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Spot Check: Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

A taste of one local's ambitious project in Oceanside

By Troy Johnson

208 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

O-side is one of the last beach burgs where gentrification hasn’t washed out the funk. It’s almost affordable to live here. There are great signs of progress and abandoned signs of regress. Oceanside is home to surf pros, skaters, punks, military, and people with many, many tattoos. I’m sure teachers, bankers, and conservatives live here, too. But they’re much less noticeable. Oceanside is rough around the edges, and the near-middle, and the middle.

In other words, it’s easy to love and fear.

The food scene has been on the rise ever since a vet of Market in Del Mar brought four-star skills and Austin-style edge to the neighborhood with The Flying Pig. Now O-Side has Harney Sushi, 333 Pacific, Bagby Beer Co., Wrench & Rodent, and a handful of newer places.

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail is one of those. Owner Ryan Jubela has lived here for nearly 20 years. His folks own the building. It’s a pretty great space. Beautiful reclaimed wood. Huge ceilings. Nice ironwork. Skylights. A plant wall and a huge patio. Massive. Ambitious.

“Jubela and Gallo are trying to give their neighborhood something it doesn’t already have …”

Spot Check: Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

Spot Check: Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

The chef is Christopher Gallo, who spent time at A.R. Valentien and Bertrand at Mister A’s. He handles good ingredients simply, and well. His duck confit mac ’n’ cheese is based on a classic mirepoix (carrots-onions-celery). The duck is beautifully cooked and the brioche breadcrumbs crispy, buttery, libidinous. His housemade pierogi are, too, with a potato filling and paprika sour cream. Overworked peirogis become bricks of starch; his are perfect, the dough browned to the nice, brown-orange hue of George Hamilton’s skin.

Masters is priced on the higher end ($21–$29 for entrées), which is a stretch for Oceanside. But the last thing the area needs is another dive bar. Jubela and Gallo are trying to give their neighborhood something it doesn’t already have, which is why they’re focusing on craft cocktails, not craft beer.

The bar is packed on weekends for cocktails like the Hot Brazilian Monk, with green tea-infused Cachaça, green Chartreuse, Benedictine, lemongrass syrup, jalapeño, and lime juice. Come summer and tourist party season, people will surely jam this patio. And since Gallo can cook and the place looks great, locals with hopes for their own neighborhood should warm to the place soon, too.

Spot Check: Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

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