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Mar 28, 2010 07:37 PM

Need culinary destinations along CA-76 to CA-79 to CR-S2 to CR-S22 (Carlsbad to Borrego Springs)

Ok, chowhounders, looks like next Sunday's destination will be hiking in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. We'll be travelling from Carlsbad to the Borrego Springs area and back - weather permitting. Need lunch and dinner recommendations not too far off of f the beaten path from CA-76/CA-79/CR-S2/CR-S22. Any ideas??? I've dug up some postings on this board but many of them are not recent and some of them have mixed reviews. Wondering if any of you have been to Anza Borrego recently to observe the spring flowers blooming and maybe you have some chow-worthy places to share? We are open to any kind of food as long as it is GOOD! I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

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  1. Can't help you on the route you cite. Borrego Springs as much of a culinary desert as a real desert. If you came via 78, you could carb load at Dudley's Bakery in Santa Ysabel. If you return on 78 via Banner Pass (ultimately going through Julian), there always is Wynola Pizza Company in Wynola. But to be honest (and not snarky), I think you should pack your own lunch and snacks in a cooler (perhaps eating at that park in the circle in Borrego Springs, if not at the AB State Park visitor center). Save your dining dollars for something worthwhile, and not simply convenient.

    13 Replies
    1. re: RB Hound

      Agreed. I've spend more than my share of time along that stretch, and I've yet to find chow worth stopping for. There was some talk about a new chef at a place called Jeremy's. Stopped in once and left pretty fast- it was , well, odd. Don't know exactly how to describe the venue and the menu, but we got a very loud and bad vibe.

      I'm also not much of a fan of Julian apple pie. It's OK, nothing exactly wrong with it. I did take a chance this fall on a apple/pumpkin that I thought was terrific, but hardly worth waiting in line for 20 minutes just to buy it take-away.

      I've had the burger at Carlee's in Borrego Springs, I've had the carne asada burrito at the taco shop there, too. There's a resort just at the bottom of the hill when leaving town heading west. I stopped in for a burger once, and it was pretty good. Next time I brought a few friends, and it took 45 minutes to get our burgers- and they were terrible. "Mr Chowhound" they called me. I was shamed.

      Casa del Zorro had an amazing hidden secret- an excellent chef. I had a great and completely unexpected chef's tasting menu there a few years ago. But that's closed.

      I'm usually a "if you don't have anything good to type" kinda guy, but this is a culinary blank spot for me, and I'm hopeful there's someone else here that's had a better experience.

      1. re: Fake Name

        The Hideaway which is a classic biker bar with some decent burgers is riot to see all the bad boys hanging with their hogs..its right off the 76/79 by Lake Henshaw.
        San Ysabel Casino has some decent food..its about a mile off the 76/79.
        Sad that Casa del Zorro has closed..that was a wonderful resort in Borrego that had some great food. got a weird vibe at Jeremy' folk..hee hee

        1. re: Beach Chick

          No, it was not that- I can hang on the country side, too. Me and Lyle Lovett on the trail.

          It was "weird". The entree selections were over-topped. Here's a sample from the menu for-get this- lunch: {spelling is theirs)

          Haight-Ashbury Mushroom Burger with Psycadelic Mustard Sauce, Shrooms and…

          Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with French Compte Cheese Mornay Sauce

          Penne Pasta with Sliced Chicken Breast, French Brie, and Marinara Sauce

          Monty Cristo with Ham, Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Raspberry Preserves and Spicy Mustard

          Ham and Cheese Panini with Fried Egg and Compte Cheese Mornay Sauce

          Brie and marinara? Compte cheese mornay? Ugh. Not connecting with us. Granted they had some simpler items on the menu, and the meat is from Bisher's, but it had a faux-antique ambience and coffee-shop style service. I don't know- it seems like an artist given too many paint colors and is trying to use them all.

          Hate to post negative, especially when we waited for a while and never ate there (they were busy), but it was one of those places where I got a bad feeling and didn't wait around for an expensive verification.

          The place could be terrific- I want to make that clear. But we're here to share opinions, right?

          But, back to the original post. I do like to stop at the drive-thru egg ranch just outside Ramona for a flat of fresh eggs. Be careful getting in and out of the driveway- pretty hairy with low visibility and highway-speed cross traffic.

          1. re: Fake Name

            I've been to Jeremy's 4 times and each time has been really good but it does seem like the decorator got a bad bunch of 'shrooms and then started designing the place with Grandma Kettle and her country laced themed wallpaper..
            ; )

            1. re: Beach Chick

              RBHound, FakeName, & Beach Chick,
              Thank you for your culinary suggestions. I knew this would be a culinary challenge for you...last time we went to AB, maybe 18 years ago, we rented a house in Mission Beach - thus I had refrigerator space & there was a cooler in a closet for renters to use and I did pack the cooler w/lunch/beverages/snacks for our hiking trip to AB. This time I have less options b/c we are hotel bound w/o a kitchen. It is hard to take a cooler on a plane from Ohio, however, I do have a collapsible cooler I am packing to use for beverages in the rental car once we arrive in SD & for the duration of our trip. Hotel does have a mini-fridge & ice. It is nice to know what is out there in the desert just in case. The biker bar, Hideaway, sounds scary out in the middle of nowhere in the desert - probably not appropriate for our 15 year old, but the adventurous side of me wonders how it would compare to the classic biker heavens in Northeast Ohio. LOL!!!

