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Solana Beach’s Real eatery still surprising locals with fresh combinations

Real Bar & Bistro offers lunch and dinner service daily and brunch on Sunday. Credit Anna Woerman
Real Bar & Bistro offers lunch and dinner service daily and brunch on Sunday. Credit Anna Woerman

Despite a new name and an updated menu, there’s one thing that always remains at Real Bar & Bistro: real food and drinks.

The Solana Beach restaurant opened as Real Food & Spirits at the start of 2013. Almost three years later, brothers and co-owners Mark and Colin Urquhart are still surprising locals with fresh ingredients and a fusion of flavors.

The restaurant brought Executive Chef Willy Eick on board not long after the New Year and officially changed its name in the spring to better represent what Real Bar & Bistro is all about.

“Really, what we are is real,” Mark Urquhart said. “Food are our ingredients. Our ingredients are not food.”

With sustainability an important part of Real Bar & Bistro, most ingredients are locally sourced. The produce, meat, poultry and fish come from local gardens, farms, ranches and fisheries. Dough, pasta, meat, sauce, cheese and other items are made from scratch in-house.

“We focus on clean food,” Urquhart said. “Our food is authentic.”

Urquhart opened the restaurant with his younger brother after working in medical sales for a decade. After four years of planning and searching for a location, they selected the Solana Beach storefront, equipped with a high-temperature wood oven and another commercial oven.

“This was something we wanted to do because it was an opportunity to really pursue our passion, bring some great people together and be part of the community,” said Urquhart, a Solana Beach resident who grew up in Del Mar and Solana Beach.

Real Bar & Bistro offers lunch and dinner service daily and brunch on Sunday.

The menu features a variety of salads, soup, pasta, pizza and dishes with meat, poultry and fish. There are also plates to share that are perfect for a date, from fresh oysters to fingerling potatoes.

“A lot of it is trying to trigger nostalgic moments in people’s lives or taking my nostalgic moments and putting them in front of people so they can have the same experience,” said Eick, whose dishes are often inspired by his own memories.

The wood-fired octopus pickle puree includes sunflower seeds, potatoes and IPA vinaigrette — items his father would enjoy while watching football.

In an effort to “elevate” simple dishes, Eick also combines unusual ingredients to create a unique experience. The fingerling potatoes, for example, are made with buttermilk, brigante cheese, honeycomb and mint.

“It works well together, and it’s an uncanny combination,” Urquhart said. “We take risks. We’re trying to break the mold and take our guests on a journey.”

Real Bar & Bistro is at 124 S. Solana Hills Drive in Solana Beach. Lunch starts at 11 a.m. daily with dinner service from 4-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Brunch is also available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Call 858-793-7325 or visit realbarandbistro.com.