May 2023

Looking Up. Exploring the flora, fauna, food, sights, bikes, music, malls, and art that make North County such a vibe.

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Changing Landscapes in Encinitas

How to Elope in Vegas

Gen Z Sobriety

LOOKING UP Exploring the flora, fauna, food, sights, bikes, music, malls, and art that make North County such a vibe

MAY 2023


DISCOVER ELEMENTAL LUXURY BY THE SEA OF CORTEZ COME HOME TO A SENSE OF BELONGING A place wrapped in rugged mountains, untouched beaches and crystal blue waters awaits discovery as your new address. 45 minutes from the Los Cabos airport and miles from the ordinary, Costa Palmas is a master-planned resort community set by Baja’s East Cape, on the swimmable Sea of Cortez. Homeowners will be part of a Beach and Yacht Club, Golf Club, Aventura and more—enjoying a lifestyle elevated by Baja’s first luxury marina and enhanced by a sense of belonging.




Four Seasons Resort and Residences Los Cabos at Costa PalmasTM are not owned, developed or sold by Four Seasons Hotels Limited or its affiliates (Four Seasons). The developer, Desarrolladora la Ribera, S. de R.L. de C.V., uses the Four Seasons trademarks and trade names under a license from Four Seasons Hotels Limited. The marks “FOUR SEASONS,” “FOUR SEASONS HOTELS AND RESORTS,” any combination thereof and the Tree Design are registered trademarks of Four Seasons Hotels Limited in Canada and U.S.A. and of Four Seasons Hotels (Barbados) Ltd. elsewhere. Renderings and maps represent an artist’s conception and may differ from the finished product. This is not an offering for sale in any jurisdiction where the project is not registered. E.&O.E. WARNING: The California Bureau of Real Estate has not examined this offering, including, but not limited to, the condition of title, the status of blanket liens on the project (if any), arrangements to assure project completion, escrow practices, control over project management, racially discriminatory practices (if any), terms, conditions, and price of the offer, control over annual assessments (if any), or the availability of water, services, utilities, or improvements. It may be advisable for you to consult an attorney or other knowledgeable professional who is familiar with real estate and development law in the country where this subdivision is situated.

FOR HEALING OUR BODIES AND TOUCHING OUR HEARTS, THANK YOU. Kaiser Permanente is proud to recognize its more than 3,400 nurses. Your selfless caring, medical expertise, and patient nurturing, helps everyone you touch thrive a little bit more.


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68 NORTH STARS Our annual look at the northern half of San Diego includes a what’s what of the best food in town, a day tour through Oceanside, a peek into a long-heralded $2 billion development project, a meditation on the mall, and a bike route along one of the most iconic highways in the United States.

78 NORTH BY NORTH COUNTY We asked readers to submit their best photos of iconic North County spots and compiled them into a sunset-packed photo essay that rivals any Instagram reel.


86 CARING FOR HOME SDSU combats a severe nursing shortage in Imperial Valley with creative teaching solutions that foster homegrown healthcare professionals.

As part of SDM ’s continued 75th-anniversary coverage throughout 2023, we plucked some of our favorite North County–based ads, articles, and accoutrement from the magazine’s archives.

10 MAY 2023

Departments In Every Issue 16 EDITOR'S NOTE Executive Editor Mateo Hoke on what's hatching in North County, literally. 20 LOCAL STOKES A skate reunion at an iconic skate shop’s reopening, a dog- friendly new eatery in Rolando, a weensy San Diego made of Legos, and more. 22 COVERING 75 For our “Best of North County” issue, SDM ’s art director Samantha Lacy celebrates the resurgence of some of the area’s endangered (and adorable!) birds. 102 CALENDAR May’s culture calendar brings an art exhibit about the trolley’s blue line, Georgia O’Keeffe at SDMA, North Park’s Music Fest, superstar Lizzo, and more. 104 SACRED SPACES Say happy birthday to the world’s newest California Condor! We got an exclusive look as the critically endangered bird hatched at Escondido’s SD Zoo Safari Park. Food & Drink 24 HOT PLATES SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this May. Ostrich eggs, gluten-free pizza, and a surprisingly good Cubano are on the list. 26 MAIN DISH In our monthly look at neighborhood eats, we head to Vista, where the area’s many breweries lean heavy on the pub grub. 28 REVIEW Troy Johnson checks out a beloved Escondido institution, Mi Rancho Market. Arts & Culture 34 HEALTH Today’s young adults are opting to go alcohol-free more than any previous generation. What does Gen Z’s sober- curious lifestyle look like in SD? 36 ARTS Nothing says “North County” quite like surf culture. Shaper Brian Szymanski brings his craft to new heights in an installation at the Alila Marea Beach Resort. 40 MUSIC The owner of Solana Beach’s famed Belly Up opened The Sound in Del Mar, providing ample space for bigger acts to book shows in San Diego County.

