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5 Places to Eat in Vista

Unpretentious and delicious, a brewery-heavy dining scene offers simply good eats in North County
508 Tavern Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chick-Inn Sando at 508 Tavern

If you visited Vista recently, it was most likely for a beer. Located in the middle of “Hops Highway,” a term for the stretch of the 78 highway that connects loads of North County breweries; Vista boasts the most breweries per capita compared to any other United States city.

When it comes to food, gastropubs dominate—especially those that favor the classic pizza and beer combo. Longtime mom-and-pop shops also reign, some around long enough to serve generations of Vistonians.

Over the last few years, downtown Vista has seen a revitalization. New apartment buildings have popped up, the city’s first coffee shops moved in, older breweries moved out (while new ones replaced them), and a landscaping renaissance brought new life and walkability to the city. Painted murals and art pieces are seemingly on every corner of downtown, staged against the endless rolling hillside views that earned Vista its classy name.

Next time you stop for a beer, make a day of it while trying out these food spots.

Fried Chick-Inn Sando at 508 Tavern

508 Tavern is a neighborhood gem. Walk through its doors, and you’ll feel right at home. And, if you’re a local, the odds of running into your neighbors or old high school flame are high.

The team’s fried chicken sandwich brings that comfort level to new feel-good heights with the perfect blend of crispy fried chicken and classic toppings on a warm, crunchy bolillo bun. If sandwiches aren’t your thing, hit up Taco Tuesday for the fish tacos or spicy Korean BBQ tacos.

Beef Lasagna at Ciao Ristorante Italiano

Ciao Ristorante Italiano is the real deal. Family-run and a part of the community for the last 20 years, the restaurant crafts its lasagna in-house with homemade marinara sauce made fresh each morning. Stop by the delicatessen or gelateria for meats and cheese imported from Italy, or take homemade sauce to go.

Madera Kitchen Enchilada Suizas

Enchilada Suizas at Madera Kitchen of Mexico

Enchiladas Suizas at Madera Kitchen of Mexico

Madera Kitchen of Mexico is a newer addition to Vista’s dining scene, elevating the Mexican restaurant experience with a focus on wines. (It has a lengthy list, including some from Valle de Guadalupe.)

The kitchen mixes traditional Mexican menu items like chile verde and carne asada tacos with higher-end entrées like short rib birria. Its enchilada suizas steal the show with a tomatillo sauce oozing over two stuffed tortillas filled with a mouth-watering shredded, marinated chicken.

Spicy Eggplant at Lur Ros Thai Kitchen

You could blink and miss the deliciousness that is Lur Ros Thai Kitchen, thanks to the eatery’s unassuming strip mall location. But don’t. Its dishes are flavorful, fresh, and affordable. Try the spicy eggplant paired with tofu for just the right hit of heat alongside stir-fried peppers and onions that give it a sweet edge.

Belching Beaver Southwest Salad

Southwest Salad at Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill

Southwest Salad at Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill

It’s hard to get excited about a salad when you’re faced with burgers, tacos, and mac ’n cheese on the menu, but downtown’s Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill location has a dreamy Southwest-inspired salad quenching numerous cravings in one bowl.

With freshly chopped romaine and Southwestern classics like avocado, black beans, poblanos, and a subtly sweet honey-chipotle dressing, it’s a meal that you’ll dream about long after you’ve finished. Like everything on the menu, it pairs great with some cold suds.


By Elena Gomez

Elena Gomez is an Emmy-nominated reporter who has spent much of her journalism career working in broadcast news in San Diego and Los Angeles. She joined the San Diego Magazine team as a freelance writer in 2020.

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