At the Trough: 4 Encinitas Joints for Feeding a Crowd

family restaurants

Image Source: wEnDaLicious via Flickr

It’s a familiar drill: you and your significant other, sick of shopping, cooking, and cleaning, give each other the “let’s go out” look. You have a spot or two in mind: that new place serving meticulously crafted, boat-fresh urchin or that post-modern taco place with 50,000 pure agave tequilas on the menu. But wait! There are kids to be fed, and the kids have friends, and your brother-in law might swing by with his kids, and suddenly thinking about dinner becomes more of a price/quality/quantity equation, balancing each element as best you can. As Lincoln or Twain or Ambrose Bierce or all of them at the same time sort of said: you can please some people most of the time, and all people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time, or something roughly approximating that. So it is with going out with a big party.

Here are a few of the better options family restaurants in Encinitas for feeding a crowd:

Noodles and Company  | El Camino Real

Noodles and Company is a super option for delivering inexpensive and moderately differentiated carbohydrates to your group.  Ostensibly deriving inspiration from around the globe, N&C is a tepid yet reliable performer, and the photos on the walls showing delicacies and exotica from places like Vietnam and Turkey are merely suggestive of the type of food that you could get if Americans–and especially American children–would tolerate actual flavor and texture in their dishes.  Nonetheless, there are elements of the herbs and spices used in the Asian and Mediterranean dishes on the menu here, and the food is reliably fresh.  The flexible seating arrangement lets you designate a kiddie table while the adults fake a date, or gang the tables together.

Oggis | Encinitas Boulevard

Oggis, buffeted by the pending opening of the Encinitas In ‘N Out, is undergoing some renovations, rightly expecting a massive crush of overflow traffic from people fleeing the throngs from the famed burger joint.  After toiling in obscurity wedged between a Valero gas station and the city’s Public Works Department, Oggis is seizing an opportunity to grow.  But Oggis has always been an outstanding place to bring a crowd, ordering some of their giant pizzas, thick of crust and heavy with cheese, to offset the draft beers and soft drinks that pair with the 407 ball games being shown simultaneously in a simulacrum of a frat house at some giant midwestern university.  But if the pies are sometimes bland and doughy, the experience is enhanced by the game area, which diverts the kiddies for virtually the entire meal, rendering almost any night at Oggis a date night, which is in itself a thing of beauty.  Strangely, the Del Mar Heights Oggis has far better food, but perhaps its because it lacks the games.  We’ll see what the expansion brings.

Soup Plantation | El Camino Real

Roughage baby, roughage.  If you’re not exhausted by the time you shuffle your tray down the line performing pilates trying to coax a spoonful of olives onto your plate without them rolling all over the place, then you haven’t quite grasped that Plantation spirit.  Preparing your spawn for four years of meal service at Cal Davis is just a side benefit for this gang-feeding chain, which was so popular in Encinitas it doubled in size about a year ago.  With coupons and specials, stuffing your crew (don’t discount the fullness-inducing effects of fiber) comes out to about $6 or $7 per head, less than cooking.  With millions of tables and hard surfaces all around, it’s not even necessary to talk to anyone during dinner, making it perfect for bringing the extended family.

Chin’s Szechwan | Encinitas Boulevard

When I was a kid growing up in Stamford, Connecticut, the only Asian restaurant in the entire city was called Chins, and fortunately it was only a couple of miles from my house.  It was mostly a take-out place, and the steaming cartons of Subgum Shrimp (yes, that was the name of the dish), Spare Ribs, and Chicken Lo Mein were more American than Asian, and Chins delivered the goods time and time again.  Back before Asian food had properly colonized the US, the sight of a gang of wok-jockeys sweating in the kitchen was quite the exotic scene for a kid in the heart of suburbia. Encinitas has its own Chins, far more refined than a take out joint, even pushing the edge of elegance.  It is certainly a little air conditioned oasis in one of the stranger office/flex parks in town, perched half way up a knoll on a steep section of Encinitas Boulevard. Although it calls itself Szechwan, the menu leans towards traditional Amer-Sino dishes, like pupu platters and tangerine chicken.  A lot of dishes at Chins pass the kid test–proteinized nugget forms in not-too-spicy sauces, dumplings, white rice, and in my experience the tablecloths have a pacifying effect on the littlin’s, imparting a grown-up feel to the place.

>> CLICK HERE to check out all Restaurants in Encinitas

Dan

Daniel Lilie writes and blogs on diverse topics, including sports, culture, design, and architecture, and has written a book, “Soccer in the Weeds, Bad Hair, Jews, and Chasing the Beautiful Game,” that chronicles the (mis) adventures of a youth growing up in suburban Connecticut who choses the at-the-time wholly unpopular sport of soccer. Dan consults to the real estate and energy industries and lives with his wife Melissa and three children in Leucadia.He is working on a novel, Dark Roast, which is not due to be published by anyone soon.

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