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Oceanside's Evolving Dining Scene

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The Privateer, Beach Break Cafe


I'm spoiled. In LA, whatever your heart desires is available when it comes to food. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I went down to Oceanside, and found that this sleeply little surfer town had quite a bit to offer regarding culinary choices.

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Currently celebrating its 125th year, this cute community is undergoing a transformation, making it all the more popular for those looking for a change of scenery. It's about halfway between LA and San Diego, and sports a casual attitude that is attractive to many.

Still alive is the prominent surfer vibe that is reflected in the personality of this town. Walking around, you'll see many locals off to master the waves. Like most coastal towns, the beach is where it's at, and in fact, many of the local restaurants pay homage to the sea, with some sporting long and short surfboards on the walls and ceilings, a variety of surfing photos, and a smattering of surfer history for those who are interested.

One of these places is the ever-popular The Privateer, reflecting the growing local beer and cuisine scene, which combines a bit of the old and new of Oceanside. Sitting down with co-owner Charlie Anderson, I’m faced with an astute businessman whose publishing background with a few surf titles makes him somewhat of a local celebrity. His boyish looks, sun-bleached locks and easy smile make you feel at home, but listening to him, you know he knows Oceanside, and he knows food.

The Privateer serves the only “coal fired” pizza in Southern California. In fact, this oven dominates the kitchen, and is the focal point of the restaurant. The menu utilizes many innovative ingredients like pesto, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke hearts on their pizzas, but there are many other dishes from which to choose. It’s a foodie’s paradise without an attitude. No wonder it’s crowded.

Another local favorite is the Beach Break Café, voted the #1 restaurant in Oceanside, according to Trip Advisor. Portions at this place are huge, healthy and reasonable. I loved their fish tacos, dense with chunks of marinated mahi-mahi. Save room for their famous coffee cake, which owner Zell Dwelley insisted we try. We demolished it in minutes. I rarely eat dessert at lunch, but I had to make an exception with this one. It was definitely a mortal sin, and I vowed to go to confession afterwards.

Many other restaurants are in the works, and it's only a matter of time before Oceanside rivals some of its adjacent neighbors when it comes to inventive dining options. Like Ventura, Oxnard, and Pismo Beach, this seaside community is evolving. But until that happens, you can still kick back, catch a wave and enjoy the slower pace of this charming seaside town.

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