The Bagby Beer Company is massive. It takes up nearly half a city block, which is impressive considering it's situated smack in the middle of the congested stretch of the Coast Highway that runs through the heart of Oceanside.
Lotus Café made a go of expanding to Hillcrest a few years back but couldn't make it work. The original beach location remains, however, and it embodies the spiritual side of much of Encinitas, located a few blocks from the golden domes of the Self Realization Fellowship.
Irina's Bar & Grill (3375 Mission Ave.) in deepest Oceanside is such an unexpected charmer. At first entrance, it's just another neighborhood bar, with industrial carpeting, a couple of pool tables and regulars who turn and give you a five-second stare when you first walk in.
When I moved to a deep corner of North County (the kind of place where friends get lost trying to visit), I lamented the loss of easy access to food-scene bright spots like Little Italy and North Park.
Diana Benedek, founder of 2GOOD2BE Bakery & Café in Encinitas suffered from myriad debilitating health problems—from fibromyalgia to migraines—until she started to change her diet and learned, through genetic testing, that she suffered from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Hacienda de Vega is one of those San Diego County charmers that feel like they've been there forever. The restaurant (2608 S. Escondido Blvd. in Escondido) has been open for more than a decade, but the hacienda itself dates to the 1930s.