The patio of the Beach Grass Cafe faces Highway 101.
By Kelley Carlson
The Beach Grass Cafe established roots in Solana Beach more than a decade ago, and has been thriving ever since.
Owned by Cindy and Kevin Nelson since last August, the establishment has maintained a laid back vibe — a place to “chillax” (chill out and relax). The brick-and-wood dining room is outfitted with ocean-themed photos by local artist Aaron Chang; guests favor sitting in sun-kissed booths that are next to large windows while dining and listening to eclectic tunes or chatting with their company. Children can be found solving puzzles and coloring on their menus, which feature offerings such as a Silly Face Buttermilk Pancake and Homemade Macaroni & Cheese. Outside, customers kick back on the patio -- which is temperature-controlled by heaters and the sea breeze -- and observe the activity along the famous Highway 101. If it’s a weekend, the cafe is usually bustling, so reservations are recommended for parties of six or more people.
Sweet Corn Polenta Roasted in Banana Leaf with 2 Eggs & Spicy Louisiana Sausage.
But no matter where they sit, the regulars ask for their preferred servers.
“The staff has been here a long time,” Kevin said. “People come in to see their favorite waiters and waitresses.”
And of course, the customers are drawn to the fare, which is made from scratch and includes some unique items.
Breakfast is served all day, and among the specialties are the Chorizo Hash, a mixture of house-made turkey chorizo, green onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, potatoes, feta and two eggs any style; and the colorful Stir-Fried Rice Scrambled with Yams, Scallions, Spicy Sausage, Soy Sauce & Eggs.
Craving a pineapple upside-down cake for breakfast? Try it in pancake form, with maple syrup drizzled over the top.
“People love our Upside Down Pineapple Pancakes,” Kevin said. “We make a new batch (of batter) every few orders, and keep making them throughout the day.”
Other creative combos include the Lemon Ricotta & Blueberry Pancakes and the Oatmeal Pancakes with Roasted Pears & Marshmallow Cream.
The Veggie Sandwich -- grilled parmesan-crusted bread layered with artichoke hearts, avocado, tomato, spinach, Swiss and roasted red pepper pesto -- with an apple fennel slaw.
There are simple breakfast standards, as well, among them the Homemade Peanut Butter & Homemade Preserves (blackberry, blackberry apple or mango marmalade) on Toast. Fans of the spreads can buy them at the cafe or at Seaside Market in Cardiff.
The lunch menu presents a spectrum of offerings, from vegetarian-friendly entrees to cuisine that appeals to meat and seafood lovers.
On the lighter side, there are salads such as the Quinoa Broccoli, combined with a mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil and lemon zest; and The Veggie Sandwich, which consists of grilled parmesan-crusted bread layered with artichoke hearts, avocado, tomato, spinach, Swiss and roasted red pepper pesto. And the trio of soups -- She Crab, Vegetable Soup with Tuscan Beans and Clam Chowder Broth of Clams, Leeks & Potatoes -- is in high demand, even when the weather is warm, Kevin noted.
Shrimp & Avocado Salad, featuring butter leaf lettuce, grapefruit, Marcona almonds, shaved fennel, hearts of palm and a grapefruit vinaigrette.
Burgers are also popular, including the house-ground chicken and lamb patties, along with sandwiches such as the Crab Cake and the Cubano, with house-smoked kahlua pork, ham, grilled onions, smoked mozzarella and jalapeño garlic mayo on grilled sourdough. The hand-cut fries that are offered as a side choice are crispy, yet soft in the middle.
For those on the go, platters, box lunches and other assorted items are available for pickup.
The combination of food and service has attracted a loyal following, and as a “thank you” to those patrons, the Beach Grass Cafe provides a rewards card that gives money back after a certain amount is spent. And the Nelsons also give back to the community through fundraisers and donations to nonprofits.
While the restaurant is situated on a busy thoroughfare, parking usually isn’t an issue — a lot is located behind the building.
Beach Grass Cafe Address: 159 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach The Vibe: Relaxed, Casual Signature Dishes: Chorizo Hash; Stir-Fried Rice Scrambled with Yams, Scallions, Spicy Sausage, Soy Sauce & Eggs; Sweet Corn Polenta Roasted in Banana Leaf with 2 Eggs & Spicy Louisiana Sausage; Upside Down Pineapple Pancakes; Shrimp & Avocado Salad; Kahlua Pork Tacos; Crab Cake Sandwich Open Since: 1999 Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily Web: www.beachgrasscafe.com/ Phone: (858) 509-0632 Reservations: Yes, for parties of six or more people Patio Seating: Yes Take Out: Yes Happy Hour: No
RECIPE: Stir Fried Rice with Yams and Spicy Sausage
• 1 cup cooked brown rice
• ½ cup sweet potato (diced small)
• 1 Louisiana-style spicy sausage link, cooked (sliced thin)
• 2 green onions (sliced thin)
• 4 eggs
• 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 Tablespoon canola oil
Heat oil in medium, nonstick sauté pan.
Add yams and cook for 4 minutes until soft.
Add spicy sausage and green onions and cook for 3 minutes.
Add brown rice and eggs, cook until eggs are done and rice is hot.
Stir in soy sauce and serve with a side of hot sauce if you desire.