Life After Death By Tequila

Cue the Violins

During Lockdown, we decided to support our local restaurants. At first, the only thing available was takeout. But part of what makes Encinitas cuisine is the local vibe. And eating out of aluminum takeout containers (or dumping the contents onto our dishes at home) just doesn’t do local chefs justice.

Smart restauranteurs started using whatever area for al fresco seating; back parking lots, sidewalks, and ultimately, blocked-off nose-in parking spots right on Highway 101. It was a big improvement. But still, you got the sense that with so few patrons because of social distancing, restaurant staffs were a little deeper into the alphabet than the A-Team.

The Quest Continues

But now, the masks are off! (Well, most of them anyway.) And we are on our fifth restaurant on our quest to “eat up and down 101 in Encinitas.” While we’re not exactly on a tear, we’re attempting to schedule visits to about 40 eateries. We want to be methodical so it doesn’t feel so indulgent. So this is for you, Dear Reader. For you.

Onward, Through the Fog

The next spot on our list: Death By Tequila! This isn’t our first trip to this chic taco-and-tequila bar. We made our fist visit just before the world went sideways. We loved their ceviche, and the drinks inspired me to garnish my home cocktails with smoldering sage and rosemary!

Death By Tequila opened in Encinitas in 2018 by husband and wife team Chad and Jessica Mestler. They worked with Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa to bring the flavors of Baja California to their menu. Next Level: they paired those dishes with cocktails showcasing a wide variety of tequilas and mezcals. Their current Executive Chef is Josue Baca-Gutierrez, and our Head Chef tonight is Jordan Sileneck. (More about her later.)

The vibe at DxT is fun, and fits the downtown Encinitas scene seamlessly, with the latest Latin pop and Reggaetón music spilling out onto the sidewalk so patrons dining streetside are in on the party.

The Inside on Inside

After two years of outdoor eating mandates, we’re thrilled to get a table inside. It’s actually St Patty’s Day, and I guess most people are somewhere drinking green beer and eating corned beef, but tacos seems like a better choice to me.

I am thinking of talking Andy into incorporating some of DxT’s design elements into our home. The dining room and bar is light and airy with groovy tile, fun lighting, and heavy, rough wood accents. That’s apparently the “tequila” part. “Death” is represented by sort of a Dia de los Muertos meets Oingo Boingo motif that even carries over into the restroom!

Our server Danielle is very sweet and patient as we decide where best to sit. It’s 6 pm, and the evening sun is streaming through the front windows, so we pick a spot next to each other with our backs against the south wall.

Round One

Once we’re settled, we order the Cuatro Salsas and get busy with some chips. A new face comes out of the kitchen with a tray and four bowls. The first is Traditional Guacamole, creamy-smooth avocado (and magic) topped with radishes and pickled onions. The second bowl is Fire-Roasted Salsa, a traditional chipotle-tasting sauce. Bowl Three is Charred Tomatillo, which has pepitas and a nice, almost citrus edge. The fourth of our Cuatro Salsas is Pineapple Habanero, with tiny chopped chives on top.

Andy loves Pineapple Habanero, though he thinks it could be a little hotter. But then, he has made his tastebuds leathery through repeated abuse! My favorite is the tangy Charred Tomatillo topped with pepitas. As for the guacamole, it was so tasty, we took home the leftover guac… and it was still green the next day! It must be the fresh-squeezed lime juice they boast about on the menu. With prices these days, you don’t want to waste anything avocado, but it’s not so good if your guac goes brown!

Round Two

Just as we’re knuckle-deep in our chips and salsa, Ceviche de Pescado y Camaron lands on the table. It’s shrimp and local halibut (yum!) marinated in citrus with tomatoes, cucumber, onion, cilantro, and avocado, garnished with jalapenos and radishes, and served with tostada shells for dipping. The fish and shrimp are tender and juicy, and everything tastes fresh and light.

Before our main dishes come out, we get to meet Chef Jordan Sileneck. She takes time to talk to us about our meal. You can tell she has a real passion for the food she is preparing!

Death By What?

For drinks I am having the Smokey Paloma. I love Palomas! Anything with grapefruit is awesome. I don’t see it on the menu tonight, but they are happy to make it for me.

Andy is an old fashioned guy, so he asks for a Oaxacan Old Fashioned: Reposado, Mezcal, agave, and Aztec chocolate bitters! Oooo!

Round Three

The menu has everything from octopus to pork chops, but we opt for tacos. We’ve been cooing about the ceviche, really digging the chips and salsa, engrossed in conversation and basking in the chill twilight. And then, out come the tacos! All of them have blue corn tortillas and are filled just right; enough that you don’t get sloppy but you don’t feel slighted!

My Death By Tequila tacos: Short Rib Asada and Avocado. Andy’s tacos are at the top of this page.

We both get the Short Rib Asada, which is tender and juicy, slathered with guacamole and salsa-verde. I also order an Avocado Taco. You might think an Avocado Taco is just more guacamole. Nope! The avocado is tempura-battered and quickly deep fried so the batter is crisp and the avocado still firm, served with a radish jalapeno slaw.

My side dish is cilantro rice, which comes in its own little bowl. It’s served with micro cilantro sprinkled on top, and is moist inside with a nice bit of crust outside.

Andy goes for three tacos, starting with the Short Rib Asada, which I describe above. His second choice is the Taco Gobernador. (Ask server Danielle to pronounce that!) It’s a lightly-spicy chipotle shrimp with Oaxaca cheese, sautéed red onions and bell peppers. Taco tres is Tempura Soft Shell Crab, which has lemon aioli, charred peppers, and “salsa macha,” mainly jalapenos. Must be tasty, because Andy puts his face in the plate and doesn’t come up for air until it’s clean!

He also orders smoked sweet potatoes with guajillo, almond salsa seca, and chipotle crema. They are large, charred chunks of wonderfulness! I am too wild about the sweet potato!

Deserting Dessert

Once again we wanted dessert, but we are stuffed. Maybe one more Smokey Paloma for me and a Tajin Machine for Andy. The Tajin Machine has passion fruit in it, and — bummer for me — passion fruit is one of the very few things on the planet I am allergic to. I did take a tiny sip. It is really tasty!

We leave with a big doggy bag of leftover salsas and sweet potato, and DxT even included an extra bag of chips to enjoy with our salsas! Nice touch.


Dining in Encinitas always means a walk to the beach to catch the sunset and get a selfie. The D Street Overlook is just a few short blocks away, so we can catch the last glow of the day sinking into the Pacific.


  1. What a wonderful evening!

    • Thank you Kim!