28 36


MAY 2023

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S ULTIMATE SHOPPING DESTINATION Alexander McQueen · Audemars Piguet · Balenciaga · Bottega Veneta · Breitling · Brunello Cucinelli · Buccellati · Cartier Celine · Chanel · Chloé · Christian Louboutin · Dior · Dolce&Gabbana · Fendi · Ferragamo · Givenchy · Gucci · Harry Winston Hermès · Isabel Marant · Lanvin · Loewe · Louis Vuitton · Marni · Max Mara · Missoni · Moncler · Monique Lhuillier · Moynat Oscar de la Renta · Prada · Reformation · Roger Dubuis · Roger Vivier · Saint Laurent · Stella McCartney · Thom Browne Tiffany & Co. · Tudor Tourneau · Vacheron Constantin · Valentino · Van Cleef & Arpels · Versace · Zegna · Zimmermann partial listing Valet Parking · Personal Shopper Program · Gift Cards · Concierge Services





Living & Style 48 HOME Multi-family developments have been a hot-button issue in Encinitas for a long time, but new construction is slowly shifting the tide of what’s possible in this suburban city. 54 DESIGN Carlsbad’s Gemological Institute of America consistently churns out some of the best fine jewelry designers in the world. We check in with a few who set up shop locally. Escapes 88 WEEKENDER After eloping in Las Vegas earlier this year, our managing editor offers a thorough guide to tying the knot in Sin City. 94 ARRIVING NOW New openings and other travel news from Santa Barbara, Valle de Guadalupe, and Waikiki. Special Sections


ON THE COVER How many North County native species can you name? Have you noticed red bush monkeyflower blooming on your last hike, or a hunting osprey at the beach? Our coasts and marshlands are some of the most biologically diverse, and San Diego is considered a microhabitat. Art Director Samantha Lacy pays tribute to a small handful of local flora and fauna on this month's maximalist cover.




MAY 2023

Located at the Bahia Resort Hotel (858) 539-7635 | 998 West Mission Bay Drive | San Diego, California

There’s a New Spirit in Town

Editor’s Note

Big Things Hatching in NoCo

L @drinkbatch22

et’s be honest—all babies are precious, but not all babies are cute. Lucky for us all, though, we happen to have one that’s both on the last

Wildlife Specialist Brittany Vega, making a core memory.

page of this magazine: an endangered California Condor, fresh from the shell. It was 5:31 a.m. on a Monday when the call came through. Baby was hatching, so SDM ’s videographer, Jeremy, and I high- tailed it out to Escondido to be there as the first condor of the year emerged at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. California Condors are critically endangered. In the ’80s, less than two dozen remained. Two dozen. Those aren’t great odds. It’s taken incredible efforts on the part of indigenous tribes, US Fish and Wildlife, the SD Zoo, and other partners of the California Condor Recovery Program to bring these special birds back from the brink. There are now more than 500. And now, there’s one more. A handful of us stood half-circled around the incubator. Two were wildlife specialists, including 33-year-old Brittany Vega, working her first day in the bird program. She teared up as she held the baby condor, weighing it and helping ensure it was cleaned properly to avoid infection. Just imagine. “It was a core memory. Getting to watch a chick hatch in real time and hold it during its first few breaths of life brought on overwhelming excitement and joy,” she said later. “It was definitely a struggle to hold back tears.” You weren't the only one, Brittany. It was incredible. It’s with similar excitement that we’re exploring North County in this month’s issue of SDM . And we’re not just talking about the coast. North County is so much more than sunsets and surfers. We’re feasting in Escondido on page 28 and in Vista on page 26. We’re contemplating the

importance of vibrant third places while revisiting the North County Fair on page 70, and seeing what $2 billion builds in San Marcos (pg. 76). But don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the unique culture of the coast. On page 48, we bring you inside a new, slightly denser mode of building in Encinitas. On pages 68–77, we’re celebrating NoCo music, biking the 101, exploring what’s new in the food scene, and getting an inside view of O’side. We’ve also put together a funky little lookback of North County ads and coverage from our archives as we continue celebrating 75 years of SDM (pg. 82). And, as you may have noticed, that condor isn’t the only bird in this issue. Check out the maximalist, wallpaper- worthy watercolor cover our art director Samantha Lacy painted. Sam is from Encinitas and chose to highlight species native to the coasts and marshlands of North County. It’s fun to get lost in. And so is North County. So off we go.

MATEO HOKE Executive Editor

P.S. Public visits to the condor breeding program facilities are strictly prohibited, but you can peek inside with more photos and a vid of the baby’s momentous birth on our website.

