The hub of our vacations in the area is the Del Mar Plaza, which is a three-tiered shopping venue that has indoor parking and beautiful views of the ocean from the plaza level. There are several wonderful places to dine in the Del Mar Plaza with four excellent restaurants and morning coffee with an ocean view at Pacifica Breeze Café on the Market Level or coffee with a garden view at Esmerelda’s Book Store. Both have outdoor seating, although the Pacifica Breeze offers both breakfast fare and heaters when it’s a bit too cool in the morning.
On our trip down from John Wayne airport in Orange County, we stopped at "The Brigantine" restaurant in Solana Beach, just north of Del Mar. It’s across the Pacific Coast Highway and has the Del Mar Racetrack on the east side and "Dog Beach" on the west side (that’s a beach dedicated to the socialization of canines and their owners). We ate on a lovely garden patio and had Sunday champagne brunch. We’d not eaten at the Brigantine before and we enjoyed the lovely setting, good service, and excellent food.
This trip, we ate lunch twice at the "Pacifica Del Mar" on the Plaza Level. We also ate lunch at "Epazote" (also on the Plaza Level), which serves southwestern fare with a Mediterranean/Californian flair. Both have outdoor seating with great views of the ocean and optional heater assistance. We’ve never been disappointed at either place. When at home, we fuel our bodies with efficiency and health in mind. When vacationing, we have dining experiences with ambience, taste, originality, and service as high priorities.
We followed our botanical trip with lunch in a new restaurant in Del Mar (new to us, that is) called "Sbicca." Nothing to look at from street-side, it features a rooftop dining section that looks down on the ocean. It has those heaters that all outdoor restaurants have (they look somewhat like palm trees with hoods that send the heat down to those seated below. It was warm enough, that day, that we didn’t need a heater and we enjoyed a lovely meal – one of our best, I think. I had pepper-seared ahi (I love raw fish – well, almost raw, anyway) and Lucy had salmon. They were both on salads - the healthy salads that Californians seem to love, as do we.
"Jake’s" is another favorite of ours in Del Mar. It’s right on the beach and has a surf-side indoor patio where you can eat and watch the surfers. We’d first eaten at this chain on Kauai, Hawaii at "Duke’s Canoe Club" and "Keoki’s Paradise" on the Garden Isle. We learned that Jake’s was of the same chain and new we’d at least love the dessert, Hula Pie, which we’d had at the former two establishments. As it turned out, we loved all their food and their service was good, too.
We have had breakfast at "The Posiedon" Restaurant next door to Jake’s but, although the porch has great views of the ocean, the menu isn’t anywhere a match for Jake’s.
Rounding out our dining review in Del Mar, we have eaten at "Il Fornaio" on the Plaza Level of the Del Mar Plaza. It’s upscale Italian and served an excellent lunch with the usual gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.
We usually go to La Jolla for meals on several occasions, but this trip we only went once. We wanted to check out a place in downtown La Jolla called "The Cottage." It was courtyard seating outside an old cottage in which the kitchens reside. The courtyard had nice flowers, trees, and vines that helped to mute the passing automobile and pedestrian traffic.
This trip was memorable in one other regard. When we heard that large surf was expected due to the Santa Ana winds, we decided to have lunch in the area of the best surf: Cardiff-By-The-Sea in Encinitas, just north of Solana Beach and Del Mar. We picked "Charlie’s By The Sea" because it seemed to be right by the spot where the most surfers were doing their thing. We got to the restaurant in time go get the pick of the "surf-side" seats. The seating was in front of huge windows, on the other sides of which were gigantic boulders serving as breakwaters. The surf was pounding the boulders and would occasionally reach the windows. There was a lifeguard on a large jet-ski who was helping surfers away from the rocks if they became too tired to paddle back against the giant waves. We watched some wonderful surfing, the best we’ve seen since Hawaii. We heard from the waitresses that one surfer had been knocked unconscious earlier and, thus, the need for the lifeguard on the jet-ski.