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What We’re Craving, Sipping, and Talking About in April

Coffee cups you can eat, organic street food, a yoga studio with a wine bar coming soon, and the long-overdue rise of cat toast

By Jeanette Giovanniello

What We're Loving - Mak Mak

Mak Mak Organic, which serves healthy Thai and other Asian street food, opens two blocks from the shore in Oceanside

Thai One On

At this rate, Oceanside is going to get its own NFL team. Our northernmost beach city is booming, which means more cooks in kitchens. Opening two blocks from the shore is Mak Mak Organic—healthy Thai and other Asian street food, all made from scratch by owner and head chef James Limjoco, who previously owned Sublime Ale House. Limjoco is going for ultra-fresh and fully organic here (there’s no freezer on the premises). Limjoco says the tofu will be homemade, the chicken free-range, and he’s committed to the tip-to-tail philosophy of minimizing food waste.

“We’ll use every part of the chicken,” he says, “white and dark meat, bones for bone broth, bone broth for the rice and soup, and wings and skin for appetizers.”

Customers choose their protein: slow-poached Jidori chicken, karaage (Japanese fried chicken), or the fresh tofu, served silken or medium firm.

That goes with one of five housemade sauces and a choice of rice, broth, or salad. There’ll be side dishes, like garlic egg noodles and double-jointed wings with fish sauce and caramel. For a treat, mango sticky rice. They’ll also be brewing craft beer, hard seltzers, and housemade kombucha.

121 North Cleveland Street, Oceanside

What We're Loving - Amai Earth

Amai Earth in Carlsbad is serving coffee in edible cups

The Little Cup That Could

Finished with your coffee, ma’am? Great. Now eat it. Edible coffee cups have entered the scene, and Carlsbad’s Amai Earth has them ready for you to try. The sweet and crunchy treats may seem trendy, but they take aim at a real issue—each year, we toss an estimated 16 billion single-use cups, which are lined with plastic for insulation. Once you’re done sipping, bite into the cookie-like vessel, and voilà—zero waste. Made of oat bran, Amai’s cups are vegan, GMO-free, sturdy, and can keep your drink warm. We’re not saying it’s a superfood, but oat bran is high in antioxidant avenanthramides, and the cups have iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, and omega-3s and 6s. Even if you opt out of eating it, the product biodegrades in two weeks.

The cups aren’t just for joe. They can keep beverages cold (cocktail hour just became an environmental act) or be used as a bowl—Gelato Love in Carlsbad and East Village serves them with their flights. You can also try them with Cuban coffee at local farmers’ market vendor Habanita. If you’re looking to take some home for yourself, they’re sold at Just Peachy Market in Encinitas. Bottoms up!

Coming Soon: Sip and Flow

We’re getting top notes of warrior pose. Opening soon, Vinya just might be the most relaxed place on earth, let alone San Diego. The idea for the combination wine bar yoga studio was hatched when Patrick and Victoria Border were looking for a place to socialize after yoga class. The studio will offer several classes a day and the restaurant will serve food from morning to night, including a big breakfast menu for early practitioners. If yoga isn’t your thing, you can head straight to the tasting room to try the selection of Northern California wines. The menu will feature flatbreads, charcuterie spreads, and toasted sandwiches. They’ll also offer package deals like yoga dinner date nights and morning brunch, so you can get a group together. Vin-yes-a.

6185 Balboa Avenue, Clairemont

What We're Loving - Rikka Fika

Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cat-shaped toast at Rikka Fika in Bird Rock

Toast of the Town

It’s like eating an internet meme. Proof you can smile and groan at the same time. It is cat toast. A Bird Rock café opening this summer, Rikka Fika Coffee & Toast, will offer this adorable way to perk up your morning: a thick and fluffy slice of toast shaped like a cat’s face. I can already feel this toast ignoring me.

Founded by husband-and-wife team Scott Chen and Michelle Jow, Rikka Fika will specialize in baking and serving shokupan, Japanese milk bread, in both cat and standard square shapes (although I question the existence of anyone who wouldn’t get the cuter option). Shokupan is a crusty white bread with a cloudlike soft interior, and Jow says it’s enjoyed throughout Asia for breakfast because it pairs so well with both sweet and savory toppings.

The couple hired a baker from Taiwan to perfect their shokupan recipe, and when the café opens, diners will be able to order a variety of toasts with toppings ranging from avocado to smoked salmon, ricotta, and fresh fruit. Purists can order their morning slice with just butter and honey. Opening the café is a passion project for the couple. They met while studying at UCSD (he’s a software developer, she’s a UX designer) and they’dheard for years about a dearth of breakfast and snack options in Bird Rock.

They saw cat-shaped toast during their travels in Japan, where it originates. A bakery chain in Tokyo called Neko Neko Shokupan (“cat cat bread”) makes loaves of it, and it caught on. Chen says he hasn’t seen it in the US yet, so they’re beginning the long and necessary work of filling the cat toast void in American culture—along with sharing their love of Sweden’s café culture.

The coffee enthusiasts also plan to serve pour-over roasts from around the world, including single batches and rare finds, and host coffee tastings. Japanese and Swedish culture are reflected in the café’s name: Chen says that “rikka” is the first day of summer in Japanese, while “fika” is the cherished Swedish custom of taking a coffee break. He notes the design will be minimal, cozy, and welcoming.

“This will be an oasis, a comforting space where people can relax and recharge,” Chen says. For those of us always on the go, that sounds like the cat’s meow. – Marie Tutko

5752 La Jolla Boulevard, Bird Rock

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