This post was most recently updated on July 23rd, 2020
Ready for another ‘Dine & Do’ adventure? This time, we’re reviewing things to do and places to eat in Encinitas, California — another of the beautiful beach cities along historic Highway 101. My mother was in town visiting, so we wanted to show off parts of San Diego county she hasn’t seen before. Encinitas is a pretty little coastal town 26 miles north of San Diego. It has grown up along Highway 101 and includes Moonlight Beach, gently rolling hills, quaint cottages and boutiques, as well as trendy new restaurants and hipster surf shops! You’ll also find the Self-Realization Fellowship, Swami Beach, and San Diego Botanic Gardens here.
First Stop: Self-Realization Fellowship
Otherwise known as Encinitas’ “Onion Dome”, the Self-Realization Foundation was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920, and this location was established in 1935. It is a religious organization with beautiful meditation gardens open to the public. It sits right on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and includes winding paths, koi ponds, substantial landscaping, and amazing views. As we walked along the paths of the garden, we saw several people in various states of meditation and calm. It was very much like walking through a church because of the reverent feeling here.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Next Stop: Boat Houses
At 726 and 732 3rd Street sit two homes side by side on a street of quaint little homes and cottages. However, these are not just any homes. They are boat houses, and not in the traditional sense. These are completely landlocked homes that look just like boats! They were designed and built in 1929 by Miles Kellogg, whose father was a sea captain. He used salvaged materials and didn’t use plans as he built these authentic “boats” that include a rudder, pilot house, galley, and portholes. They have received status on the National Register of Historic Places, and a foundation has been created to preserve the structures.
Driving along Highway 101 in Encinitas takes you through the main downtown area. You can’t miss the sign spanning the highway and all the colorful and unique shops and restaurants. We were fortunate to find parking right on 101 in the midst of all of it! As we strolled along, we enjoyed seeing a variety of stores, cafes whose seating areas spilled out onto the sidewalk, and plenty of street art, too. And at every block, you could look west and almost see the ocean!
Dinner out: Q’ero or Solace?
Before we arrived, I had had my heart set on eating at Q’ero ($$$), a South American and Peruvian restaurant on Highway 101. The reviews were great, and when I saw its menu and colorful authentic decor, I was sold. Their specialty is Ceviche, but I really wanted to try the Lomo Saltado! However, it was a hot and muggy evening, and the only tables not reserved were on the sidewalk. This is a restaurant I will have to go back and visit another time! Be sure to get reservations on a weekend evening.
A quick check of restaurant reviews led us to Solace and The Moonlight Lounge Restaurant ($$$), right next to the railroad tracks. The urban warehouse setting was perfect, especially when the building shook as trains passed by. We ate upstairs where there was also an outdoor balcony and plenty of indoor air conditioned seating. The menu had some intriguing combinations that got my attention: Crispy Squash Blossoms, Bacon & Leek Stuffed Trout, and Warm Cheddar & Chive Biscuits. I like to try new items, but also wanted to keep the meal to a reasonable cost. Here’s what we ordered:
Bacon & Leek Stuffed Trout
My husband ordered the Bacon & Leek Stuffed Trout. In his words, “This is the best trout I’ve ever had!” (You need to know my husband has fished trout all his life and prepared it many different ways). I tried his trout, and I have to agree — it was fantastic!
GRILLED 4 Cheese Sandwich
My mother ordered the Grilled 4 Cheese Sandwich. This is a grilled cheese sandwich for adults, and choosy ones at that! Very flavorful! It came with creamy Tomato-Fennel soup and french fries for a very economical meal, and it was all very good.
SOUP and Salad
I ordered the Arugula Salad and a bowl of the Roasted Corn bisque. Arugula lettuce is my favorite, and the combination of goat cheese, grapefruit and fried avocado was unique and incredibly tasty! This combination of soup and salad was also very satisfying. I didn’t really need anything else to eat, but I just had to try the flaky cheddar & chive biscuit with orange honey butter and smoked tomato jam. I seriously felt like I was eating a dessert — what a sweet way to end my meal!
Final stop: Moonlight Beach
It is unclear exactly how Moonlight Beach got its name. It was either named after the many people who enjoyed midnight picnics here…or after the prohibition-era bootlegging activities that occurred here at night. Regardless, this is one of the best beaches in San Diego county. If you’d like to read more about beaches in San Diego, read my post called “The Best Five San Diego Beaches“. With fire pits, great surfing, a playground, picnic areas, free parking, and a concession stand, this is a great beach in a wonderful location! We arrived just as the sun was setting. Even if there are low clouds, it’s still a pretty scene!
What else can you do in Encinitas?
- San Diego Botanic Gardens, which could be an all-day activity on its own
- Swami Beach, just below the Self-Realization Fellowship site
- Encinitas one-room schoolhouse, behind Pacific View Elementary School
I’ve partnered with GPSmyCity, and this article can now be downloaded free. You may read it offline, or upgrade for a small fee to receive the article with GPS coordinates embedded. You won’t need the internet or data to be guided through Encinitas! I will receive a few cents commission, which helps to keep this blog going–thank you!
Want to check out more of my ‘Dine & Do’ series?