Carlsbad for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner | RTX Traveler Magazine

When you start to get hungry in Carlsbad, you won’t stay that way for long. This beach town packs a punch when it comes to dining options, with a variety of cuisines ranging from casual to upscale and everything in between. Many restaurants have outdoor patios so patrons can maximize their time in the ideal coastal weather. The fresh, high quality produce and ingredients for which Southern California is known shine on menus all over town. Perhaps the best thing about dining in Carlsbad is that in even the more upscale establishments, there is a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that translates to an enjoyable experience, whether you are a family with children, a large group on a fun getaway, or a couple seeking a romantic night out. Here we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite spots for eating out in Carlsbad.

153694729_webFeatured Restaurant: Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse

For nearly 20 years restaurateur Roberto Vigilucci has been serving classic Italian cuisine in Carlsbad and other Southern California locales and has grown his empire to six fine establishments. In this perfect spot for drinking in a Pacific sunset, every seat in the house – even all of the tables inside – have an ocean view.  The patio is lively and popular, while the dining room inside is cozy and comfortable. The stylish bar is ideal for a small bite or glass of wine and good conversation.

Serving only certified prime steaks and the freshest seafood, Vigilucci’s menu brings old world Italian dishes to the California coast with an extensive selection of antipasti, salads, seafood and steaks, as well as a la carte items and a number of pasta dishes with fresh homemade pasta. For a starting dish, the classic shrimp cocktail gets an update and a twist with both jumbo prawns and bay shrimp served with avocado, cucumbers and red onions in a cocktail sauce. One of the chef’s favorite salads is spinach tossed in warm caramelized shallot and port dressing with crispy bacon, and topped with an herbed goat cheese cake.

For the main course, there are as many choices as there are tastes in food. If you’re craving a classic comfort dish, the spaghetti and meatballs with 100% prime beef meatballs braised in Vigilucci’s tomato sauce will leave you satisfied for days. The Cioppino will sate your seafood craving with mussels, clams, jumbo prawns, calamari, fresh fish and a diver scallop sautéed with roasted garlic in a fresh and zesty tomato sauce. Beef eaters will love the choices of hand-cut premium Black Angus Prime steaks and chops, and the house favorites are the prime filet and prime bone-in New York cuts. All steaks are aged 28 to 35 days for the best flavor.

The presentation of each dish is as photo-worthy as the view of the beach from your table, and the flavors will make it easy to clean your plate. An award-winning wine list with featured vineyards and surprisingly affordable prices by the glass or bottle ensures that your meal will be complemented perfectly. To end on a sweet note, dessert specials like house made gelato and traditional tiramisu can be accompanied by vin santo or espresso.

With friendly and knowledgeable servers (many originally from Italy), a kid-friendly menu and valet parking, Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse is the ultimate dining experience in Carlsbad for high-quality, upscale Italian food in a comfortable atmosphere.

Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse
3878 Carlsbad Blvd.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 434-2580
Hours of Operation
Mon – Thu, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri – Sat, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Sun, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.





Other Favorites

Breakfast Sausage_webBreakfast: Tip Top Meats

Tucked in the back of a European food market and butchery, this hidden gem serves up a full breakfast menu complete with a variety of three-egg specialty omelets as well as breakfast combos featuring eggs, meats, pancakes, waffles, French toast and more. Try a polish sausage or bratwurst instead of the traditional bacon, ham or sausage, as the Europeans who run the market and delicatessen certainly know their meats. Best of all, all breakfast menu items are less than $9, and the portions are heaping enough that they can easily be shared (if you want to, that is).

After noshing on a hearty breakfast, grab a slice of cake or pastry to go and browse the market’s shelves with candy, coffee, sweets, dry goods and canned foods that typically are not found in U.S. grocery stores. Early birds will love this place as it opens at 6 a.m., and the lunch and dinner menus are equally affordable and delicious. Best of all, Tip Top Meats is just minutes from LEGOLAND®, so make it a stop to fuel the whole family for a

Tip Top Meats
6118 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92011
(760) 438–
Hours of Operation
Open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.





Gourmet PizzaLunch: Pizza Port

Pizza Port’s Carlsbad location, just a few blocks from the beach in the center of the Village, has been serving delicious made-to-order pizzas, family-sized salads, tasty wings and refreshing brews since 1997. Surfboards hang in the rafters in the spacious dining room, and the long picnic tables both inside and outside give great options for large groups. Ample bar seating allows quick access to the house-brewed beer, and elevated seating in the front of the dining room is perfect for people watching through the large glass window facing the street.

The Original Pizza menu includes favorite combos that are inspired by and name after beach towns in the San Diego area, so if you want to stay local and try the Pizza Carlsbad, get ready for an explosion of flavors with pesto, mesquite grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and feta. The Anti-Wimpy Gourmet Pizzas almost extend into traditional pizza toppings with toppings like BBQ chicken, bacon cheeseburger, garlic veggie, Margherita and meat lovers. Salads can be Party Sized, serving 4-6, and munchies like Beer Buddies, Portzels and spicy baked wings round out the menu perfect for lunch, dinner or a late night snack.
Pizza Port
571 Carlsbad Village
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 720-7007
Hours of Operation
Sun – Thu, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri – Sat, 11 a.m. – Midnight





Grilled Chicken

South of the Border: Pollos Maria

Carlsbad is less than an hour from Tijuana, so you’d expect to find authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine in the area. For nearly 30 years, the owners of Pollos Maria have been serving dishes featuring their specialty, fire-grilled chicken, along with homemade tamales, tacos, burritos, tostadas, tortas and combo plates. The restaurant started in the home of one of the owners, and has evolved to a counter-service restaurant and catering company with an outdoor patio that is a favorite among locals and visitors in Carlsbad.

