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Merenda Wine Brings European-Style Wine Bar to Oceanside

Plus, former Juniper & Ivy chef lands in La Jolla, North Park’s Sicilian Thing suddenly shutters, and more food & drink news
Rendering of new Oceanside Wine Bar, Merenda Wine located at The Flats in Oceanside
Rendering courtesy of Merenda

San Diego has long been a craft beer town. But based on the recent proliferation of wine bars, events, clubs, and retail shops, we seem poised to embrace grapes as our regional beverage of choice

Wine bar and shop Merenda will be the newest addition to San Diego’s burgeoning wine scene when it opens at The Flats in Oceanside this July-ish. “Very heavy on the ish,” jokes Aaron Crossland, who co-owns Merenda with his wife, Lauren Crossland-Marr. “We’re moving really quickly so far, but there are always things that come up.”

Merenda is Italian for “snack,” or, more specifically, a snack shared with others. The duo spent time in Italy while Crossland-Marr studied food anthropology and culture, which led to a love of food, drink, and especially wine, explains Crossland. Neither planned to get into the wine business for themselves until two things happened.

“We got this idea for Merenda during Covid, and thought it would probably happen when we were a little older,” he says. “But as it happens, when you hit 40, I realized I really kind of hated what I did for a living and wanted to pursue my passions.”

Location of the new Oceanside wine bar Merenda Wine coming to The Flats
Courtesy of The Flats Oceanside

The two moved back to Oceanside, Crossland’s hometown, to be closer to family and participate in the city’s revitalization. “[We] saw how wonderful Oceanside has been doing economically, with all the new restaurants and stuff coming into town, and wanted to be a part of it,” he explains.

It took about a year to find the right space, but they jumped on it when they saw the opportunity to take over The Flat’s retail suite. “I love the idea of having people actually living in the same space where we’re doing this,” he says, adding there are 18 residential units on-site. Merenda will occupy around 2,000 square feet of space on the ground floor, plus a small patio, with approximately 300 square feet reserved for the retail area. Crossland says they’ll start with a small collection but hope to grow to offer a few hundred SKUs of different wines, heavily emphasizing Old World wines. 

The food program will feature local produce and ingredients as well as Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, with a lot of the direction still being worked out. But Crossland says their charcuterie program will set them apart, with items like housemade salumi, coppa, bresaola, and mortadella. Overall, it’ll be the experience that he says people will come back for.

“We’re really going for an Old World European feel,” he explains. “Lots of wood, very approachable decor.” Bells + Whistles (Jeune et Jolie) handles the design, which Crossland describes as his living room, but better. Details like hand-painted tiles from Portugal, artwork from their collection, and a mural over the pass-through window between the kitchen and dining area will give the space a balance between “comfort and quality,” he says. There will also be a small particular event space for private events.

Once open, Crossland says they plan to launch a wine club and host many events, collaborations, and other tastings to cater to locals who may already know about wine and those just getting started. “A space for people like myself, who obviously love wine, but without all that pretentious B.S.. that goes along with it.”

New San Diego restaurant Sea & Sky opening in La Jolla
Courtesy of Sea & Sky La Jolla

San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events

Sea & Sky Now Open Atop Hotel La Jolla

Former Juniper & Ivy chef Anthony Wells is now the executive chef at Sea & Sky, the new sea-to-table restaurant at Hotel La Jolla, Curio Collection by Hilton in La Jolla Shores. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sea & Sky uses seafood and other local ingredients for dishes like yellowtail crudo, whole snapper, bone marrow with tuna sashimi, and more. The recently renovated hotel has more in store for guests, with a second renovation on track for late 2024. Reservations for Sea & Sky are available here

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa's 2024 culinary series dinners featuring a luxurious appetizer
Photo Credit: Nancy Silverton

Beth’s Bites

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa is upping the dining game, announcing its 2024 culinary series lineup with superstars like Javier Plascencia (July 14), David Castro Hussong, Alfredo Villanueva, and Maribel Aldaco (June 27), and adding Emiliano Safa as the property’s new executive chef. Lots of news to chew on (literally)!

Calling all plant lovers—on Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., come enjoy, buy, and chat plants at TapRoom Beer Company with House Plant House Call. Plants and beer? The definition of my perfect Saturday. 

Say it ain’t so, Sicilian Thing. The stalwart North Park pizzeria has apparently and unceremoniously shuttered after 17 years on 30th street. I know we still have Tribute and Blind Lady nearby, but it still feels like the end of an era.

The Michelin Guide finally made it to Mexico. Congrats to all the fantastic teams and people the Guide recognized for the first time, including Drew and Paulina Deckman (Conchas de Piedra, Deckman’s en el Mogor), Javier and Lauren Plascencia (Animalón), and more. Check out the complete list here

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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