While Carlsbad, California, is well-known for its world-class spa and golf offerings, it’s actually a worthwhile destination for anyone wanting a unique epicurious experience. To get your mouth watering pre-arrival, we’ve scoured the coastal community for their top food and drink offerings. Here are our picks:
Artisanal Chocolate, Decadent Desserts And Vintage Wine At The Chocolate bar
Located in Carlsbad Village, The Chocolate Bar is every chocoholic’s dream. Artisanal chocolates — 1/3 of which are prepared in house — decadent desserts, gourmet coffees and world-class but affordable wines fill the shop. Pair a milk chocolate sea salt caramel with a bottle of Abel Clement Grenache Blanc from France, milk chocolate fudge mountain truffle with a Cedar Brook Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley or a dark chocolate peanut butter cup with a Contemassi Chianti Classico Riser from Italy.
An Offbeat Brew Tour With Scavengers Beer Adventures
Have you ever wanted to ride around in a six-wheel-drive all-terrain high-mobility army utility vehicle, sipping craft beers along the way? Your Scavengers Beer Adventures guide will pick you up in a Pinzgauer — typically used by the Austrian army — and will tour you around Carlsbad showing you the city’s top beer, wine and culinary offerings. Guides also brew their own beer, and you’ll be able to sample some on the beach while watching local surfers and wildlife.
Farm-To-Table Cuisine At Bistro West
Bistro West is part of West Inn and Suites, a luxury boutique hotel committed to sustainable living. In fact, they have their own three-acre farm where fresh produce and herbs are grown and used in the restaurant. Along with being farm-to- table, the restaurant focuses on made-from-scratch foods crafting everything from their sauces to their pizza dough to their pastas in-house. Make sure to order the bruschetta appetizer, as the mozzarella is made fresh to order (Chef literally makes the cheese from scratch) and the meal is prepared tableside.
Other noteworthy dishes include a “Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza” with carmelized pears, gorgonzola, mozzarella, Prosciutto and chopped hazelnuts, topped with field greens dressed in a blue cheese dressing; a homemade pappardelle pasta with rosemary, porcini and chiodini mushrooms, ricotta cheese, truffle and bay scallops; and a housemade meatloaf crafted with a Kobe beef blend and bacon before being topped with a roasted tomato-port wine-barbecue sauce.
America’s First Double IPA At Pizza Port
While Double IPAs are now a popular libation, this wasn’t always so. Back when nobody in the United States had ever heard of this type of beer Pizza Port was thinking ahead. In fact, their “Man Shot!” is the first recorded Double IPA in America, crafted in the early 1990s, and features flavors of bitter hops, citrus and a bit of pine. Additionally, they serve an array of delicious pizzas and other brews, with local breweries making guest appearances, as well.
Innovative Waffle Cuisine At Boxd
Boxd is probably Carlsbad’s most unusual — but delicious — eatery. Diners are served out of a recycled shipping container, using hydraulics and running on vegetable oil. What’s also creative about the establishment is its menu is focused on waffles, serving crispy thin waffles stuffed with sumptuous sweet and savory combinations.
If you’re in the mood for something salty, opt for a pulled pork, bacon and egg offering or chicken, arugula and brie waffle sandwich. Those with a sweet tooth can’t go wrong with banana and Nutella. Lawn area seating allows for an ambient meal in Carlsbad Village.
California is known for its abundance of fresh fruits, for example, oranges, avocados, grapefruit, pears and tangerines. Carlsbad, in particular, is lush with strawberries. Spend the day frolicking in the fruit fields and picking your own sweet, healthy snack. You can do this from about April until mid-summer at Carlsbad Strawberry Company.
A Wine Experience At Paon
Located in Carlsbad Village, Paon Restaurant & Wine Bar has an “Old Hollywood” vibe and serves up California cuisine with a French twist, showcasing locally-grown organic produce as well as organic prime meats, game and fish. While the food is superb, the real draw is the expansive wine selection which ranges from local bottles to international best sellers. No matter what kind of wine you like — Merlot, Champagne, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Rose and beyond — you’ll have a wide array of label choices. Along with being able to sample wines in their ambient restaurant, they also have a wine shop and tasting room, open Monday through Wednesday 4pm to 9pm, Thursday 2pm to 9pm, Friday 2pm t0 10pm, Saturday 1pm to 10pm and Sunday 1pm to 8pm.
Stem-to-Stem Cocktails At West Steak and Seafood
Also part of West Inn and Suites, West Steak and Seafood uses the garden’s herbs and produce not just for their food, but in their handcrafted cocktails. Order their flavor-changing “Chameleon,” which comes in two different varieties. One is “Mango Chameleon,” combining citrus vodka, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and mint from the West Garden served with a mango puree and Malibu rum flavor changer. The other is the “Raspberry Chameleon,” a concoction featuring citrus vodka, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, orange juice and basil from West Garden, as well as a frozen raspberry puree and Chambord flavor changer.
Dinner and Drinks With A View at Chandler’s
The restaurant of the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Hotel and Spa, Chandler’s is a spacious dimly lot restaurant — perfect for a date or a night out with friends –with floor-to-ceiling windows for front-row ocean views. They specialize in coastal cuisine, with lots of fresh seafood and steaks cooked to perfection. Additionally, they feature an impressive beverage program. Along with showcasing local and Belgian beers and handcrafted cocktails, patrons can enjoy half-off wines on Tuesdays as well as wine flights and tastings in their wine vault on certain nights. As Chandler’s is all about tailoring the experience to the guest’s desires, staff go the extra mile to ensure an enjoyable and unique drinking experience. In fact, they’ll even pair your cigars with cognac upon request.
Delicious and Healthy Lunches at Naked Cafe
In the heart of Carlsbad Village you’ll find Village Faire, home to an array of art galleries, boutiques and local restaurants. One that stands out is Naked Cafe, whose focus is on flavorful, nutritious, low-calorie meals made with fresh, organic ingredients.
Typical lunches include a “Pesto Scramble” with egg whites, pesto, green onion and tomato served with grilled zucchini mixed baby organic greens and a whole grain spinach tortilla; a “Plate of Prosperity” which features organic quinoa, scrambled egg whites with spinach, soy sausage, feta cheese, green onion and tomato aside grilled zucchini, a spinach tortilla and salsa; and a “Dual Delight” with sesame ginger beef and chicken, brown rice, summer veggies, black bean hummus and housemade Thai peanut sauce. And to help you “look good naked,” each menu item is broken down by proteins, carbs, fat, calories and fiber. Order a fair trade coffee with your meal and admire the local art on the walls
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor’s, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn’t really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.