The menu is incredibly affordable, with most items falling below $8. The chicken is of course a must-try, and the tender, juicy meat flavored by the citrus-based marinade and fire-smoked grill is sure to please your palate and fill your belly. The fish tacos are also quite delicious, and in addition to traditional Mexican offerings, there is a decent-sized section of the menu dedicated to healthier items like salads and vegetable plates. Don’t forget to hit the salsa bar which has several kinds of salsa as well as fresh onions, cilantro, jalapenos and pickled vegetables that are a tasty side or topping. Top off the meal with a cold beer and enjoy the patio under the warm light of the tiki torches.

Pollos Maria
3055 Harding Street
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 729-2286
Hours of Operation
Sun – Thu, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fri – Sat, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.





Dark BeerWorth the trip out of town: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

In a large, unmarked building in the middle of an industrial park is one of the most unexpected and delightful surprises as far as dining experiences go. While it’s about a 40 minute drive from Carlsbad Village, it is near the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner after a long and fun day at the park. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens focuses on using in-season local, regional and organic ingredients in both their food and their award-winning beer. The folks at Stone are so committed to this philosophy that they even have their own farm where the hops for their beer and produce used in their beer and on their menu is grown.

Their eclectic menu of world-inspired cuisine has the common theme of being comfort food, whether it’s the Tilapia Ceviche with Mazatlan seasoning, Eastern European inspired pierogies paired with a house-brewed brown ale or house-made Korean kimchi. The gorgeous indoor dining room has large floor-to-ceiling windows taking up two walls, so diners can either watch the brewers at work in the brewery, or enjoy the views of the outdoor patio and one-acre beer garden. The beer garden is a great place to enjoy a cold beverage, with hidden seating in the shade of bamboo along a bubbling creek.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029
(760) 294-7866
Hours of Operation
Mon – Thu, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Fri – Sat, 11 a.m. – 12 midnight
Sun, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Last seating is at 10 p.m. every day.




Waffle Stack


Only in Carlsbad: Boxd

The railroad tracks that run through the center of historic Carlsbad helped put the seaside town on the map, so it’s not completely outrageous that someone thinking outside the box ended up creating a unique dining complex very much inside of a box. Boxd serves hand crafted waffle food out of a converted train boxcar located right in the center of town, next to the visitors’ center and a stone’s throw from the train tracks. There is a nice outdoor space surrounding the unlikely dining spot with tables and chairs for those who want to enjoy the weather.

So what exactly is hand crafted waffle food? Boxd uses homemade waffle batter and a variety of fresh ingredients to create both savory and sweet sandwiches great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. The bacon, egg and cheese waffle sandwich makes a hearty and delicious breakfast, and the slow roasted pork with cheese and slaw will fill up even the hungriest bellies for lunch or dinner. Kids love the classic peanut butter and jelly, and the nutella and banana is a sweet treat. Be sure to check out Boxd on your Carlsbad vacation, because where else can  you get handcrafted waffle food served out of a boxcar?

430 Carlsbad Village Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(442) 333-9071
Hours of Operation
Open daily from approximately 7 a.m. until about 8 p.m.






Wine & CheeseHappy Hour: RELM Wine.Beer.Bistro

After a day on the beach or LEGOLAND®, a good Happy Hour might be just what you need to relax and get refreshed. While many Carlsbad restaurants offer great deals for the early evening hours, RELM Wine.Beer.Bistro has a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere that will make you feel right at home while you enjoy hearty, rustic foods, boutique, estate-grown wines and craft beer.

The menu is perfect for small bites and sharing, with appetizers like dips, spreads and flatbreads; fresh salads that can be made into a meal; artisanal cheese boards and charcuterie plates; and pastas, sandwiches and desserts. Check out RELM for Happy Hour from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and enjoy wine and beer specials as well as discounted food.

RELM Wine.Beer.Bistro
2917 State St.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 434-WINE (9463)
Hours of Operation
Hours are seasonal, visit the website for current information.





Pick Me Up: Vinaka Café

When do you need your pick-me-up? First thing in the morning? After lunch? Around 3 p.m., when it starts to feel like nap time? Maybe after dinner? Whenever you need your caffeine fix, wither it’s to get going in the morning or to keep you going throughout the day, Vinaka Café is the place to be in Carlsbad for coffee, tea, ice cream, pastries and more. Like many of Carlsbad’s favorite restaurants, Vinaka Café has been around for nearly 20 years, and the quality ingredients, fast service and wallet-friendly prices keep locals and tourists alike coming back for more.

On the second level of the Village Faire shopping center, this cozy café provides free wi-fi, board games and chess to keep patrons entertained, and the outdoor seating is great for soaking up the wonderful weather and people watching. With a wide variety of coffee drinks, tea, smoothies and milkshakes, you’ll find what you need to wake up, warm up, cool down or satisfy your sweet tooth. Enjoy the local art on the walls and chat with the friendly locals who work and frequent Vinaka.

Vinaka Café
300 Carlsbad Village Dr., Suite 211
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 720-7890
Hours of Operation
Daily from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.






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