16 MAY 2023



Sliding doors. Missed connections. Bad Decisions. Or, perhaps, sounded-good-at-the-time decisions. Life is full of — if not regrets — nagging what ifs. Before her lauded sophomore effort, The Vanishing Half , author Britt Bennett already had a New York Times best-seller under her belt. The Mothers , her debut novel, is a devastatingly thorough portrait of being a parent while grappling with the ghosts of our past. This Oceanside author’s work, The Mothers , is this month’s book club pick. Follow Nadia Turner as she navigates late-stage teendom in her Black Southern California community while grieving the passing of her mother. Seeking solace in the local pastor’s son, she finds a calling instead: motherhood. As the years pass, Nadia and those around her find themselves reckoning with what’s been done and what could have ultimately been. To join our book club, visit Then visit one of the participating local, indie bookstores to buy a copy of The Mothers . Email a photo of your receipt to books @ We’ll randomly select one winner each month who will get $300 to any one of CH Projects Establishments (Neighborhood, Born and Raised, Craft & Commerce, Ironside).

No one ever died thinking, “I should’ve read less.”

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SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE (ISSN 0734-6727), May 2023, Vol. 75, No. 5. SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE is published 12 times a year (monthly) by San Diego Magazine LLC, 1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA, 92101. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One year, $18; two years, $28; three years, $40. Subscriptions outside CA are $3 additional per year; outside the US, $80 additional per year. Back issues are $10 per issue and can be purchased at, if available. For change of address or customer service, write SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEPT., PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800 or email Periodical postage paid at San Diego, CA, and additional mailing offices. San Diego Magazine is a registered trademark of San Diego Magazine LLC. Copyright © 2011 by San Diego Magazine LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800


MAY 2023 18

Working to make a difference in San Diego is one sure measure of success.

At PNC, we take pride in our longstanding commit to the community. From assisting customers with life’s big purchases to supporting healthy retirements to helping small business grow, we’ve been empowering our clients achieve their financial goals for more than 170 years.

As a Main Street bank at our very core, we’re guided by the opportunity to help our customers and communities thrive. That’s why we innovate to help make banking easier, more convenient and more accessible. It’s why we take a one-to-one approach to service and support that’s centered on each customer’s unique goals and needs. And it’s why we’re committed to investing our time and resources into helping to make San Diego a great place to call home.


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Trending Local Stokes May brings a new restaurant in Rolando, a mini San Diego, and more

Grand Opening in Rolando The team behind College Area’s beloved Scrimshaw Coffee just opened up a restaurant and bar further down El Cajon Boulevard in Rolando: Majorette . Picture a dog-friendly patio out front and classic bar fare with twists, including shared plates, sandwiches, and milkshakes for dessert. Highlights include the flat-top burger, dad’s beer snacks (tinned fish and saltines), a Cubano with slow-cooked mojo pork, house-made sausage, and sauerkraut. majorettesd



Honey, I Shrunk San Diego! A new, all-ages-friendly reason to brave the throngs of little humans at Legoland: Miniland San Diego —a Lego version of America’s finest city—has opened at the park with all of our favorite landmarks depicted in tiny plastic block form. Highlights include the Gaslamp sign, Coronado Bridge, San Diego Public Library, Petco Park, The San Diego Fair, and Santa Fe Depot.


A Skate Shop Begins Again After 35 years, legendary Encinitas skate palace McGills Skate Shop has moved locations to 140 Encinitas Boulevard and recently reopened. Guests at the grand reopening included Tony Hawk, skate photographer (and SDM contributor) J. Grant Brittain, Rodney Mullen, and Bryce Wettstein. (In that legend- filled photo are, from left to right, Steve Caballero, Kevin Staab, Christian Hosoi, Stacy Peralta, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, and Lance Mountain.)



Getting Harmonized The tech-assisted

Woven Together Color fiends, rejoice: San Diego accessories brand Arawayuu just released its 2023 spring-summer collection. The local brand, run by founder Maria Salazar, who is originally from Colombia, sells handwoven mochila bags and clutches made by artisan women of the Wayuu tribe in La Guajira, Colombia. The new collection features neon versions of its signature bags, bright tassel earrings, and yoga mat straps.

meditation tools from San Diego–based inHarmony help practitioners reach whatever higher level they seek. Its mindfulness gadgets, including hooked-up cushions, massage tables, and a brand-new sound lounge (all of the above in one), utilize sound, vibration, and frequency. Each device can be paired with inHarmony’s app featuring

music meditations.

20 MAY 2023

Honoring Our Extraordinary HEALTH CARE HEROES

Artwork and letters sent to Scripps employees by students at Hearst Elementary School.

Thank you to all our health care heroes in San Diego, especially members of our Scripps health team for their

exceptional dedication, care and service to our patients and to our community.

Share a message of thanks and make a gift to honor our Scripps caregivers.

