4960 Avenida Encinas
Carlsbad, CA 92008
So I guess we have a new tradition when it comes to Katie's birthday. Instead of me trying to guess what to get her, and having her end up returning it, I let her pick out her own gift. I know it's not the most romantic thing to do, but I want her to get something she's going to like and use. So we headed off to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, and she got to go on a mini shopping spree.
Another part of this new birthday tradition is me picking out a restaurant to take her to. She's real easy when it comes to trying new places, so I went online and looked for restaurants near the outlet stores. I knew I was going to be pretty hungry after dealing with the Sunday crowds down there, and looking at the traffic on the 5 Freeway going north, I knew coming back to OC for dinner was not going to be an option. Best to let traffic thin out a little bit, and try a restaurant in Carlsbad. We decided on Bistro West, which is about five minutes away from the packed stores.
Bistro West is kind of off by itself, on the western side of the 5 Freeway. It's located on the same property as the West Inn and Suites, but detached from the hotel. There's plenty of parking for restaurant guests, and there was not too much of a crowd at the awkward dining hour of 4pm on a Sunday, but there was a smattering of people eating in their rather large dining room.
The dining room was classy, but not stuffy, which is a hard balance to attain. We were in casual shopping clothes, and did not feel too out of place here. It might be a little different as the night goes on though. For our OC fans, Bistro West kind of felt like the Winery, or maybe even JT Schmid's.
Bistro West is very proud of their own farm, which from what I have been able to gather, is located directly behind the outlet stores. This 3 acre farm insures that they have fresh items to help them maintain their seasonally revolving menu. Speaking of their menu, it was rather diverse, with many appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, burgers, and entree options. I had a hard time picking something, but it was time to make our choices. Let's see what we came up with.
Our waiter, Reggie promised us some freshly baked rolls, and he delivered. These came to the table very hot, and freshly baked. They kind of had the consistency of a sourdough roll, but not the sourdough taste I was expecting. Still a solid dinner roll though.
The birthday girl started things off with the small sized Bistro Baby Mixed Green Salad ($6.95). For being small sized, this salad was pretty big with flavor. This one came with caramelized walnuts, roasted tomatoes, blue cheese, a balsamic vinaigrette, and of course fresh greens. Katie really enjoyed this salad. She liked that there was plenty of blue cheese on here, and the roasted tomatoes were a nice surprise. They were a little light on the dressing, but Katie favors that, as it lets the produce be the star of the show.
I really wanted to try their Caesar salad, but I decided to buck the trend and have a go at their Ham and Bean Soup ($5.50). Like the rolls, this came to the table smoking hot. It was a very good hearty soup. Lots of flavor, and lots of shredded ham and beans in here. I should have had the bowl for an extra dollar, but I did have more food on the way.
Even though it was her birthday, Katie did not go for the most expensive thing on the menu, which would have been fine. Instead she had this modest Hot Reuben Sandwich ($16.95). All the usual suspects were here; corned beef, Swiss cheese, house made sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing, all on a toasted rye bread. Katie liked this sandwich, but was not in love with it. The corned beef was not as tender as it could have been, and they needed a little more thousand island on here to soak up some of the dryness of the meat. The toasted bread was very well done, and the sauerkraut that they make here did not overpower, like a lot of sauerkraut's can. She'd probably get something else on her next visit here. She was blown away by the Asian Coleslaw side that she had. I'm not sure what was in this, but she mentioned this coleslaw at least three times since we have left Bistro West.
I had read online somewhere that one of the burgers here was voted best burger in North San Diego, so I had to give one of them a try. I chose the Bleu Cheeseburger, and added Bacon ($15.45). The burgers here are a half pound each, and this one came with caramelized onion, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a sundried tomato truffle aioli sauce. This burger had a very good balance working for it. The blue cheese was strong on this burger, but the added bacon helped to cut the taste of it a bit. The bun here did a great job keeping everything together, it was toasted nicely, and had a nice crunch to it. The burger itself was overcooked though. They asked how I wanted it, and I said medium, but this came out closer to well done. It still tasted good, but I'm sure it would have been juicier if it was closer to medium. I went with French Fries for my side item, and they came out nice and crisp. A pretty good french fry, but nothing that made it stand out too much.
Katie had mentioned that it was her birthday, and our waiter Reggie brought out this Warm Gingered Pear Cobbler ($8.95, but free for her birthday). This was topped with a little bit of a crumble, Tahitian vanilla gelato, and surrounded by two dollops of whipped cream. I'm usually not too partial to fruit desserts, but this one was pretty solid. The pear was a nice deviation from apple that is almost always used. The crust of the cobble could have had more crumble, but the gelato added a little sweetness. Katie has been abstaining from desserts recently, but really seemed to enjoy this one.
Now this is definitely more my style of dessert. This Bistro West Mud Pie ($8.95) might be misnamed, but it did not detract from its deliciousness. When you usually think of mud pies, you probably think of a cake layered with ice cream, and this was more of a deconstructed version of the classic mud pie. The base of this starts with an Oreo cookie crust with peanut butter, then is topped by a coconut and white chocolate chip brownie, and topped with whipped cream and berries, with a coffee stout gelato on the side. The brownie portion of this was very rich, but oh so good. Very moist, and being a peanut butter lover, this got me from the first bite. I did not really get a lot of coconut or white chocolate here, but I did not mind. The gelato was nice and mellow, and the coffee flavor did not overpower. A few other desserts sound pretty good on their menu, but I can't see myself getting anything else, but this one.
We both left Bistro West satisfied, but not blown away, (except with that last dessert). The food here was good, but we both remarked that we would like to try somewhere else when we come down here again next year for Katie's birthday. Maybe we just ordered the wrong things, and something else on this diverse menu would totally make us want to come back here. This restaurant is very comfortable, the service was good, and there's plenty to choose from on the menu, so you'll definitely find something to order at Bistro West. I'm already starting to do some research for next years restaurant, so if you have somewhere that will blow us away, leave us a comment or shoot us an email. I'm just glad I don't have to head back to those outlet store for another 12 months.
Out of five golf clubs, (because the city of Carlsbad is home to many golf makers corporate headquarters, like Callaway, Cobra, and Taylormade), five being best to zero being worst, Bistro West gets 3 golf clubs.
For more information about Bistro West, go to their website here: http://www.bistrowest.com/