other place I've tried (I don't take lunch breaks very often) - is Pickle's Deli next to Curves. It was decidedly expensive for a mediocre sandwich.

                        [Edited -- I was asking about a San Diego dining group, but it looks like there's already one in place :)]

                        Kathy/Kuisine

                        1. re: Kuisine

                          I don't know if the San Diego Dining group works really -- we're like another city altogether up here and downtown is a whole FOURTY FIVE (with traffic) away...

                          BTW, Knockout Pizza in Vista is open it looks like, in the same area as home depot. anyone gone yet?

                          1. re: Kuisine

                            Hey, I used to work near all you folk, too! In fact, I worked for real estate brokers who handled a lot of Industrial leasing in the Faraday/El Camino Real areas.

                            Gotta go with Jeters on avoiding the Faraday food court. I made the mistake of getting a sandwich once from Submarina (and never returned to a Submarina after that). The manager was so rude and nasty to me when I called after returning to work and discovering they'd made my sandwich wrong that I reported him to the BBB (hard lesson for him to learn, I'm sure -- never mess with someone who knows which government agencies to contact!).

                            Anyway, I found I usually never got my food in the immediate vicinity if I did go out to buy lunch. I liked Rodeo's in Vista (near Hwy 78) for Mexican food. I also would venture to the valley in Oceanside for Filipino food at Mission Asian Market.

                            There are a couple of individuals who visit the office buildings and sell food. One is a guy who sells tamales by the 6-count every other Wednesday. I don't know which buildings he visits, but my old office building was 1901 Camino Vida Roble (if any of you work there, you might want to ask about the "tamale guy"). There's also a guy who sells sandwiches, burritos, salads and a few other entrees (he makes everything himself in the morning and then delivers at lunch time). I don't remember his info or his real name, but he called his business "Papa Gus." His food was pretty good and freshly made daily. He went to my old office building and the one we moved to (6005 Hidden Valley Road), in addition to other office parks in the area.

                            Rutherford's is okay, but nothing special. I was never particularly impressed with any of their food. I only ate it when my office was paying for it.

                            There's a Pat & Oscar's in the same parking lot as Costco, but their food is so-so also (good breadsticks, though).

                            I heard the Airport Cafe is "decent" (however, the only reason the brokers from my office went was because they thought the waitresses all looked like former "entertainers" -- not my words, but THEIRS, so I don't know if the food was ever the draw). My only experience there was back in 1985 or '86.

                            Churchill's in San Marcos has some tasty "Irish Nachos" (potato planks covered in cheese, sour cream and other rich goodies). Churchill's is on the south side of San Marcos Blvd. east of Restaurant Row. I think it's also east of Penny Lane (and is another British pub).

                        2. Hi Jeters! If you made it all the way over to Cafe Teri, then here are a few places I like for lunch in the area you might like to try: Thai Garden on Oceanside Blvd (just south of Melrose Ave.), Thai Pasta (in a strip mall off the 78 at the Emerald exit; south side of the 78), Mikko for sushi at 1/2 price with another person to share (Carlsbad Village Dr. just west of the I-5). La Paloma (at the corner of Vista Village Dr. and Escondido Ave) is hit or miss depending on what you order. The seabass quesadillas were a hit both times I tried them. Other stuff? Not so much.
                          I actually prefer King's Fish House to Fish House Veracruz because the former knows what to do with vegetables. Both serve excellent fish.
                          Also, try Vinaka Cafe in the Village Faire (or whatever it's called) in downtown Carlsbad by the 101. They have excellent individual quiches.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: snort

                            Love Thai Pasta, they deliver so we get it about once every two weeks at least! Gotta love the drive-thru they have too.

                            I've been to Vinaka but its a bit too far for me to go and really have any time for lunch, or I'd go there all the time to study. I've gotten coffee there but never really tried the food, will have to check it out next time I'm out that way.

                            The boyfriend refuses to go to Fish House Veracruz, I think he had a bad experience there. If it really is as good as everyone says maybe I can work on him..

                          2. I don't think that anyone mentioned it and it might be a bit more expensive than you're looking for but Vigilucci's Seafood and Steak on the coast in Carlsbad has a nice lunch menu. I'm not fond of all of his restaurants but I do like that one for lunch. Especially if you have a nice glass of wine with it.... Oh, I forgot, we have to return to work in the afternoon, right? :-) Anyway, on one of those days when you don't have to go back try it.

                            1. If you guys are making the trip to downtown Carlsbad, I might suggest Pronto's deli, good quality and variety and Pollo Maria's which is also tasty.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Luigi1963

                                Wanted to give folks an update -- Famous Dave's BBQ is now open in vista -- and it's very tasty. went and tried a little bit of everything last night -- the brisket, catfish and especially the ribs are all great.

                                The only thing off-putting is that the service JUST got trained and so is a little scatterbrained -- our dinner came out before our appetizer, right in the middle of a not-well-rehearsed and awkward explanation of all the sauces.

                                the food is quite good though =)

                              2. Out near the intersection of Palomar Airport Rd and Rancho Santa Fe Rd. in San Marcos, there are a couple of interesting Chow Hound-type hole the wall places you might want to try. One is a Filipino restaurant in the strip mall on the northwest corner. Not sure what it's called. Some the things they serve are pretty "out there" (like the blood soup), but it's an interesting culinary experience nonetheless, and much more fun than any chain restaurant. I love the carnitas like dish called SiSig (or something like that). A little farther north on RSF Rd is vietnamese restaurant called Pho San Marcos. They have a great photo menu, so you can see what everything looks like. I had a great bowl of noodle soup with all sort of interesting things mixed in. There's also a place next door called Philly Franks that looks like a good bet for Philly Cheesesteaks. (Though they will have a hard time beating the best cheesesteak sandwiches I've ever had (and I was born in Philadelphia), from the Bird House Cafe on the Coast Hwy in Encinitas.)

                                1. Hey Jeters..
                                  If you want to drive a little bit to Escondido, one of the best mexican restaurant I have been to is Hacienda de Vega..voted top 50 latino restaurants in the US..outside patio with fountains and tons of flowers...

                                  www.haciendadevega.com

                                  1. Another vote for Philly Franks in SM on RSF road.. as a SM resident I tried it several times. Market Street Bakery in Restaurant Row has a great andouille sausage sandwich made by the "God" of sausages at T&H Prime Meats.... my favorite butcher.