Covering 75

JUNE 1961 · 60c


orth surfers, skateboarders, bikers, and all manner of outdoors-ers. It's the glory of nature that makes North County what it is. It's County: land of

watercolor style. Is it a recreation? That's a stretch, I admit. It's inspiration, a foundation, a jumping-off point. For me, it's really about the birds. Living dinosaurs, dizzyingly diverse, specialized to every corner of the planet, complex, social, beautiful, flying magic beings. And they're in trouble. Bird populations have plummeted globally due to habitat loss and climate change. And that is

the lifestyle . That's the mood of this original 1961 cover, one of my very favorites from the archive. I'm a North County girl, raised on Stonesteps cobble and red dirt Manzanita trails. It seemed like a natural fit to pay homage in my own

22 MAY 2023

Changing Landscapes in Encinitas

How to Elope in Vegas

Gen Z Sobriety

LOOKING UP Exploring the flora, fauna, food, sights, bikes, music, malls, and art that make North County such a vibe

a tragedy for all. Birds make us wonder, help us look at life from new perspectives and marvel at the innovations of Mother Nature. San Diego is no exception to the terrible trend, despite being the most biologically rich county in the US. I've highlighted three species among the most imperiled: the Ridgeway's Rail, Least Tern, and Snowy Plover, as well as many other natives to our coasts and marshlands.

Shoreline birds are threatened due to the loss of their native habitats. But San Diegans are doing something about it. Multiple marshland restoration projects, including the San Diego Wetlands Restoration Project near Via De La Valle, are currently underway. They're buying back and reconstructing swaths of tidal wetland territory—ensuring our native birds have a better chance of making it for years to come. –SL


Food & Drink HOT PLATES


DEL’S HIDEOUT S.O.B. SALAD I know… at a BBQ joint, the

salad menu might as well be the terms and conditions. But at Del’s, romaine is merely breathing room for all

the decadence: fresh roasted corn, crunchy tortilla strips, pico and beans, chipotle ranch, and crispy, buttermilk-marinated chicken. Douse the whole deal with your table’s squeeze bottle of house BBQ sauce. –AR

Get Some SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month



CHICKEN CURRY North Park Produce is a glory box of hard-to- find foods for both the city’s Middle Eastern community and lovers of dishes like sabzi chalau (or aush,


e eat. And drink. A lot. We’re constantly poking our heads into kitchens across the city. We tell the stories of the people in them. And along the way, we taste some pretty remarkable things. So we decided to create this two-page spread—a monthly hit list of dishes and drinks and places and things in the food and drink scene we think will bring you decent if not great amounts of joy. Turn it into a bingo card. Go nuts. W

one of the world’s greatest soups). At the Poway location, it's got a thriving restaurant next door with kabobs, shawarma, curries, stews. But it’s the Indian chicken curry that gets me. The dish is a lava pit of spice but not too thick. –TJ



LOFTY COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE Three big chips, lots of salt. The choco-chip at Lofty in Little Italy floats into the mouth with a soft and chewy texture the


Hernandez Produce at the corner of Highway 78 and Pasqual Road in Escondido is one of those oft-overlooked roadside gems that make us swoon. Fruits and veggies, homemade treats, you know this song. Admittedly, I did not buy the $95 ostrich egg, but think of the absolute legendary Mother’s Day omelet you could make dear ol’ ma with a spare hundo. –MH

way expensive cookies should. The proper chocolate-to-bite ratio takes some planning, but it’s overall a winner. Pair with house-made chai, also legit. –MH




MINI TACOS With a hopping North Park location next to bar crawl final destination Red Wing, Brother’s street tacos are the rare post-night-out delicacy that taste just as good in the light of day. No gimmicks; just perfect pollo asado. –AR

Slanted wood floors, bubble hockey, solid draft selection: This place is Philly to the core with a jawn to fit any mood (assuming your mood includes salty carbs and beer). Pretzels are served hot with cheesy sauce and horseradish-y mustard. The NY is soft with a near-perfect crust— think gourmet version of the jumbo pretzels served at your local rec center snack bar. P&P also dishes up Munich and Bavarian prezies, and of course fat, doughy Philly-style ones, too. –MH


24 MAY 2023


CUBAN SANDWICH EL CHINGON BADASS MEXICAN Honestly thought this was just a nightclub for thump-thump. But its Cuban with slow-roasted pork, deli ham, melted Swiss, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread dispensed with my preconceived typecasting

CRUDO CEVICHERIA & OYSTER BAR TIRADITO MIXTO Head here with girlfriends after the Little Italy

WOLF IN THE WOODS WINTER SMOKED TROUT ROE Good things come on toast. Those things might be pickled, smoked, creamy, eggy. I do not discriminate. If it’s this dish it’s all of the above; a trifle of sorts—layers of whipped goat cheese, cornichons, boiled egg, shallots, mascarpone, and of course that heavenly wild trout caviar, ready to be mixed and matched on a buttery brioche toast point. It’s a good thing. –SL 11

Farmers Market on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Order some bubbly and catch up over the Tiradito Mixto made with tuna, shrimp, callo de hacha, red onions, XO sauce, and greens. It’s a salty, crisp,

real quick. The key is the pork— tender-juicy, flavorful, almost like a porchetta. –TJ

and refreshing dish perfectly made for catching up on all the latest tea. –NM



SUGAR AND SCRIBE BLAZIN’ CHILAQUILES SKILLET After a dozen servers paraded through the Sugar and Scribe patio with chilaquiles, I took a cue from my fellow brunch-goers. The Blazin’ Chilaquiles are aptly named—pickled Fresnos and salsa roja pack a punch, while feta subdues the heat. (To mellow it out even further, add sliced avocado.) Notably, the chips strike that ideal balance between crunchy and salsa-softened. –EH




