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Carlsbad’s Culinary Scene – What Foodies need to know!

Cherimarie Poulos is the owner of the amazing Carlsbad Food Tours. We asked her a few questions to learn more about  the Carlsbad Culinary scene.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,
if one has not dined well.”
 – Virginia Woolf

1. What do Foodies need to know about Carlsbad?

Carlsbad’s mild weather and stunning beaches make it one of the perfect southern California destinations all year round. But don’t mistake Carlsbad for a sleepy surfer village. Whether your tastes lie in fine arts, live concerts, classic cars or craft beers or fine eateries, Carlsbad is never short on amazing experiences.

Carlsbad’s Best Chefs:

Carlsbad has some exceptional restaurants with amazingly talented Chefs, here are a few just to give you a taste of what Carlsbad has to offer.

  • Chef Robert Ruiz of the Land & Water Company continues to redefine what real sushi is. Ruiz’s strong desire for knowledge and inventiveness has given him a distinct household reputation as a destination chef. He has had extensive training under Hawaii’s finest chefs and he is now known as one of San Diego’s best non-traditional sushi chefs. Chef Ruiz is also very committed to saving and preserving our Oceans through his sustainability movement is changing how fish and sushi will be served worldwide.


  • Executive Chef David Abella at West Steak and Seafood, an intimate and distinctive fine dining restaurant located in the coastal community of Carlsbad..  Abella started his career alongside the pioneer of Euro-Asian, Roy Yamaguchi and worked in the family for 20 years as Executive Chef and Corporate Executive Chef, traveling the world. Chef Abella was recruited and worked in Hong Kong at the world renowned Peninsula Hotel’s iconic eatery, Felix Restaurant. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Chef Abella has mentored many young chefs in his career. A lover of Italian, French and Mediterranean flavors, Abella plans to incorporate Asian herbs, Hawaiian Seafood, and a variety of vegetarian and modern styled appetizers to his new creations at West Steak and Seafood. West Steak and Seafood is known for its authentic farm-to-table approach, sourced from the restaurant’s private, three-acre farm, located just a few miles away and their USDA prime steak, chops and fresh seafood, which are the anchors to the signature menu items. West Steak and Seafood is among the few San Diego steakhouses to earn a rating of 27 by Zagat for food, West Steak and Seafood is renowned for offering the highest quality of prime steaks, chops and seafood. Dedicated to an authentic farm-to-table ethos, executive chef, David Abella, harvests fresh ingredients daily from the restaurant’s own 3-acre farm.


  •  Chef David Gallardo’s restaurant Paon offers California cuisine with French influences. Crafted by Chef David Gallardo (formerly of WineSellar & Brasserie), Paon Restaurant in Carlsbad is well worth a visit for seriously good food. With California-French cuisine, their menu features seasonal, locally grown organic produce fit for the palates of fine food lovers. The Grilled Lamb Salad, Organic Beet Salad, Pan Roasted Pheasant, and Provencal Herb Crusted Colorado Rack of Lamb are all highly recommended.


  • Executive Chef Andrew Bachelier is at the helm of Campfire a new restaurant in Carlsbad that is based on the concept of creating an environment in which we gather around a fire, create honest food, and share it with friends.  Bachelier had been the chef de cuisine at CUCINA enoteca since it opened in Del Mar in 2013, before that, he was the executive sous chef at CUCINA urbana and chef de partie at Addison. He grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he helped his cowboy grandfather build fires for their family’s cooking hearth and says, “I feel that with Campfire, I’ve come full circle in my career, and am so excited to once again be working with the wood fire, a truly uncontrollable element that takes tremendous focus and technique, but when harnessed can yield unbelievable layers and complexity of flavor.”


  • Innovative and understated, Chef Teri McIllwain’s menu at Chandler’s Restaurant features California cuisine expertly crafted with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients to satisfy the foodie in all of us. Highlighting North County’s coastal culture, fresh seafood has a superior place in the Chandler’s Restaurant kitchen. Teri’s team takes advantage of locally sourced ingredients, readily available here in SoCal, for a seasonal approach to everything from apps to desserts. Delight in dynamic presentations that are familiar but never ordinary, and give a sense of coastal San Diego in every bite, with stunning sunsets served daily. Chef Teri’s culinary knowledge and familiarity with the north county San Diego lifestyle give her a unique perspective on crafting and delivering truly flavorful and eclectic California cuisine. It is the love of the kitchen that drives Chef Teri to experiment, teach and lead as the culinary director at Cape Rey, promising to bring incredible dining experiences to the coast. Prior to joining Cape Rey, McIllwain served as chef de cuisine at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa working in nearly all of the resort’s culinary outlets, including Diversions Sport Lounge, Bluefire Grill, catering and banquets. While at La Costa, she also served as a nutritional chef for the on-site, wellness-focused Premier Fitness Camp and Chopra Center. McIllwain attended the San Diego Culinary Institute after entering the field as a private chef and Bon Appetit culinary instructor for Sur La Table stores in San Diego.


  • Gaetano Cicciotti serves authentic Italian food in San Diego, some say the Best in Italian Food in North San Diego County. He has been recommended by friends as the best Italian restaurant in San Diego County for Italian food. Despite his love for Italian food, Cicciotti didn’t come to the U.S. as a chef. He was serving in the Italian air force when he decided to move here in 1990 to get his commercial pilot’s license. He started training at Montgomery Field in San Diego and worked at Italian restaurants to pay for the pilot’s school. Cicciotti worked his way up from a bus boy and was about to return to Italy when he met his future wife. He decided to stay, and he continued working his way up.  Cicciotti said some of his loyal customers have been following him from restaurant to restaurant since his first jobs in the ’90s. “I came from nothing,” he said. “A lot of people remember that and appreciate it.” At his restaurant, which he opened in 2002, Cicciotti uses local, organic food a much as possible, but he does import some cheeses, olive oils and sauces from Italy. He’s admittedly picky about his wines (there are 250 on his wine list) and has garnered Wine Spectator awards since 2003 to show for it. Cicciotti’s offers 50 percent off chicken and pasta dishes on Mondays, and hosts happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. with 30 percent off pizzas, $4.75 wines by the glass and mixed drinks, and $3 beers. But Cicciotti’s wouldn’t be what it is without its owner. “When I’m not here, people say its like going to Disneyland and not meeting Mickey Mouse,” he said. Cicciotti’s cookbook. “Cicciotti’s Kitchen” is available at for $25 and includes a $20 gift certificate to the restaurant.

 2. Top Restaurants in Carlsbad

Hyper-local seafood in a Victorian mansion, authentic Mexican eats against a background of live mariachi music and an exquisite farm to table venue. These are just some of the memorable dining experience that Carlsbad, CA has to offer.

Vigilucci’s Restaurant Group


Restaurateur Roberto Vigilucci is passionate about food. The Carlsbad resident hails from Milano, Italy, where families are raised in the kitchen and food is a centerpiece of the culture. Upon visiting the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Roberto fell in love with San Diego and decided to call it home. Long sensing a need for classic Italian cuisine in San Diego, Roberto opened his first restaurant, Vigilucci’s Trattoria, in 1994 in downtown Encinitas. The Trattoria was an instant success and quickly became one of San Diego’s most popular dining spots. In early 2014, the company relocated the Trattoria just north, to the quaint town of Leucadia and transformed it into a neighborhood gem which included the addition of a piano bar. Since opening the doors to the Trattoria, Vigilucci has successfully launched additional restaurants and a gourmet market which also serves as a catering hub. While each location is unique they share the same vision of exceptional ingredients, an authentic Italian experience, superb service and attention to detail.
Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana which opened in 1999 on historic State Street in the Carlsbad Village. The Cucina’s authentic Italian cuisine and award-winning wine list provide a unique and memorable escape to the flavors of the Tuscan countryside.
Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse – on the corner of Tamarack and Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean – truly offers dining excellence in San Diego North. The restaurant features only certified prime steaks and the freshest seafood with an Italian flair, topped by 180- degree ocean and sunset views. A delicious Brunch is featured on Sundays.
Cherished dinners with family and friends brought the idea of Vigilucci’s Gourmet Market and Catering to life. Located on State Street in the Village of Carlsbad and specializing in a wide selection of imported and domestic salami and cheeses and hard to find boutique wines. Also offered are freshly made take and heat restaurant quality meals to serve in your home and hot or cold panini, lasagna and daily specials. The pasta is made fresh daily.
Seafood & Steakhouse 3878 Carlsbad Carlsbad, California 92008, USA  + 1 760 434  2580
Cucina Italiana 2943 State Street Carlsbad, California 92008 USA + 1 760 434 2500
Market & Catering 2943 State Street, Carlsbad, California 92008 USA +1 760 720 0188

Cicciotti’s Italian

Cicciotti's Trattoria
Cicciotti’s is casual Italian dining cooked by a Published Author & Chef Gaetano Cicciotti. Cicciotti’s Trattoria serves classic Italian pasta like fettuccine Alfredo which you might find in Italian restaurants, but you won’t find Italian restaurants that cook fresh Italian food the way Gaetano Cicciotti does. Gaetano Cicciotti has a Trattoria, as well as a fine Italian catering business with amazing Italian caterers. Gaetano oversees his catering business like his restaurant, all focused on the freshest ingredients available. As a native Italian Chef he serves true Italian cuisine, Italian dinners and traditional Italian food. It is one of the great Italian Restaurants in North San Diego County.
Cicciotti’s Carlsbad  595 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA + 1 760 994 0553

The Land & Water Co

Based within a Carlsbad landmark, the beautiful former Twin Inns Victorian mansion built in 1887, The Land & Water Co is a restaurant from talented local chef Rob Ruiz, a veteran of some of the best sushi restaurants in San Diego, that focuses on hyper-local fare centered around California cuisine with distinct French, Japanese and Hawaiian flavors. Though the exterior of the property is charmingly historic, the inside of The Land & Water Co is thoroughly sleek and modern and an open sushi bar allows guests to see the restaurant’s talented chefs at work. Seafood and sushi are the real pull on the menu with dishes that include pan-seared steelhead with buckwheat soba noodle salad.
The Land & Water Co, 2978 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 729 5263


Paon Restaurant
A downtown Carlsbad favorite, Paon is an elegant restaurant and wine bar featuring a stylish art deco-themed interior with a stylish lounge that exudes old Hollywood charm and a beautiful patio ideal for alfresco dining on balmy summer eves. PAON Restaurant Chef features seasonal, locally grown organic produce for the palates of fine food lovers from all over the world. Spotlighting organic prime meats, game and fish prepared with traditional French sophistication.
Paon means “peacock” in French, and a nod to the highly adorned creature can be found in the design—feather patterns on the back of the chairs, and sculptures of the prideful bird lend an Old World charm to the Art Deco décor. Owner Pavagadhi told his designer Dru White, “I want the type of place where I can see Humphrey Bogart sitting at the bar.”
Paon, 2975 Roosevelt Street, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 729 7377

West Steak and Seafood

West Steak & Seafood

Serving guests healthy farm-to-table fare, including plates crafted from vegetables, herbs and fruit picked fresh daily from its own local chef’s garden, West Steak and Seafood is one of Carlsbad’s best-lover restaurants. Newly appointed executive chef David Abella oversees an imaginative menu of creative surf ‘n’ turf dishes, baked blue crab cake appetizer with jalapeño aioli and roasted red pepper coulis, slow-braised prime beef chili and bean soup, and the filet mignon and Maine lobster entrée with cauliflower au gratin, balsamic-port demi-glace and beurre blanc. Handcrafted cocktails and a carefully selected wine list are also served.

West Steak and Seafood, 4980 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 930 9100


Chandler’s Oceanfront Dining

Chandler's Oceanfront Dining

Local, Coastal, Unexpected Carlsbad Dining

Relish in farm-to-table cuisine handcrafted with a fresh and flavorful approach at our ocean view restaurant in Carlsbad, Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge. Our long-time favorites, ranging from apps to desserts, have been reinvented with upscale ingredients to offer a sense of coastal California in every bite. Ocean views served complimentary. Check out our new menu and discover some of the best summer seasonal dining in Carlsbad.
First-class dining and stunning ocean views will be found at Chandler’s Restaurant & Lounge serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a spectacular bar with inspired signature cocktails is the heart of the restaurant.
Chandler’s Restaurant 1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011  USA +1 760.602.0800

3. Where should wine lovers go on their first trip to Carlsbad?

Carlsbad has several award winning wineries including Witch Creek Winery, which is also on our food tour. Other options are Carruth Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Room for a fun get together with friends and wine tasting or Paon, Old World Wines.

4. If we want a meal with a great view, is there a place you recommend?


  • Vigilucci’s Seafood and Steakhouse has a fabulous view of the ocean, sunset is the best time for this restaurant.
  • Chandler’s at the Hilton also has a beautiful ocean view from their dining room.