At a Glance
Old California Restaurant Row is the largest dining and entertainment area in North San Diego County. It is home to 15 restaurants, a handful of small boutique shops, a cinema, and weekly events. The area wasn’t always one of North County’s star attractions, however. In fact, it began as a tiny fruit and vegetable stand, started by a couple who loved the beautiful valley they decided to call home.
In 1972, Jim and Vera Eubank visited the then quaint and rural North County, known for its fruit groves and chicken ranches. They fell in love with the area and began selling fruit and vegetables out of the back of their truck. They soon discovered a plot of land on what would become San Marcos Blvd., bought it, and built their first building: a farmer’s market.
Soon, the Eubanks began to understand the potential of sharing the beauty of their little valley with other San Diegans, so they opened an outdoor food court where people could come to enjoy the warm San Diego sunshine and meals made with fresh produce from the valley. It was a hit. They expanded their little paradise by building their first full-service restaurant in 1978, Gentlemen’s Choice. They then added a seafood house and a pizzeria, and eventually built a total of 15 restaurants over the next 25 years. Today, the little strip of land along San Marcos Blvd. is one of the best places in North County to grab a bite, do a little shopping, and catch a flick.
Over the years, there have been a lot of changes in the restaurant line-up of Old California Restaurant Row, but one thing has stayed the same: the sheer variety of eateries available to visitors. No two restaurants are alike, and each has its own flavor to add into the mix. You can start your day by grabbing some pancakes at the International House of Pancakes or a breakfast scramble at the Old California Coffee House and Eatery. Breakfast is served all day at both places, so head on over whenever you roll out of bed.
For lunch, head on over to Acapulco Restaurant and Cantina for a margarita and fresh guacamole, prepared tableside exactly how you want it. If you’re looking for something with more of an eastern flair, check out the China Wokery for a treasures of the sea entre or get to know The King and I Thai restaurant with some spicy noodles or pad him ma parn, a choose-your-own-meat stir-fry dish. If a good brew and some football are more your style, head over to the 55 Yardline for a blackened tuna bites appetizer; alternately, try the San Marcos Brewery & Grill for some rattlesnake shrimp or a brewhouse top sirloin.
Don’t fill up too much at lunch, though, because dinner is just a few hours and a few steps away. Head on over to the India Princess for a vegetable samosa or some tandoori barbecue. Swim through a “tide of seafood delight” at the Fish House Vera Cruz, and try their Cajun style seared ahi. Or, if cooked fish isn’t really your thing, grab a caterpillar or rainbow roll over at Katsu Sushi and Teppan Grill. And, of course, there’s always the filet medallions or baby back ribs at Tony Roma’s. If you didn’t catch any Mexican cuisine at lunch, head over to some upscale, south-of-the-border fare at Cocina del Charro. Or, just head to the Sublime Ailhouse for a craft beer, artisan wine, and some gourmet comfort food.
Shops and Cineplex
In addition to the amazing eateries at Old California Restaurant Row, there are some other great things to do while you’re there. Hey, you’ve got to do something in between meals, right? Step into the CSUSM Art Gallery to check out exhibits by students, faculty, and regional and national artists. While you’re digesting lunch, head over to Somaly’s Fashion Boutique for a dinner ensemble; if you’d like to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your dinner at, perhaps, China Wok, stop by Shanghai Couture for a reversible kimono or a Kungfu outfit to wear at dinner! Or, if you’re like Jim and Vera Eubank, and have fallen in love with North County, check out the North County Associated Brokers and take a look at the available residential real estate in the area. After dinner, head over to the Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18 Cineplex for the latest releases.
If you’re in the area in the late morning or early afternoon on Sunday, and don’t want to stuff your face with some of the best cuisine in North County just yet, why not grab some fresh, local produce from the weekly farmer’s market? You can take it home and gobble it down later! The market features high-quality produce, local artisans peddling their wares, and freshly prepared hot foods. Excellent seasonal produce often includes various fruits, vegetables, honey, flowers, eggs, and herbs.
Sundays are also a great day to head over to Old California Restaurant Row for a good, old-fashioned car show. The show features exotics, racers, sports cars, hot rods, classics, drag racers, etc. You name it, they’ve got it on display! Shows are every Sunday 1pm-5pm, March through October.
With a name like Old California Restaurant Row, you’d expect to see a bunch of outdated eateries, and not much else. But that’s just not the case. While the architecture is reminiscent of an old mining town, the food is always fresh and delicious, the shops are fun and quirky, and the entertainment is hoppin’. So check it out!