PANNA COTTA The best sea salt caramel panna cotta in San Diego quite possibly comes sealed in glass. Sweet Craft serves up

declaring that this is the best gluten-free pizza in all of San Diego. The family-owned eatery has found a way to help us non-grain-eaters remember the good ol’ days. Fluffy, moist, raised (!!), beautiful—these crusts are perfection, and I will hear no


tiny desserts in tiny jars and perfects this delicate Italian dolce with salted caramel. It's creamy and soft and fits in my purse. –CJ

other arguments. –NM



Furn is the name of the oven, and saj the name of the flatbread that’s common in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. Furn Saj made its name in LA, opening its first San Diego spot in Hillcrest. The bread itself is chewy-char good, but for me it’s the shawarma beef (and the spiced lamb) I could eat like snack chips. –TJ



VARIOUS LOCATIONS HOT MAMA JAMZ Pepper jelly with no kick is


Next to Harland Brewing, a little orange trailer with a painting of chef Nick Balsamo’s Sicilian grandma (Rosemarie) has been slinging top-notch sliders (using things like Wagyu, Kewpie mayo, brioche, koji) since 2019. Get the classic burger, but also try the WHE—fried eggplant with Korean bbq sauce, house- pickled cabbage, and Kewpie. Nick's opening a permanent spot on Mission Ave in PB. –TJ

like a year without rain: warm and disappointing. Hot Mama makes a pineapple-habanero with enough heat to keep you eating to curb the burn. My kind of torture. Made in a home kitchen, it's available at very select markets and farm stands sprinkled through the county. Hot Mama makes REALLY spicy flavors, too. Here come the rain and the pain. –MH


Food & Drink MAIN DISH

Unpretentious and delicious, a brewery-heavy dining scene offers simply great eats Hopped up on Vista

2 BEEF LASAGNA @ CIAO RISTORANTE ITALIANO — Ciao Ristorante Italiano is the real deal. Family-run and a part of the community for the last 20 years, the restaurant crafts its lasagna in-house with homemade marinara sauce made fresh each morning. Stop by the delicatessen or gelateria for meats and cheese imported from Italy, or take homemade sauce to go. 3 ENCHILADA SUIZAS @ MADERA KITCHEN OF MEXICO —Madera Kitchen of Mexico is a newer addition to Vista’s dining scene, elevating the Mexican restaurant experience with a focus on wines. (It has a lengthy list, including some from Valle de Guadalupe.) The kitchen mixes traditional Mexican menu items like chile verde and carne asada tacos with higher-end entrées like short rib birria. Its enchilada suizas steal the show with a tomatillo sauce oozing over two stuffed tortillas filled with a mouth-watering shredded, marinated chicken. 4 SPICY EGGPLANT @ LUR ROS THAI KITCHEN —You could blink and miss the deliciousness that is Lur Ros Thai Kitchen, thanks to the eatery’s unassuming strip TOP Enchilada Suizas at Madera Kitchen of Mexico LEFT Fried Chick-Inn Sando at 508 Tavern RIGHT Southwest Salad at Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill



mall location. But don’t. Its dishes are flavorful, fresh, and affordable. Try the spicy eggplant paired with tofu for just the right hit of heat alongside stir-fried peppers and onions that give it a sweet edge. 5 SOUTHWEST SALAD @ BELCHING BEAVER TAVERN & GRILL —It’s hard to get excited about a salad when you’re faced with burgers, tacos, and mac ’n cheese on the menu, but downtown’s Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill location has a dreamy Southwest-inspired salad quenching numerous cravings in one bowl. With freshly chopped romaine and Southwestern classics like avocado, black beans, poblanos, and a subtly sweet honey-chipotle dressing, it’s a meal that you’ll dream about long after you’ve finished. Like everything on the menu, it pairs great with some cold suds.

f you visited Vista recently, it was most likely for a beer. Located in the middle of “Hops Highway,” a term for the stretch of the 78 highway that connects loads of

North County breweries, Vista boasts the most breweries per capita compared to any other United States city. When it comes to food, gastropubs dominate—especially those that favor the classic pizza and beer combo. Longtime mom-and-pop shops also reign, some around long enough to serve generations of Vistonians. Over the last few years, downtown Vista has seen a revitalization. New apartment buildings have popped up, the city’s first coffee shops moved in, older breweries moved out (while new ones replaced them), and a landscaping renaissance brought new life and walkability to the city. Painted murals and art pieces are seemingly on every corner of downtown, staged against the endless rolling hillside views that earned Vista its classy name. Next time you stop for a beer, make a day of it while trying out these food spots. 1 FRIED CHICK-INN SANDO @ 508 TAVERN — 508 Tavern is a neighborhood gem. Walk through its doors, and you’ll feel right at home. And, if you’re a local, the odds of running into your neighbors or old high school flame are high. The team’s fried chicken sandwich brings that comfort level to new feel-good heights with the perfect blend of crispy fried chicken and classic toppings on a warm, crunchy bolillo bun. If sandwiches aren’t your thing, hit up Taco Tuesday for the fish tacos or spicy Korean BBQ tacos.