              1. re: CurryLover

                I didn't realize you were traveling from Ohio and simply staying in Carlsbad - figured you just lived there. Ooops. :)

                Stop by a Costco or a Walmart and pick up one or two of those styrofoam coolers. You may be better off coming back to Escondido or environs for a late dinner. Is there a reason why you are going via 76? It seems like a more roundabout way to get there, but maybe that is the point?

                1. re: RB Hound

                  My husband is attending a CE meeting in Newport Beach one day during our SD trip. Carlsbad seemed to be conveniently located between SD & NB with easy access to most of the destinations planned after our arrival in SD. Mapquest was the one that gave me the directions from Carlsbad to AB. We are bringing a Garmin & that might give us different directions once we get in the car. I agree about getting back to Carlsbad before dark in time for dinner & a sunset viewing - don't want to be in the middle of nowhere after dark! I have read many of the reviews of restaurants in northern SD County in the Carlsbad area & feel comfortable with what's there or nearby - my only concern is it being Easter Sunday. No need to make the CH'ers repeat themselves . I just found myself scratching my head about what was available in the middle of the desert, LOL! Is there a better & chow-worthy way to get to AB from Carlsbad?

              2. re: Beach Chick

                I agree that the decor is a little odd for the location but we've been twice now and it was very good both times. One regular burger, one buffalo burger. The very young chef takes great care. He is, I'm told, a Cordon Bleu grad. We have also heard good reports from others.

              3. re: Fake Name

                Was out there 2 weeks ago. There' s been some great blooms this year. Last I heard the California poppies were starting to come out near Soda Lake - be sure to check at the visitor center in Anza Borrego for recommendations.

                If you're not committed to the route in the OP, consider taking the 78 and stopping off in Escondido for some of the best Mexican in San Diego. I like to pick up some pan dulce (Oaxacan style sweet bread) from Panaderia Ortiz to eat while hiking.

                The threads below may give you some more ideas of chow options in the Escondido/Rancho Bernardo area.


                1. re: ipsit

                  Thanks ipsit. I'm not sure why mapquest gave me the CA-76 route when it makes more sense to take CA-78. We'll definitely stop for pan dulce - that sounds like a great goodie to munch on while hiking. Is there any place else in town that we can get good tacos to go & take with us to AB - we'll have a cooler. Also, off the CA-78 route is Stone Brewery - do you think that would be a nice place to stop for dinner on the way back to Carlsbad from AB? Website says they are open Easter Sunday. Thanks.

                  1. re: CurryLover

                    I didnt realize you will be out on Easter. Several Mexican places may be closed that day. It may be worth making some phone calls before hand. Im not a taco expert (being vegetarian), but I don't know if they stand up well to being packed and transported in a cooler.

                    Stone gets mixed reviews on this Board, but their beer is good. Hacienda de Vega is also in that area for a great ambience-decent food meal.

                    Oh - and I should clarify that Soda Lake is not in Anza Borrego (its further up north) - What I meant was that the poppies are blooming there, and there may be spots in Anza Borrego where you can also find them - sorry for that confusion.

                    1. re: ipsit

                      I like Stone for the beer but the food was meh..
                      I really enjoy Hacienda de Vega..outside patio with the large waterfall..good food.


                      1. re: ipsit

                        A small distance off 76 and College is La Perla Tapatia.
                        It is an authentic taqueria and panaderia.
                        Very informal you order at the counter and they make the food in front you.
                        Wide range of items from tacos to tamales to tortas.
                        Best Burrito I have had in San Diego county.
                        I found by accident one day on a bike ride.

                        625 North Redondo Drive, Oceanside, CA‎

          2. Went to Borrego Springs March 20th to see the wildflowers and visit friends who live out there. Lots of yellow and purple blooms--overshadowed, often, by the mustard weed.

            We had lunch at the little French place off Christmas Circle (on the southeast spoke of the Circle) where I have eaten before. It's called The French Corner and is run by two chefs from southern France. The food is quite good--some time-honored French preparations in addition to items Americans expect but may not be as authentic. We ordered the special of the day--lobster crepes--and they were delicious--lobster newberg inside a crepe. They have wine and beer, and the service is pleasant. Since it was not yet summer (and hot!), we lunched outside on a covered patio. The inside is pretty; the tables wear colorful Provencal tablecloths, and the walls are nicely decorated.
            (The restaurant doubles as a gift shop.) On a previous occasion, I ordered the mussels in white wine and dijon mustard sauce, and they were terrific! But too many!

            Another Borrego fave is Jilberto's Mexican. It's in the heart of town on the main drag on the south side, across from Carlee's. The place is always crowded on weekends.
            I think there are three Jilberto's in the county--maybe more. This one is mostly take-out, but there are plenty of tables inside, too. Giant menu, great salsa bar. I have never had anything I wasn't impressed by. But I have my favorites, like the machaca burrito and the carne asada burrito. Giant portions, very fresh ingredients, nexpensive.

            For dinner, I suggest the Krazy Koyote restaurant located in the Palms at Indian Head hotel. Nice bar, menu, service, ambiance. A historic hotel, upscale yet relaxed.

            There are other restaurants in Borrego Springs, but I haven't particularly enjoyed them. It's too bad that the Casa del Zorro is no more.

            As far as the drive goes, 76 is the best route, IMHO. 78 is downright dangerous. 76 is, by constrast, scenic, and there is (not counting Montezuma Grade at the end of the trip, which you would be descending if you took the 78 as well) only one section of dangerous switch-backs (and that section is well-paved and has wide lanes). A lot of folks will be heading out there to see the flowers and enjoy the desert in its prime season, so be prepared for some traffic. Yet, the 76 is far less traveled than other routes--with no large trucks and no RV's.

            Enjoy the adventure!