Monday, May 22, 2017

Meeting an Old Friend at 333 Pacific

333 Pacific
333 North Pacific Street
Oceanside, CA 92054

Katie and I have a tradition of going down to the Carlsbad Outlets around her birthday and getting her a new purse at Coach. I like this tradition for two reasons. One is that they give you a coupon when you walk in the store for half off your entire purchase, and that saves us a bunch of money. The second reason I like coming down here is because it gives us a chance to try a new restaurant, in an area we don't make to that often. Since my parents were going to be joining us, I knew exactly where I wanted to eat down here, 333 Pacific.

It was not just because I have heard good things about this restaurant, which I have, but because I had the chance to surprise my parents with someone from their past. When we were growing up in Yorba Linda, we were very close to the neighbors down the street, but they moved in the late 80's. I reconnected with Andrea, the youngest member of their household on Facebook a few years ago, and knew that she worked at 333 as a bartender. I also knew that she worked on Sunday afternoons, which just so happened to be when we were going to be in the area.

My surprise worked like a charm. After the initial shock, the long overdue hugs, and the catching up, I knew we could finally get down to the business of eating, which I was pretty excited to do after an hour and a half of shopping. 333 Pacific is part of the Cohn Restaurant Group which has quite the presence in the San Diego area. They operate 19 different restaurants in San Diego County, along with one in Long Beach and another in picturesque Maui.

333 Pacific was pretty picturesque itself. Located steps away from the famous Oceanside Pier, this was our first visit to Oceanside, and with the beautiful weather, and all the restaurants around, it probably won't be our last. Parking was a little tricky on this beautiful spring day, but persistence paid off, and we found a spot not far from 333 Pacific, which takes up residence on the bottom floor of the Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort.

Being this close to the coastline, of course, the menu here is seafood driven, but there are other things for people who are not into fish. We never ventured farther inside the restaurant than the small bar area at the front of the restaurant, but checking out the pictures from online, 333 has a great patio, with an awesome view of the pier and the passing traffic on Pacific Street. Let's see how everything turned out for us on this afternoon of surprises.

Since I was with my parents a drink was definitely in order. Kidding of course, maybe. The bar at 333 Pacific is kind of a vodka-centric bar. Okay, this is an understatement. They have a massive amount of vodkas to choose from. A quick, unofficial count online gave me the tally of 110 different varieties of vodka to choose from. Most impressive. Also impressive is that it's always vodka happy hour in the lounge, with $8 vodka drinks all the time. I took advantage of this by getting the 333 Mule ($8). I really liked this mule, which utilizes Svedka vodka, ginger beer, and a fresh squeeze of lime. Very refreshing, but on my next visit I might ask for a variation on the type of vodka used. Maybe the Hanson Habanero vodka for a bit of spice.

I guess my parents were not as hungry as Katie and me, as they decided to split this Big Kid's Grilled Cheese ($15). For this one, they use local bread purveyor Bread and Cie's, bacon bread, and sandwich it with fontina, PointReyess blue cheese, white cheddar, a basil aioli, bacon, and tomato.  I was a little surprised that my mom wanted to try this, as she's not really a fan of blue cheese, but she liked it well enough to have a few bites, and then turn the rest of the sandwich over to my dad, who really enjoyed this upscale grilled cheese. I snagged a bite and really loved the contrast between the crunchy bread and the creamy inside. This also came with a charred tomato bisque which I did not get a chance to try.

When Katie inquired about what kind of fish was the fresh catch of the day, and Andrea replied that it was salmon, that's all it took for Katie to order it. This Griddled Fresh Catch ($31) came with a nice piece of perfectly cooked salmon perched on top of a chilled quinoa salad and a muted lemon vinaigrette dressing, marinated tomatoes, and arugula. Katie devoured this in record time. She felt this was cooked well and the salmon was very fresh, without a fishy taste. The flavor of the salmon and the quinoa salad worked well together here. I thought the serving size of this was a little sparse for a dish over $30, but Katie loved the quality of it.

Even though we were steps from the sand, I didn't get any fish. After reading the description of this Bacon Wagyu Baja Burger ($19) I did not really want to try anything else. This burger had my name written all over it. It starts with a half pound of beef and is then joined on the very solid Bread and Cie brioche bun with an ancho aioli, crispy onions, guacamole, bacon, and is then finished off with a sunny side up egg. I might have had too high of hopes for this burger. It was fine but did not knock my socks off. The beef was overcooked, and the rest of the items on this burger kind of got overshadowed by the very runny egg. The bacon and guacamole did not really stand out and that's a shame because those are two of my favorite things to have on a burger. The house cut fries that came with this were very solid, and the crispy ones were among some of the best I have had recently.

Dessert would close us out at 333 Pacific, and we decided to splurge and try two of their seven dessert selections. I picked the Sweet Corn Brulee ($10) just for the novelty of it. This Brulee had a different flavor profile than the usual vanilla creme brulee that can be found on menus all over. The sweetness was muted a bit, and the smoked salt added a depth to this dessert. The candied jalapenos topping this were a little out of place here, and not really needed. Since I'm a big Reese's fan, I also had to try the Peanut Butter Bombe ($10). This bombe used a chocolate cookie crust and was filled with a peanut butter mousse that was served with slices of bruleed bananas. The peanut butter mousse was too dense in this, and the peanut butter flavor really needed to be heightened here. Not bad, but I'd probably not get this one again.

The food on this trip to 333 Pacific was good, but most items did not wow us. Yes, the fish dish was the exception, and since this is more a seafood-focused restaurant, fish might be the thing to get here, instead of the burger. Listening to locals at the bar, they were pretty keen on the happy hour here, which goes from 4 to 7 pm on most days, and offers $8 items which is great news for those of you wanting to avoid paying entree prices here, which hover around the $40 and up mark. A little steep, but understandable being this close to the beach. Service was, of course, superb, even though Andrea had a full bar at most times during our stay. She kept on top of everything, like the pro that she is. Glad my little surprise worked out so well, and I hope that it doesn't take us close to 30 years to see our great friend Andrea again. In fact, I know we will be seeing here sooner, rather than later.

Out of five floppy discs, (because State Route 333 in New York runs through the town Campbell, which happens to be the birthplace of IBM founder Thomas Watson, which was my first computer growing up), five being best to zero being worst, 333 Pacific gets 3 floppy discs.

For more information about 333 Pacific, head to their website here:

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