Listen Up! For more Main Dish, tune in to Happy Half Hour, our food and drink podcast, every week: .

26 MAY 2023

it gets AZ S





Food & Drink RESTAURANT REVIEW Tongue and Cheek Going beyond carne asada at Escondido’s renowned taco haven, Mi Rancho Market



et the tongue. The most stunning design element of this taco shop is the line of humans that winds through the middle of it. Much more lively and interesting than a plant wall or an ostrich lamp, the line has predictable surges during meal hours, but will also just randomly appear at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. A crushing little wave of people will materialize with a boom , corporealizing to appreciate what this family— chef Jose L. Garcia, his wife Victoria Perez, sometimes their kids helping out—can do with tortillas, meat, G

spices, cheese, chiles, and generational recipes (the birria is made according to abuela’s method). Tacos are $1.99 each. They are small, simple, excellent things. You won’t get a farmers market on a tortilla here, nor cremas seasoned with bourbon and rare Indonesian herbs. Just deliciously marinated meat of your choice (carne asada, adobada, carnitas, al pastor, suadero, cabeza, lengua… you get it), onions, cilantro, and three salsa options from that little buffet cart over by the Takis snack chips, to the left of the toilet paper, near the three Virgin Mary statuettes.

28 MAY 2023

LEFT Mi Rancho Market makes magic with oft-overlooked head and organ meats. ABOVE Escondido locals share meals and swap stories in this no-frills space, amid the shop’s shelves of ketchup and corn masa. RIGHT Jose L. Garcia’s bold gamble—selling tacos despite his wife’s dissent—led (luckily) to a thriving food business.

For 13 years, Mi Rancho Market has been the taco dispensary for Escondido. One of the riskiest risks a person can take—defying their wife—paid off for Jose. The couple immigrated to California from Jalisco as teenagers in the ’80s. They’d worked in a grocery store in Pasadena—Jose was a butcher; Victoria, a cashier. In 2007, they bought this little box in a parking lot, right next to beloved donut shop Peterson’s. They merely intended to be the neighborhood convenience store, where you stopped real quick if you forgot tortillas or paper towels at the main supermarket. Jose had cooking in his blood. He kept bugging his wife to let him make and sell tacos. The store had a built-in kitchen, he pleaded. No, no, no, she said. Then, one day, she showed up and carne asada was sizzling on the plancha. “He only sold $16 worth of tacos all day,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘SEE!?’” But Jose’s tacos were very, very good. Word spread. San Diego’s biggest Latino communities are mostly clustered at the fringes of the county, both south (Chula Vista, National City, Bonita) and north (Vista, Escondido). Since 2010, Latinos have made up the largest part of Escondido’s population (52 percent). Escondido’s large agricultural community has at least something to do with that, since 92 percent of California farmworkers are Latino. This is where



San Diego grows most of its avocados and citrus and wine (agriculture in Escondido accounts for 20 percent of the county’s total output). Mi Rancho became an unofficial town hall, where whole families regularly commune over al pastor, between soda coolers. Affordability is a crucial, key element for any place to become a cultural hub (think churches and donut shops)—and at two bucks a taco, Mi Rancho excludes very few. Sitting here over two days, I watch friends, families, coworkers spend not the big moments of life, but the small, mundane, connective- tissue moments that make the strongest human bonds. Again, get the tongue, or lengua. It’s the best taco at Mi Rancho (and also at most other taco shops), long boiled in aromatics until tender, almost silky, in consistency. Tongue doesn’t bother those raised near the deeper end of Mexican food culture (or cuisines including, but not limited to, Portuguese, British, German, Albanian, Russian, and Jewish). But it’s fairly easy to understand why those who are unfamiliar flinch. “I don’t want to French-kiss my food,” is the common dissent. This is because many of us in the US have a complicated, almost farcical relationship with our meat. Humans are far from the only species on the planet that eats meat (63 percent of species are carnivores), but we are the most burdened with our bucket-sized brains and that organ’s ability to philosophize about eating animals and bum ourselves out about it. That bleeding- heart function is crucial, keeping us from consuming gross amounts of meat, inspiring us to respect the life that was given for our steak (and its impact on the environment), making us give a damn about not being a quadruple-cheeseburger, top-of-the-food-chain jerkwad. But where the brain goes wrong is to overcompensate, to rationalize, to fake us out. Case in point: We smoke-and-mirror the process of eating meat. Most American grocery stores moved the butcher sections out of sight around the 1980s. (We also stashed them away because customer-facing butchers were expensive.) Then we yanked them from the stores altogether. We butcher in secrecy, then present perfect pork chops and thighs and ribeyes wrapped in packaging on the shelf, neatly stacked as if they’re just another consumable product, no different than an iPhone. I’ve long had a lot more respect for markets in other cultures, where animals are hung on display—not as a dumb flex of food chain supremacy, but as a tacit acknowledgement of the realities of this transaction. In the corner of Mi Rancho, there are great piles of marinated beef in a case, un-preciously pressed up against the glass. In a smaller terrarium there are piles of deep-fried pig skin—glorious chicharrones, the original snack chip.

