Hope the last few installments of my Del Mar Breeders' Cup Travel Guide have helped some out-of-towners decide what to do with any spare time they have and where to find good food in an unpretentious environment. If not, it's been fun for me to re-live why I love the Del Mar area so much.
There are a few places I forgot to mention. First, the Mexican food is quite good, though I won't call it authentic because I'm not from Mexico and I'll leave that to people who know better. I'm partial to Roberto's (established in 1964) when it comes to a breakfast burrito or lunch and there are two locations close to Del Mar racetrack in Solana Beach or on Carmel Valley Road south of town.
For dinner, I've always enjoyed Fidel's Little Mexico in Solana Beach, which features good food and drinks, strolling Mariachis, and a building that rambles into various nooks and crannies. It's been around since the 1960s. Just recently, I decided to take the Paulick Report crew to Tony's Jacal next door to Fidel's, and I'm really glad I did. First opened in 1946, there was apparently a fallout within the family that ran the restauarant, leading to the opening of Fidel's. Gary Fenton of Little Red Feather Racing, who writes an entertaining and informative piece each year on “25 Things to Do in Del Mar,” told the story of the Tony-Fidel's feud here last year. (Note: here is Gary's 2017 “25 Things to Do in Del Mar” article.
Tony's Jacal specializes in turkey. Seriously good turkey. Acting on a tip from horse owner and bloodstock agent Bob Feld, we ordered the turkey nachos for an appetizer. As Bob said, “If you go, you've got to have them.” I did. Thank you, Bob.
I failed to mention burgers or pubs, so wanted to put in a good word for Chief's Burgers & Brew in Solana Beach, across from the train station. As the name implies, Chief's specializes in burgers and beers. It's also a Denver Broncos fan bar (really, a place called Chief's???) if you stay in town on Sunday and want to see the Broncos game.
If you're waiting on a train in Solana Beach, there are worse places you could have a drink while waiting than Chief's or the Tidewater Tavern, which is on the coast road on the other side of the tracks from Chief's. Tidewater is just north of Pizza Port, a very popular pizza parlor in Solana Beach that for nearly 30 years has made its own craft beer. It's not New York or deep-dish Chicago style (my favorite), but their pizza is quite good and with fresh ingredients.
One last restaurant that is high on my list. Maurizio's in Encinitas is a new player, having opened just four years ago, but its owner was associated with Vigilucci, a well known restaurant name in San Diego that had several locations, including the corner that Maurizio's now occupies. I've never had a bad meal there.
Encinitas, incidentally, is a funky but fun little beach town to explore. I love the overhead street signs that welcome visitors from north and south on the coast road. There's interesting stores and businesses up and down the main street.
For example, steps north of Maurizio's on the coast road is the historic La Paloma theater, which first opened in 1928, with Academy Award winner Mary Pickford attending the grand opening. The La Paloma was one of the first theaters in the United States to show “talking pictures” and it is still an important part of the Encinitas community. If you've got insomnia, I believe they are showing “Rocky Horror Picture Show” Friday at midnight! For live entertainment, check the entertainment schedule at the world famous Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. The B-52s are playing Thursday and Friday, though both shows are sold out.
Okay, it's time to study your past performances, so the tour is over – almost. Here's a couple of suggestions for where to go to get into the right frame of mind for a winning Breeders' Cup at Del Mar.
First, take a long walk on Del Mar beach. There's plenty of free parking on Camino Del Mar and the side streets between 23rd and 28th Streets. Head south from there until you pass the “Barn at the Beach” at Powerhouse Park. If you're not in the mood for a walk, plant a beach chair in the sand and bring your Daily Racing Form to study.
Another good place to meditate and prepare for the handicapping challenge of the Breeders' Cup is the Self Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, owned by an international religious organization founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda to “disseminate the universal teachings” of Kriya Yoga.. Open to the public, it's beautiful gardens and serene atmosphere are guaranteed to chase any stress away and it's sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean is breathtaking.
Please give yourself an opportunity to explore Del Mar racetrack, too. Though the grandstand was rebuilt in the early 1990s, there are some wonderful old photographs of Del Mar's rich history scattered throughout the facility, and a Pierre Bellocq (Peb) wall mural on the ground floor of the clubhouse entrance.
Enjoy your stay and good luck in the Breeders' Cup!
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