There is a better way to end a relaxing day at the beach in Oceanside, California than with the typical pizza or a hot dog. Open since 2014, Masters Kitchen and Cocktail, 208 South Coast Highway, is a modern delight with a rich local heritage. They label themselves California casual elevated dining, with craft cocktails and comforting cuisine. When you travel to Oceanside, there is no reason not to eat well.
Built in 1938 as Masters Automotive and Machine Shop, the building was the only auto parts shop in North San Diego County for many years. The Jubela family purchased the building in the 1970’s. After housing several automotive related businesses throughout the years, Ryan Jubela, a pastry chef, convinced his father to support his dream to open a restaurant.
Opening Masters was truly a family project. Ryan’s brother Adam Jubela, a local architect and contractor designed the building, keeping the original brick walls, cement floors, and even the garage doors. The covered patio out front creates an inviting welcome, allowing patrons to enjoy the cool Pacific Ocean breezes. A variety of booths, tables, and a community table make Masters a great location for a single diner, an intimate celebration for two, or a large party.
“Breaking bread is the best way to know someone,” says Jubela. “Food opens hearts and minds. When someone feeds you it’s a very personal act.” According to Jubela, “Chef Aaron Gentry is a family man. The love he puts into his family shows in his food.”
With an eclectic menu of small plates, salads, sandwiches and full entrees, a meal at Masters can satisfy any appetite or price point, making it easy to return for more than one meal over a long weekend or during a week’s vacation.
The menu starts with Fromage and Charcuterie, a perfect accompaniment to the craft cocktail menu. The Small Plates menu will have you noshing on traditional comfort foods like fries, chips and hush puppies, all with unique twists. Local seafood on the small plate menu teases with options like fresh oysters on the half shell, scallop ceviche, seasonal fish tartar and mussels with fennel, ginger, sriracha and sesame oil.
Master’s Caesar, baby kale and wedge salads are all made with greens picked fresh daily from the local Cyclops Farms. Add chicken, shrimp, or the grilled fish of the day to any salad, making it a meal.
The Masters burger has won several local awards. Embellished with onion bacon aioli, horseradish and cheddar cheese to enhance this American standard, ketchup and mustard would be an insult, and are definitely not needed.
Of course, you cannot eat at the beach without a fresh catch of the day. The Masters menu does not disappoint. The server can describe the preparation of the daily catch. The carnivore will love the flat iron steak in tart cherry demi glace, the spice brined pork chop with bourbon butter sauce, the duck breast in pomegranate molasses or the lamb chop with beet chutney.
If there is room for dessert, and even if there is not, the dessert menu begins with the Signature Candy Bar. This is Ryan Jubela’s personal recipe for chocolate hazelnut bliss. The remainder of the dessert menu is spontaneous, with Today’s Brulee, The Farmer’s Favorite, a warm dessert highlighting local seasonal fruits, and a Sundae Fun Day, which changes regularly. The Liquid Dessert menu is even longer than the regular menu, offering suggestions for after dinner cocktails.
Bar Manager Nick Herda gives patrons many reasons to linger, with his original creations of craft cocktails. Having grown up in the bar business, Nick’s skills are intuitive, and his ingredients are natural. The restaurant makes as many mixers and embellishments as they can from fresh local ingredients.
Herda’s well researched bar menu does not just invent new concoctions. He brings back old favorites, crediting their original creators or the restaurants that created them on the menu. The original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai from 1944, the Classic Daiquiri mixed by Jennings Cox in 1902 and the Army Navy created by David Embury in 1954 are all on the menu. A little mixology history combined with a few Google searches will certainly spice up the table conversation, increase knowledge and add to this authentic southern California experience.
During my visit, there were ten local beers on draft. Adequately described on the menu, the tourist will enjoy perusing the local menu that includes a Figueroa Mountain Hoppy Poppy, Left Coast Voodoo and Belching Beaver. With the craft-brewing craze in America, hitting the ale trail is a great way to theme a vacation.
The restaurant looks for local distillers, and proudly pours Malahat Rum, distilled in Mira Mar. Jubela relies on friends in the industry to spread the word about new local offerings available to the restaurant. “My commitment to community goes way beyond food and drink,” Jubela explained. “Oceanside is where I lay my head and call home. I just want good things to happen and see this town of ours become something special.”