ABOVE Mi Rancho’s flavorful, comforting menudo is a strong contender for the city’s best. BELOW Located next to the cherished Peterson’s donut shop, Mi Rancho Market began as a quick-stop convenience store, but its tacos transformed it into the community’s unofficial town hall.


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In the US, too, we tend to steer away from anything having to do with the “face” of food animals, only eating the back (sirloin) and other “prime” cuts. Which is ridiculous, wasteful, and simply less delicious. Lengua and cabeza (head)—most often, beef cheeks— are rife with connective tissue, which melts and lends incredible umami to the dish, much in the same way it does in oxtail. Mi Rancho slow-cooks these cuts until the meat is like shredded short ribs, the moistest roast. Fight your instinct to order carne asada (a strong compulsion, but you can do this). Instead, try the two dishes that feature their fantastic, tomatillo-based chile verde: the suadero taco (suadero is a leg- and loin-area meat, smooth and flavorful) and their costillas de puerco (tender pork braised in green salsa). And then their soups. The birria de chivo—goat, the original protein of the dish that seems to have become the official food of San Diego—is redolent with chiles and oil and just the right amount of gaminess. As for menudo, I’ve found it hit-or-miss in San Diego. The special-occasion soup and hangover cure—made of tripe (stomach) with chiles, onions, oregano, and lime juice—can be thin, rushed, pleading for more time and patience to develop its flavors. After tasting Mi Rancho’s, I took it to a family friend. Born and raised in Guadalajara, she’s a fantastic Mexican cook and very honest about any food I beg her to taste. She didn’t care for Mi Rancho’s quesabirria tacos (“too oily”). But the menudo? “Oh, my god,” she said. The best she’s had in San Diego, she reports—and while I haven’t tried them all, I have to agree with her. Mi Rancho’s is intensely reduced, flavorful, a genuine cure.

ABOVE Rather than shrouding them in paper packaging, the market lays its meats—including delicious cuts shunned by the US’s “prime”- steak crowd—out on display.

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32 MAY 2023


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compared to the early 2000s, and Gen Z drinks roughly 20 percent less than Millennials, according to a 2022 study by Berenberg Research. San Diego’s youth is following suit. According to the city’s Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative, roughly 17 percent of 11th grade students in San Diego County were binge drinking in 2013. Come 2021, it was five percent. Even casual consumption is down dramatically. In the same study, 60 percent of the same age group reported they had consumed alcohol in their lifetime back in 2013. Now it’s closer to 30 percent. The Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative— facilitated by The Institute for Public Strategies (IPS)—has its finger on the pulse regarding local kids’ relationship to alcohol. IPS is contracted by San Diego County Health and Human Services to work on changing the messaging around alcohol and to shape policies that reduce underage consumption. We’ve moved beyond the Just Say No days of the D.A.R.E movement. Abstinence is encouraged, but IPS is more focused on providing alternatives for younger people regularly drinking or binging, says Michael Pesavento, a media advocacy specialist with IPS. “What we’re really trying to do is build spaces where not drinking is more acceptable and [create] the social norm that a house party doesn’t have to just be a place to go to get blackout drunk,” he says. “It can be a place where you can hang out with your friends and have a pool party and do normal things that people want to do, but without the pressure of getting drunk all the time.” But there’s also a big factor helping efforts outside of IPS’s control: Gen Z’s obsession with wellness. Research shows that those born between 1997 and 2013 are exploring wellness strategies and prioritizing their mental health more than any other generation before them. Let’s look at TikTok: #MentalHealth has 74 billion views at the time of publication. #SelfCare has 39.6 billion views. Meanwhile, #Sober is at around five billion views. There’s something to be said about these numbers. Pesavento says part of the self-care ideology is nudging people away from drinking, but sometimes, the movement pushes younger people more toward booze as a treat. There’s “More Permission to be Curious” Sobriety is a spectrum, meaning not everyone is going to have the same relationship with alcohol as high school student Makayla. Take Ellie*, a local university student. She’s 25 but has drunk hardly any alcohol throughout her life. She says her reasons for abstaining “aren’t that deep.” “I just don’t like the taste of beer nor the smell,” she says. “A lot of alcohol tries to be really bitter or sour, and I’m just not a fan of that.” She sometimes worries her friends won’t think she’s cool if she abstains but also says she’s aware it’s mostly in her head.

An increasing number of San Diego’s teens and young adults are reducing their alcohol consumption—or ditching it altogether The Kids Are Alright, They’re Just Sober Now



lcohol was ruining Makayla’s* life—but it took a while for her to see it. She didn’t see it when she was roofied while drinking with friends at her high school.

