Encinitas Cafe: Meat & Potatoes (or Fish Tacos)

Eating Our Way Up And Down 101 In Encinitas, Part 4

We are going totally old school with a visit to the Encinitas Cafe. How “old school” is that? There been a café in this location for over 85 years! In the 1930s and ’40s, it was Fred’s Cafe. During the ’50s, it was Zim’s Cafe. By the ’60s and ’70s it, was The Coffee Mill.

And that is when I arrived on the scene. As a tiny child, we lived up the hill within walking distance of downtown. On Saturdays my dad would put me on his shoulders, and we walk to The Coffee Mill for breakfast.

In 1989, it became Encinitas Cafe. Popular with both locals and tourists, this busy little hotspot retains it’s old-fashioned diner vibe.

The Lunch Bunch

Encinitas Cafe doesn’t do dinner. Andy won’t put me on his shoulders and carry me there for breakfast, so we’re dropping in for lunch. As usual in Encinitas, it’s a warm, sunny afternoon, so we choose sidewalk seating. Burgers and fries always taste better accompanied by the sea air flowing in from the beach just a few blocks away!

Our server brings large-format menus sealed in laminate with vinyl edges. Earlybirds are served from the “breakfast” side. Flip it over at lunch, and there are your lunch choices. As you might expect from someplace with “Cafe” in the name, it’s typical diner-style fare and lots of comfort food. The Specials are hand-written on blackboards, and are enticing!

Delicious Decisions

The Mango Cart
Yes, a malt is worth it!

But as tasty as the blackboard offerings are, I crave going totally retro with the classics. I’ll have a cheeseburger with all the fixings: crisp lettuce, tomato (must have tomato or it’s not a burger), red onion, pickles, and mustard (only classic yellow mustard on my burger!). Plus fries with ketchup, and a vanilla malt. Yes, a malt! They have shakes too, but I am excited to have an old-fashioned malt, just the way I remember when I was a little girl.

Andy goes with a beach vibe: fish tacos with pinto beans, and (at our server’s suggestion) a Mango Cart beer. Fish tacos are one of the “gauges” he likes to use to compare restaurants.

The place is about half-full, and the servers are scurrying back-and-forth through the doors, arms loaded with plates. But still our meals are delivered quickly. This is at about the same time many restaurants are having staffing issues just post-Covid, so it’s doubly impressive!

So How Is It?

The foundation of my cheeseburger is a juicy, hand-made, 1/3lb certified-Angus beef patty. You might expect American cheese at a cafe, but they serve it up with a good slice of melted cheddar on a toasted sourdough bun. It is exactly what I want! The fries are hot and crispy. If you’re in a different mood than I am, your burger comes with a choice of salad. onion rings, sweet potato fries, or potato salad.

The vanilla malt really brings me back to my childhood! It’s nice and thick, and topped with whipped cream. It comes in a frosty, old-fashioned soda fountain glass with more in the metal mixing cup on the side for Andy… and a tall spoon for easy shoveling!

Andy’s fish tacos are battered, deep fried cod in soft corn tortillas. They’re kinda buried under a pile of serrano chilis, cilantro, lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheddar cheese, all drizzled with a white cucumber sauce. Yum! Their fish tacos come with a side bowl of pinto beans covered with shredded cheddar. Our server was right: Andy’s Mango Cart beer is very refreshing, with a wonderful mango taste and smell… a wonderful complement to the fish tacos.

Encinitas Cafe added a cute seating area during Covid.

Tapping Out

We came with empty bellies and open minds, thinking we would have piece of apple pie a la mode for dessert, but we are too stuffed! Maybe we can pop in for coffee and pie after a walk on the beach.

If you’re looking for a warm, friendly, family vibe with simple food prepared well, pull up a chair at Encinitas Cafe!