Oceanside is a tight-knit seaside community near Camp Pendleton at San Diego County’s northern end that welcomes a mix of Marines, locals, surfers, and tourists. The city provided the backdrop for “Top Gun” and still displays a maverick, indie spirit. Discover 12 places you must eat or drink when visiting the beach city.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank is an old bank that now houses a restaurant and bar, Mason Ale Works, and 101 Proof Speakeasy, which opened in October 2016. Make a reservation online, check in at the hostess stand, and receive a vintage key. Round the side of the building and enter a door beneath a green light. Have your ID ready, along with the key and password. Eight green cushioned stools line a metal bar beneath a pressed tin ceiling. Other guests recline in lounge seating. Old time music plays. 101 Proof stocks a large whiskey selection, organized by origin. You’ll also find a high-end beer bottle list and small food menu, including roasted bone marrow, pan-seared foie gras, and bananas Foster. The cocktail lineup utilizes hand-pressed juices and hand-carved ice. They devoted a menu page to Old Fashioned variations and also riffs on classics with noir names like The Long Goodbye.
MUST ORDER: Cocktails
Jeff Bagby minted GABF medals while working as Pizza Port Carlsbad’s Director of Brewpub Operations & Head Brewer and opened his dream brewery with wife Dande in 2014. Their sprawling brewpub has seats for 385 people, including clean wood design, green accents, communal tables, a patio with orange umbrellas, roll-up garage doors and upstairs deck with satellite bar. Bagby Beer Company champions three pillars: World-Class Beer, Simple Food Done Well, and Inviting Hospitality. Many brewpubs place minimal focus on food, but it’s safe to spend a meal at Bagby, which specializes in comforting, beer-friendly starters, sandwiches, and “very veggie” sides starring roasted cauliflower, smoked corn, and roasted Brussels sprouts. That said, craft beer is the primary draw, with options like Continental Cream ale, Hop Whompus Imperial Red Ale, and Dinkus Imperial IPA all part of a deep roster. Bagby also features great guest kegs and a “specialty draught list” touting higher ABV and allocated kegs.
MUST ORDER: Craft Beer
If you’re looking for kitschy decor and ambitious gastropub fare, Flying Pig Pub + Kitchen has both to spare. This bar and restaurant from Aaron Browning and husband Roddy Browning is situated on a side street in a former auto body shop. The space contains aqua and red walls, reclaimed wood, a winged wild boar head, and flying pig paraphernalia. Vintage albums double as menus. Don’t let the decor fool you. The Brownings, and chef Mario Moser, take food, craft beer (and pork) seriously. Juicy, char-grilled Duroc pork chop complements a lean, juicy char-grilled slab with orange, allspice and rosemary orzo, black plum, fennel, burnt honey & orange oil vinaigrette, and almonds. Salt & vinegar fries come dressed with malt vinegar and Parmesan. Give Grits & Daily Bolognese a hard look. During my visit, that meant creamy grits with house-made ground pork sausage Bolognese, cured egg and arugula. Finish with crisp-crusted banana bread doughnut balls served with raspberry dipping sauce and bourbon brown sugar glaze.
MUST ORDER: Salt & Vinegar Fries, Pork Chop, Grits & Daily Bolognese, Banana Bread Doughnuts
4. Guahan Grill
Chamorro cuisine, the food of Guam, is on rare Stateside display in a foothill strip mall. The Pacific island-inspired space touts orange walls, paintings of palm trees and ocean sunsets, a bamboo-fronted wood bar, and island music like Jack Johnson and reggae. The name translates to English as “we have,” and the menu has plenty to give. Stir-fries predominate, including fried rice and udon noodles, and SPAM makes frequent appearances. Still, your meal should center on Chamorro fried chicken, named for people from Mariana Islands like Guam. Skinless thighs are marinated in soy, garlic, onion and vinegar, deep-fried, and served with two mounds of achiote stained red rice and cooling cucumber and tomato salad. Finadene sauce is a savory blend of soy, vinegar, and green onion that you should spoon on food.
MUST ORDER: Chamorro Style Fried Chicken, Finadene Sauce