This Sleepy Little Beach Town Is the Perfect Road Trip Getaway
Check out these craft-driven spots in the area.
Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.
Meet the Insider: Daniel Castillo, owner and pitmaster of Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co.
What was once a sleepy little beach town is having a major moment, with up-and-coming game changers like Michelin-recognized chef Daniel Castillo calling this San Diego County surf city home. Oceanside has deep ties to SoCal surf culture (it is home to the California Surf Museum, after all), but there’s so much to see beyond the shapers. Here, the acclaimed pitmaster shares some of his favorite craft-driven spots in the area.
Wrench & Rodent is an “unpretentious punk rock sushi spot with locally caught seafood—traditional methods with untraditional ingredients. Why this is not in the Michelin guide, I have no idea. Go for the specials menu and get rewarded with dry-aged sashimi, fish ribs, and fish wings! They also have this amazing side concept called Shootz, located inside Bottlecraft, where they do killer poke.” Dija Mara offers “Southeast Asian street food done right. The star here: the vegetables, coal-roasted and brushed with animal fats. Get the eggplant! Don’t leave without trying some funky natty wines, like a pét-nat paired with chef’s fermented sauces.”
Oceanside has two new stylish hotels by Hyatt, Mission Pacific and The Seabird, but for some locally owned flavor, stay at The Green Room Hotel, a “hip little motel with a minimalist modern aesthetic” where you’ll find “Palm Springs vibes, but better since we’re by the sea. Walk next door for a free craft brew on us at Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co.” The Brick Hotel “is rich in history and has seen Oceanside change through the good, the hood, and good again. This hotel leans towards more luxe with a swanky rooftop bar. Frankie’s is adjacent—a great, unpretentious local craft cocktail bar and oyster bar and restaurant, all wrapped up in one.”
“Head brewer Blake Masoner is making the best IPAs at Craft Coast Beer & Tacos (aside from our brewer Mike Aubuchon, of course).” Come for the “awesome, laid-back atmosphere” and “people-watch on downtown’s bustling Mission Avenue. They’re also churning out some of the best birria tacos in O’side. Get the dark Mexican lager with a lime, and order the tacos ’Craft Coast Style.’” Coffee is huge in Oceanside, and there’s no shortage of stellar coffee shops to choose from. Captain’s Grounds and The Cup are “mom-and-pop shops… where the locals go” and you can “get your Yeti cup filled for $1.” Vigilante Coffee “imports and roasts on-site,” sourcing beans from around the world. “Do a pour-over with beans fermented with macerated peaches. They do cuppings where you can sample one-of-a-kind, crazy good coffee.”
There’s “no better place to people watch than The Strand,” especially on Sundays. “It gets packed with lowriders cruising, families biking, and people getting their steps in.” Check out The Jazzy Wishbone, The Pour House, or The Moose Lodge to “listen to anything from punk rock to reggae and everything in between. At The Real Surf Shop, you can rent boards for cheap and pick up some witty merch, like shaper Shawn Ambrose’s barrio-famous T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Oceanside, a sunny place for shady people,’ designed by local artist TMACK.”