Post Beach Eats

Board & Brew

If you have ever cruised through the mellow town of Del Mar, you have most likely encountered the long snake of people rounding around the block of 12th Street. These people are not lining up for an extravagant fine-dining dinner, nor for a trending new sensation on TikTok. They are lining up for something much more elementary: a sandwich.

Board & Brew in Del Mar has been an institution for locals and surfers since its opening in 1979. Its laid-back atmosphere and “sup dude” type customer makes it the epitome of Southern California culture. However, the question is — is it truly the best post-beach meal, or only food to settle for for convenience?

I put this question to the test with a diverse selection of three Board & Brew Sandwiches: the Turkado ($10.00), the Baja Chicken ($12.00) and the Veggie Supreme ($9.00).

A customer favorite according to the Board & Brew employee, the Turkado came far from falling short. From the very first crisp crunch of sourdough, to the creamy avocado paired with juicy tomato, it was the ultimate texture adventure. The Baja Chicken also distinguished itself with perfectly tender yet not overly soft meat and a spicy kick from some jalapenos.

Nevertheless, even after tasting these two perfectly adequate sandwiches, I could still feel from the ache in my heart that there was something missing. The exact thing to fill the void came in the form of a sauce — the renowned Board & Brew Secret Sauce. I am not exaggerating when I say that this sauce may just be the best thing that has ever happened to me. Dipping a once somewhat mediocre sandwich into this sauce transformed the meal into an out of body, almost holy experience. I would bathe in this sauce if I could.

However, there was a sandwich that even this marvelously tangy liquid could not save — the Veggie Supreme. Not only did the sandwich lack any robust flavors, but the squaw bread did little to keep it from crumbling in my hands, both literally and metaphorically. The limp cheddar and jack cheese hanging unmelted in the middle of the sandwich made it all the more lackluster. Though I attempted to drown it in a full two servings of the Secret Sauce, there was no success in saving it from a total humiliating loss.

All in all, the Turkado and Baja Chicken are must-tries at Board & Brew, but definitely avoid the Veggie Supreme. In my humble opinion (surfer boys with long blonde hair and borderline-unhealthy tans please do not kill me), Board & Brew is nothing special when evaluating from a simply sandwich standpoint. Add the glorious sauce into the mix though, and you have an absolute winner. Whether you are “shredding the gnar” at 15th Street or enjoying a nice walk along the sea, stop by Board & Brew for your post-beach fix.

Swami’s Cafe

In the heart of Encinitas, Swami’s Cafe is the perfect food hub for starving surfers. The classic coastal menu includes pineapple buttermilk pancakes and a twist on traditional chilaquiles, served amidst an array of stickers, notes, art and signatures scribbled onto the restaurant’s walls. Swami’s is so much of an Encinitas institution that one cannot picture the town without also thinking of the cafe and the years of locals who have eaten there.

The counter service system makes ordering fast and easy. A mere 10 minutes after ordering the Pitaya Bowl ($11.95), the chilaquiles ($13.95), the Green Omelet with potatoes plus whole wheat bread ($13.95) and the highly anticipated Pineapple Buttermilk Pancakes ($9.95), arrived. The Pitaya Bowl was a vivid fuschia color made with fruit that tasted as if it was fresh from the garden. Although the refreshing bowl came cold, the warm weather quickly melted it into a liquid (So caution: must consume fast).

To change gears and refuel with some protein, I dived into the green omelet which was both filling and healthy (for surfers who enjoy a healthier diet). My only complaint was that the asparagus was much too firm; which is coming from someone with a deep adoration for the veggie, their preparation just didn’t meet my standards. A nice crisp is always appreciated, but a chipped tooth … not so much. The crème de la crème of the omelet, in my very strong opinion, was the side of breakfast potatoes. The ultimate mix of butter and seasonings made it difficult to move on to the next dish.

Incorporating a tasty Mexican dish into this Swami’s spread was a must so I tried their chilaquiles. After my first bite, I was hesitant to continue eating on account of the mushy texture, but the flavors assuredly convinced me to go in for another bite. I highly recommend adding sour cream and avocado smash to ensure you get only the best and strongest flavors.

No meal should ever end without the cherry on top of every meal: the sweet, sweet dessert. So without question, we ordered one of Swami’s most-popular items: the Pineapple Buttermilk Pancakes. Such a combo I had never heard of before. I mean — pineapple in pancakes? As pancakes go, these exceedingly fluffy buttermilk pancakes were a 10/10. Intrigued by the pineapples at first, the combo complemented each other extremely well.

Ordering a coffee was another must, as the Swami’s Cafe website dedicated a paragraph to their coffee being “sourced from the best beans worldwide.” As excited as I was to try their coffee, I wasn’t excited enough to finish it. The immoderate amount of milk took away the flavor of espresso that a cappuccino ($3.95) is usually supposed to offer. In addition to there being far too much milk, the actual espresso was bitter and dry. If you are into weaker cups of coffee, you’ll love this.

But, overall, the lively music and beachy-vibe atmosphere qualifies Swami’s as a pleasurable post-surf bite stop.

Kotija Jr.

No weekend plans sound greater than a day at the beach and a quality taco. If you are craving something quick and delicious, Kotija Jr. Taco Shop does the trick. They have plenty of parking, easy accessibility and flavorful food, making it both a convenient and satisfying destination.

Just one step into the store and the scent of gourmet tacos is bound to make your mouth water. The restaurant has limited seating, giving it an almost exclusive feeling, while being very casual. The TVs mounted on the walls of the restaurant show intense soccer games, making the restaurant feel homey and family-friendly. The employees behind the counter greet customers with a genuine smile.

