For more than 12 years, the Cedros Design District has been the go-to place for fine art and chic boutiques. But when it came to eating, there were fewer choices.
In the last several months, three new cafes have opened, the realized dreams of first-time restaurateurs with a passion for healthful food and warm hospitality.
A sweet spot for breakfast and lunch is tiny Lockwood Table, where folks drop by for steel-cut oatmeal, homemade soups and specialty sandwiches. Many bring their dogs, who love the place too.
"Short or tall, furry or not, we're all treated like family," said Debra Summers, who comes in often with Roxy and Koko, her canine companions.
Local building designer Mike Corless is another Lockwood fan. "I've eaten almost everything Alicia makes, and it's all good," he said.
Owner/chef Alicia Douglas shops for produce at the Cedros Farmers Market, and only works with local suppliers. She also features options for special-needs foodies, such as gluten-free wraps.
Lockwood also delivers - by tricycle - a real plus for neighborhood business people. Coming soon are dinners to go and a partnership with trainer Daniel Shamburg, who will bring his Beach Boot Camps to the Table for a high-protein, post-workout meal.
Little more than a scone's throw away is Twisted Tart, a fair-trade coffee and yogurt shop. Known for high-quality frozen yogurt with live, active cultures, TT offers six changing flavors, including nontraditional ones such as green tea and cappuccino.
"Everyone says it's the best yogurt they've ever tasted," said Jay Chevalier, who co-owns the place with his wife, Ginna.
Their coolest specialty is Twisted Iced Mocha, a luscious combo of espresso and mocha blended with vanilla fro-yo and chocolate-covered espresso beans.
"People drive here from Escondido for this drink," Chevalier said. "You can't find it anywhere else."
Another specialty is the yogurt-topped Acai Bowl, a melange of berries, bananas, apple juice and granola.
And the menu keeps expanding. "We had people saying, 'I need lunch!' so now we do sandwiches and wraps," Chevalier said.
On the north side of Cedros is the largest, most ambitious of the newbies, a renovated cottage that is now Claire's on Cedros.
Besides being the most eco-sensitive bakery-cafe around, co-owners Claire Allison (the culinary one, original creator of Milton's Multigrain Bread) and Terrie Boley (the entrepreneur) began reaching out to the community before they even opened.
"We started by serving free food to family and friends, getting their feedback while we trained our staff," Boley said. "Word-of-mouth spread, and we fed the neighborhood for weeks."
Everything at Claire's is made from scratch, and their croissants, multigrain pancakes, inventive omelets and fresh-roasted turkey sandwiches are attracting a widening clientele.
Maura Johnson, the cafe's interior designer, likes the place enough to stay on as a waitress. "It's so comfortable, I want to stick around," she said.
"We're a team here," said Allison, on a short break from the kitchen. "And we like people to linger. It makes us happy to know we've created a place where people want to hang out."
346-B S. Cedros (near Rosa Street stop sign)
Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
240 S. Cedros (next to Leaping Lotus)
Open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
CLAIRE'S ON CEDROS
246 N. Cedros (across from train station)
Closed Tuesdays. Open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends