Though elegant and refined in natural landscape, North County San Diego has been keeping entertainment simple for decades. Where the Gaslamp Quarter introduces a flashy new club on a monthly basis, the sleepy surf towns of Encinitas, Cardiff, and Solana Beach have remained faithful to timeless restaurants and laidback beach bars. For years, little change would dare disrupt the order along the Pacific Coast Highway, and locals liked it that way. But recently, a subtle evolution has begun to spread straight up the 101.
Earlier this summer, we met Union Kitchen + Tap in Encinitas, a new urban restaurant and craft beer bar that completely renovated the space formerly known as When In Rome. The architectural transformation – now boasting bold steel and wood walls, commissioned local artwork, and a 26-foot high barrel roof with a ceiling made of 20-year-old snow fence from Wyoming – proves that a progressive business can indeed impress the ‘hood, and upgrade local standards. And if you’ve been into Union on a Friday night, you know what I mean.
The newest North County lifestyle establishment to move in, break barriers, and take chances is Crush Italian Restaurant and Wine Lounge in Solana Beach, a SoCal sister to the popular restaurant of the same name in Chico, now recreated in San Diego by partner John P. Luciano. Located in the former Pacific Coast Grill space in an otherwise suburban shopping center, Crush has upgraded the venue with a clean, contemporary design that celebrates the spirit of the coast while playing with rustic undertones and honoring Italian tradition, as orchestrated by local designer Karin Clark of InDesign Interiors. Luciano and Clark embraced San Diego culture, and it shows in the details; décor elements include “The Barrelly Made It” chairs made from discarded French oak barrels by local artist Gustaf Anders Rooth, organic bamboo panels, and a patio with community dining tables and a modern fire attraction.
President of Solana Beach Crush, John P. Luciano hand-selected Executive Chef Jason Colabove and Head Chef Mike Lina to develop a menu of Italian-inspired seasonal cuisine, which features traditional Italian flavors and cooking techniques, with fresh, local and organic ingredients. Dinner starters and small plates to try include Ahi Tuna Tartare, Giant Roasted Mussels, Gorgonzola Chopped Salad, and Venus Clam Linguine. Entrée selections include Eggplant Parmigiana – crispy eggplant, provolone, pomodoro and basil; Lamb Shank – ancient grain polenta, aged cheddar, fresh produce and hand cut fries; and Marinated Prime Skirt Steak – heirloom tomato, pancetta and smoked bleu cheese. For dessert, choose from seasonal sorbet, Bread Pudding or the decadent Butterscotch Budino.
Wine lovers will rejoice in reading through Crush’s impressive list of over 160 international wines. Select wines by the glass range from ’10 Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, to ’07 Villa Mt. Eden Pinot Noir, ’09 75 Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, and the ’07 Barrel 27 Syrah. Crush also serves varied draft and bottled beers, and even a special menu of “virgin” cocktails. If you’re taking a break from the booze, order a Green Tea Mojito, made with Lamill Organic Gossip Green Tea, lime, mint, simple syrup and soda.
Crush offers daily happy hour specials, including $3 drafts, $5 house wines, $5 well drinks, and $7 specialty cocktails, 4:30 to 6:30pm every evening of the week, plus Wednesday through Saturday from 10pm to midnight. Also stay tuned for live music and special entertainment coming soon this fall. For more information, visit Crush in Solana Beach.
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