As I awaited my number to be called, I moved to the fountain drink station. Seeing the option of an ice-cold horchata ($2.65) made the decision-making process easy. With my cup filled to the brim, I gave it a try. This light brown, smooth-textured drink is sweet with a perfect ratio of cinnamon to milk.

I got my food in about ten minutes, all while the productive staff flowed like a tight-knit family and got other customers their meals quickly. When my number was called from the counter, I picked up my two choices: five rolled tacos ($8.13) and two chicken tacos ($4.44 each). My stomach grumbled as the smell of the warm meal drifted from the bag.

In the first box lay five tightly wrapped beef taquitos topped with guacamole and lettuce with a side of tomatoes and cheese. The salty meat mixed with the powerful taste of avocado kept the taquitos’ flavors well balanced. The pop of the soft, buttery cheese was an added benefit. Dipping these salty taquitos into either the chunky green or red salsa is a must. The spicy combo left in my mouth inevitably had me reaching for the horchata to cool the heat. Despite the heat, the green salsa was so good I was tempted to drink it with a straw. This filling menu item costs just under eight dollars.

Even cheaper than the taquitos at just under five dollars, Kotija Jr. takes simple chicken tacos to the next level. Multiple warm soft tortillas folded under each other hold in a mixture of juicy chicken and seasoned vegetables. This taco had a bounty of juicy chicken pieces, creating a perfect balance of taste and texture.

With relatively short lines, appetizing tacos, and refreshing beverages, I would recommend Kotija Jr. after a beach day.

Roberto’s

After a long beach day filled with tanning, swimming and reapplying sunscreen, sunset is approaching and stomachs are growling. Nothing sounds better than a California burrito from the popular Solana Beach Mexican restaurant, Roberto’s.

Right up the stairs from Tabletops surf spot, Roberto’s, which is open from 8am-9pm, has it all: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As I walked in, I noticed a casual dress code. People were in bikini tops, oversized shirts and some even barefoot after coming straight from the beach. String fairy lights hung across the patio decorated for people dining in or waiting for their number to be called. The familiar outline of a man in a sombrero made my stomach grumble in anticipation.

One of Roberto’s most famous and delicious menu items, the California Burrito ($8.00), with carne asada, salsa, cheddar cheese and fries, melts in your mouth upon first bite.

Their chips topped with cheese and guac ($5.00) are magical, with the perfect ratio of all the necessary ingredients. The guac is a creamy consistency with no chunks, and the cheese is shredded on top; pairing the toppings with the crunch of the chip is heavenly. Their tacos are off the charts too—incredibly tasty, juicy, crunchy, and dipping them in the salsa added just the right kick. I love both the rolled tacos and soft tacos. The rolled tacos are similar to taquitos, with each serving coming with three ($3.95) rolled tacos, and the tacos ($3.00) are ordered individually. I always have a hard time picking between carne asada, beef, chicken or carnitas. No matter which one I pick, I know that Roberto’s will always hit it out of the ballpark. If I really can’t decide, I will order one of each and save some for later!

Walk a little to the left after placing your order and you will come upon Roberto’s self-serve drink station ($3.25). In my opinion, what goes best with any meal from Roberto’s is their homemade horchata drink, perfectly balancing creamy milk with aromatic spices to complete the experience.

After grabbing your meal and drink of choice, head back down those hundred-step stairs, lay out your towel again, and enjoy your meal from Roberto’s while watching the sunset—it hits the spot every time.

VG Donuts

Whether wanting a celebratory snack after catching the biggest wave of the day, needing a pick-me-up after back-to-back wipe-outs, or craving a sweet treat while meandering around Cardiff, VG Donuts’ “VG Bakery’’ sign pops out as an oasis of sweet San Diego nostalgia. Serving as a mainstay of the Cardiff beach scene since 1969, VG continues to be a perfect stop for a post-surf snack for surfers and kooks alike.

Past a mural of seagulls, customers are met with smiles from a crew of busy donut-bakers, buzzing between racks of tantalizingly fresh donuts.

Dozens of options meet the eye: a pan of lemon and raspberry-filled donuts with powdered sugar for those with a fruit craving, a range of spiced breads for a more cozy feel on early-morning surf wakeup calls as well as endless variations of sugary-sweet chocolate, glazed and sprinkled donuts.

The one catch with stopping by VG Donuts is the timing: stay in the water for one extra wave, and the line a few blocks over at VG Donuts could turn from two minutes to 15. A long line, though, can prove a blessing in disguise, oftentimes providing a better chance to catch up with other VG regulars getting a coffee and a donut with dripping hair and flip-flopped feet to polish off a perfect Cardiff morning.

However, a benefit to squeezing in one’s morning surf and snack extra early is better access to popular donut recipes before they sell out. Just a few include the breathtakingly flavorful specialty cherry fritter ($4.29), only available when VG advertises it on Instagram; the assortment of iced sugar cookies ($1.99 each) popping with San Diego spirit; the flaky glazed and chocolate flavored croissants ($3.99 each); and the assortment of Old Fashioned donuts ($1.55 each).

Still, it is impossible to go wrong with the classic flavors. VG’s glazed, chocolate and maple-glazed donuts ($1.55 each) set the most basic VG donuts apart with their velvet-soft dough. Any donut covered in VG’s chocolate glaze proves even more delicious than the feeling of finding Swami’s Beach empty on a Saturday morning.

No matter what flavor a surfer, a kook or a pedestrian prefers, VG Donuts continues to be a wonderful place to shake off the crash of a hard wipe-out, relish in the day’s great swell or meet friends and fellow beach lovers over a satisfying donut dessert.

Read on Issuu.

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