Tucked away in North County San Diego is Carlsbad, a laid-back jewel of a town that boasts pristine beaches, excellent eateries, and beach-inspired shopping (not to mention Legoland
California). Carlsbad, which also happens to be my hometown, is a quirky little village that is a must on your next San Diego adventure.
But you don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy an afternoon with Carlsbad Food Tours, founded by local foodie Cherimarie Poulos. I’ve lived in San Diego for more than 20 years, and have called Carlsbad home for the past six, but I fell in love with Carlsbad all over again after my afternoon with Carlsbad Food Tours.
As a creature of habit, my family tends to eat out at the same few restaurants each week, never venturing outside our comfort zone. Cheri’s three-hour tour changed that. From an old-school Italian joint to a Mexican deli, I’ve got the low-down on the best spots in Carlsbad.
Our first stop was Caldo Pomodoro, on the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue. Caldo Pomodoro is a family-run Italian restaurant that features everyday family cooking with a spicy flair. I’d go back for the buttery garlic breadsticks alone (and a glass of wine). If you’re still hungry, try their baked artichoke hearts. Caldo Pomodoro, or “hot tomato,” would be perfect for happy hour with the girls, pizza night with the kids or a family dinner.
For anyone who dreams of visiting an Italian market, your wait is over. Vigilucci’s Gourmet Market has everything for your Italian kitchen, from artisinal pastas to cured meats, with heavenly breads and a fine selection of wine, not to mention a ready-to-take menu if you’re not up for cooking tonight. The shop is small and packed to the rafters, which is a good thing: if you can’t make it to Italy, step one foot inside this market and you’ll be instantly transported to Roma.
At Café Panini Carlsbad, it’s always wine o’clock. This hip, dog-friendly eatery is the perfect hangout spot. The little bite they served us, a pesto panini with tangy dill pickles, is something I could eat every day (although I’d definitely check out their burrito and pizza specials, too). Sign up online for a free coffee, and be sure to check their hours before heading over. And don’t forget to bring your dog.
No food tour would be complete without wine and chocolate, but in our case, we also got to sample cinnamon rolls and artisanal olive oils. Be sure to check out the other eateries and specialty food shops on our tour, including:
- Humble Olive Oils, featuring premium olive oils and vinegars, with flavors ranging from sweet to savory.
- Witch Creek Winery, a small-lot producing winery with deep roots in Southern California.
- Café Topes, voted best breakfast in Carlsbad.
- Lola’s Mexican Deli, with the best bean and cheese burritos I’ve ever had.
- Carlsbad Chocolate Bar, featuring a wide variety of individual and boxed chocolates, a full coffee and espresso bar, and even a fine wine selection.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local, a regional food tour is a great way to discover the hidden gems of a city. If you’re visiting San Diego or want to learn more about North County, check out Carlsbad Food Tours. Expect to spend at least three hours exploring the village, so wear comfortable shoes and bring your appetite!
Disclosure: I was hosted for this tour but all opinions are my own.