Or when her grades plummeted. Or when she found a video of her sister and her blackout drunk, encouraging each other to self-harm. The 17-year-old realized the extent of its impact when she faced alcohol poisoning for the first time. She was “disgusted” when she fully took stock of where her life had gone in the three years she had been drinking. She was stealing alcohol, or hitting up strangers to buy for her, and waking up hungover alongside the flask she carried around everywhere. She realized she was going down the same path as her father, who struggles with alcoholism. “I was sick and tired of waking up sick,” she says. “I was sick and tired of needing to steal alcohol. I was sick and tired of the trouble it was getting me in and [of] not remembering what I was doing.” Makayla has since quit drinking and says she feels she finally has control over her life and body. And she’s not alone in this sentiment. Younger people are choosing sobriety more than older generations on a global scale. Studies show more people between 18 and 24 abstain from drinking

“I was sick and tired of waking up sick. I was sick and tired of needing to steal alcohol. I was sick and tired of the trouble it was getting me in and [of] not remembering what I was doing.”

34 MAY 2023

Hector Castro, 23, experiences similar concerns. He’s on the “rarely drinks, unlike his friends” part of the scale. His peers have mostly supported his choices, but there’s still a certain insecurity that arises when his friends order a round of shots at the bar. Acknowledging that spectrum was a huge sense of relief for Karolina Rzadkowolska, author of the self-help book Euphoric: Ditch Alcohol and Gain a Happier, More Confident You , when she started on her own sobriety journey here in San Diego. Rzadkowolska says that a few years ago, there were only two roads: You were a regular drinker, or you had a huge problem with alcohol. “I really think that can be so damaging for people because it doesn’t allow us to evaluate the role of alcohol in our lives at earlier stages, to just make that a normal process in our society,” she says. “We wait until there’s this grand problem, right? And then there’s so much stigma attached to that.” But she says it’s different now. We’re breaking down those paradigms. “I think that what this conversation is doing is really giving people more permission to be curious and explore a different way with alcohol,” she adds. Rzadkowolska also coaches women on how to thrive in a sober lifestyle. They come to her when they realize alcohol is no longer serving their lives, and she helps them change their relationship with it. She praises the “rebellers” who are shifting the conversation around drinking and placing more value on wellness. The Industry Can Evolve or Fizzle Out Well-crafted zero-proof cocktails can be found throughout the county: Kindred in North Park, Elixir De La Lune in Bird Rock, and Sea 180 Coastal Tavern down in South Bay are just a few examples. “I think it’s just really smart for all bars and restaurants to have the inclusivity and the options because [otherwise] you’re also missing out on business,” Rzadkowolska says. “Like, if someone’s going to order tap water, that’s not really helping your bottom line, versus [selling] them a mocktail.” But for some, a stigma remains around not ordering alcohol in a bar setting. “Saying [‘mocktail’] out loud makes me anxious,” says

‘[You’re] just asking for a soda right now.’ At that moment, you’re kind of an outcast.” As bartenders attempt to woo sober customers with mocktails, Big Soda is dipping its toe into alcoholic beverages with “hard” versions of popular soft drinks like Pepsi and Mountain Dew, the New York Times reports. Experts are worried the framing of these new products, and their accessibility, could undo the long-standing regression in alcohol consumption. The folks at IPS are watching this, too. A large part of the organization's work is finding ways to reduce alcohol access for underage folks by identifying where there’s an over- concentration of liquor stores and other places licensed to sell alcohol. It’s often more common in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, Maxwell Johnson with IPS says. He argues that local government doesn’t invest as much money in lower- income neighborhoods, making them an easier target for the alcohol industry. “They use predatory marketing practices. They’re the ones that are trying to get harmful and dangerous products into the systems,” Johnson says. “It’s [about] making money at the end of the day.” As Gen Z goes for the alcohol industry’s throat, the normalization of cannabis is surging. According to Bloomberg , there’s a strong preference for cannabis over alcohol with young people. Matthew Brooks, 25, is “California sober”— meaning he only smokes weed. He was tired of the hangovers. He hated having to face the blowback from drunken decisions. Cannabis keeps him in control of himself. “When I’d get blackout drunk [...] I would get really emotional,” Brooks says. “Like, to the point of distressing my friends and those around me. And it kind of puts a damper on the mood. I’ve never been emotionally overwhelmed by cannabis. Nothing like alcohol.” Makayla agrees. Having control of her body once again after she quit drinking is a big deal for her. She says it’s all around just healthier and safer—and she doesn’t have to worry about being roofied again. “When you’re at a party, nobody can fuck with your joint that you brought,” she says. “But if you have a cup, somebody can mess with it.” *This story deals with underage drinking and consuming alcohol on dry campuses. Last names have been omitted to protect the identity of these students.

Castro. “I [feel] like people are listening to me and they’re like,

RIGHT Our feeds seem to be full of sober (and sober-curious) influencers these days.


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