The Perfect Order: Inland Tavern | The flow
In a seemingly innocuous restaurant, a culinary world tour awaits you. The catch: it’s not located in downtown or Little Italy or North Park. It’s in the emerging north.
With the flavors of Latin America and Asia and a bit of Southern cuisine, the dishes of Indoor Tavern in San Marcos remain rooted in Southern California. First example: the Korean Cali Burrito. The skirt steak is marinated in a sweet and spicy Korean gochujang sauce, then grilled, wrapped with thick fries (essential, otherwise it’s not a California burrito), a deep note with caramelized onions and served with a sauce with refreshing curry.
Located on the main commercial thoroughfare of San Marcos Boulevard, Inland Tavern is surrounded by fast-food chains and, for now, a resounding construction orchestra as the city erects its Creekside neighborhood (a $108 million project to build bridges, bike paths and trails, restore habitat, prevent flooding, just generally improve the area). This summer, the restaurant relaunched its menu under the direction of chef Keith Lord, who began his career at the iconic Farallon in San Francisco before becoming a staple of San Diego restaurants (Wild Thyme, Picnic People). Lord has worked closely with owner Pete Zacarias on a land and sea menu – enough intrigue to appeal to adventurous palates without scaring off the faint-hearted.
The word “elevated” is overused in food journalism precisely because it works in cases like this: Inland Tavern makes elevated pub food. Take the Caesar salad, for example. It’s topped with rosewater-marinated onions for a sweeter bite and sprinkled with finely grated salted parmigiano-reggiano, flavors that contrast beautifully with the creamy vinaigrette. The shredded Brussels sprouts add enough substance to order as a meal, and the crushed croutons provide just enough crunch and yield, thankfully unlike the hard, bagged and boxed squares that have been destroying the roofs of the mouth for ages. generations. This salad is exceptional.
If you’re dining with a group, start with a few slices of prawn and salmon poke seasoned with furikake and served with taro chips (ask for more chips). Then add the labneh flatbread, a mild Mediterranean yogurt so thick it’s almost the consistency of cheese, drizzled with olive oil and topped with za’atar (a spice mix made from toasted sesame seeds , sumac and oregano).
Then order the Katsu Crack Sando. This one is substantial enough to share and may require a fork, knife and ambition. Seaside Market’s famous tri-tip (known colloquially as Cardiff Crack) gets the katsu treatment (breaded with panko crumbs and fried) while toasted slices of Hokkaido milk bread aim to hold salad of crunchy kimchi, garlic aioli, tangy mustard and Asian barbecue. sauce.
For vegetarians and vegans, well, there is always water and oxygen. Not a lot. But they do have a few salads and a heart of palm ceviche, which turns out tangy and refreshing with microgreens, quartered watermelon radish slices, and charred lime. Still… high. As I munch on cream cheese-stuffed garlic milk buns (softer and chewier than the average bun), I watch a pair of regulars hemming and chopping the ceviche, then inspecting the dish with suspicion, and finally call Chief Lord to rave about it.
In addition to its new menu, happy hour specials include 20% off appetizers and $2 off craft beers on tap, a range of carnitas tacos, carne asada, and shrimp, and wings at half price on Wednesdays.
I’ll make it for weekend brunch as soon as I’ve had my fix of Caesar salad.