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Get a Taste of Encinitas' Downtown Dining Scene

Some tips to help you work your way through the samples from 33 restaurants at the Taste of MainStreet.

When I found out the date for my son’s back to school night last year, I groaned: It fell on the same Thursday as the , the annual foodie fantasia where Coast Highway 101 turns into one long outdoor café. Now, I value the importance of a good education as much as the next person, but we were talking samples of the corn soup from Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza, pasta from Trattoria I Trulli, and chocolate goodness from You can see why I was torn. In the end, my husband and I crammed in both events, swooping around our favorite eateries in about an hour before rushing to school just in time for the classroom presentation.

Now in its 22nd year, the Taste of MainStreet lets participants try out small portions from 33 downtown restaurants. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights, but can also be overwhelming without a plan of attack. Here are some helpful hints to get the most out of the night:

Know Before You Go. It’s best to map out a course of action before you start tasting, and the approach depends on your personality. Do you want to go in a linear fashion up and down the street? Or would you rather eat your savory items (, ) before your sweets (, )? Do you want to hike up and down the hill toward the restaurants by B Street at the beginning of the night, when you’re still fresh, or at the end, when you could stand to burn a few calories? Or do you pick the most popular (Trulli, ) to try and beat the lines? You can also plug in a few palate cleansers in between samples (beverage at , smoothies from , ).

Try Something New. It’s easy to hit old favorites, but this event is a prime time to check out restaurants you haven’t visited. The first year I moved here, granola became a new favorite after sampling it at the Taste. And when participated soon after it opened, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between me and the chocolate croissants. This year, my “first-time” taste will be ; given the perennial crowds, it’s probably the closest I’ll get to eating there.

Share with a Friend. One year we were only able to get one event ticket, so my husband and I had to share. It actually worked out quite well. He’s a carnivore and I’m more of a locavore, so it was easy to divvy up the meat- and veggie-centric items. Others have been known to give generous portions, such as fix-it-yourself potato bowls and slices (although both aren’t on this year’s list). And sharing leaves you more room to try more samples.

Take a Break. It’s tempting to just chow down, but stop and get a second (and third, and maybe fourth) wind. One of the best ways to do that is by stationing yourself at one of the five stages featuring live music. We prefer the Lumberyard courtyard, where you can people watch (and scope out their samples so you know where to head next). This year, Randy Fontaine and the Swingers will hold court there; other stages are at the ,, , and

Get Your Ticket Now. There are only 1,000 sold each year, and the event is usually a sellout. In fact, I’m not even sure why you’re still reading this. Go and purchase one now and I’ll see you there—conveniently, it doesn’t conflict with our back to school night this year.

The event, sponsored by the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 8. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the DEMA office (818 S. Coast Highway 101, 760-943-1950) or online at encinitas101.com.

Mike Andreen August 31, 2011 at 01:19 PM
This is arguably, along with the Wave Crest Woodies Invasion of Moonlight Beach each September, the most local friendly exhibition of gluttony and near sloth in North County! Slurping while stumbling might be the best description of this; or trudging while tippling? See ALL your friends in one night, get a 'little' exercise and 'graze' with delight; and when you've had enough, just sit down where ever you are and cell phone the kids to come and ferry you home! One ticket is enough for a couple; two tix will satisfy a family of four. Don't miss the fresh, hot mashed potatoes and turkey gravy at the Encinitas Cafe; right on, Debbie! Bring your own wipes!

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