New Encinitas Restaurant Intrigues
The Patio on 101 Features the Best of California
The Shrimp Bao and Char Siu Bao
All Photos by Alan Quinn
With everyone flying off on their exotic summer vacations, a perfect place to get away might be closer than expected. Getting to the heart of Encinitas, California is a casual rail ride away; lazily rolling alongside the easy San Diego coastline helps with the transition from stress to relaxation. You’re left at the Encinitas Station right on the Historic 101 Highway, a “touristy” area with a pleasant contrasting aesthetic of beach culture and developing modernism.
The Patio, formally known as The Patio on 101-Encinitas; is the newest addition to the restaurants here; making a name for itself with California Fusion, and they couldn’t be more appropriately placed. To understand why, take a walk around Encinitas both in the popular main street and the residential areas around it. The best time to do this is definitely before dinner, your legs will hate you, but your Fitbit and appetite will appreciate it. The main streets have an evident “beach town” vibe. Old style buildings along the northern end of the strip are constructed of fading brown wood. The newer buildings and restaurants have a worn but classic style so that they both stand out and fit in.
However, the real Encinitas opens up once you tear away from the familiar and observe the houses and architecture. One turn in any direction up in the hills shows something completely different from the things around it. Art-deco style homes pop up right across the street from apartments with ranch-style archways and other houses covered in dust may have neighbors literal inches away whose home looks like something out of a Home & Garden Magazine. The drastic contrasts can be shocking but more than that is the sense of normalcy by the residents in Encinitas, most visibly when everyone is together on Moonlight Beach. A typical beach by all accounts, but due to the amount of useable shoreline the people are clustered so close together that (from the right angle) their beach umbrellas form a multicolored sea all its own.
This variance in style is present throughout the area and The Patio also features this dynamic with both their flavors and decor. Coming from the station at Encinitas you’ll most likely stumble into the open concept of The Patio and wind up behind the hostess. It happens fairly often so don’t sweat it. If anything, it makes finding a place to sit much easier. Going through the front entrance normally, the ceiling is lined by blue fixtures and wood panels. The overall feel of the place is a fusion of California beachside and a more formal restaurant. Rolled napkins and clean plates at tables with sturdy plastic chairs made to look like braided wicker. Casual enough to invite you in and polished enough to make you stay without feeling underdressed. All their food features the same idea of contrast with adventurous abandon. The Shrimp Bao hosts crisp flavorful shrimp held on a Bao (Chinese soft bun) that feels like biting into a cloud, all while being in the shape of a taco. The Char Siu Bao is equally satisfying with a weighted yet fluffy bite and sharp accent with its spicy dressing. Their Crudité hosts an enticing gamut of tropical colors and tastes just as exotic with an indescribably good Bead Hummus and Curried Yogurt dipping options. Fusing culinary styles together can also yield some seemingly intimidating options such as the Fried Kimchi Octopus, but one moment of bravery will convince you, as is the case with most things that are new. For those who don’t require as much fanfare in their meal, their Spare Ribs are a familiar comfort but also feature a side of Native American sourced Anasazi Beans as a side, which is as American as it gets.
Whether it was intentional or not, The Patio seems to fit neatly into Encinitas’ innate harmony and contrasting style. Their stated goal is to be a place for the whole community to “Relax, Enjoy, and Share” and by all accounts, they are set up to succeed.