Fifteen summers ago, Oceanside’s South Coast Freeway corridor wasn’t exactly bustling with new food and drink options.
But as the recession lifted in 2012 and 2013, a trickle – and then a flood – of restaurants, gastropubs, breweries, coffee and tea shops and distilleries opened their doors. One of the newest additions is 7-month-old South O Brewing Co. at Coast Highway and Morse Street, where owners Trevor Whitehead and Joel Steinmetz say the day they opened last December, 1 200 impatient customers showed up.
To help promote South O and other members of the city’s fast-growing beverage industry, a new city-funded marketing campaign called O’Side Sips was officially launched in May.
Similar to “wine route” guides to the state’s wine regions, O’Side Sips is a free mobile phone app with information on 29 beverage companies, many of which are on or within a few blocks. from the Coast Highway to Oceanside. A few of the companies offer discounts and offers, and app users who register at multiple Sips sites can earn free Oceanside-themed goodies like coasters and bottle openers.
And for app users who want to soak up multiple locations in a day, there’s now gO’Side, a free electric shuttle service that passengers can dial digitally from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily along of the three-mile coastal highway corridor between Oceanside Harbor and Vista Lane.
One of the businesses on the O’Side Sips trail is 7-year-old Privateer Marketplace & Wine Bar in South Oceanside, co-owned by Charlie Anderson and his son, Sage Anderson. Charlie said he hasn’t seen many users of the O’Side Sips app in their business yet, but he’s thrilled the city has recognized the value of promoting this fast-growing industry. He also enjoys collaborating with his fellow “South O” hotel business owners, who he describes as a tight-knit community of lifelong friends.
“A lot of us grew up together and we all see the opportunity to grow Oceanside as a whole rather than just take our own slice of the pie,” said Anderson, who is also co-owner of Privateer Coal Fire Pizza, aged 18. 10 years. restaurant. “It helped us grow the city and the culture around food and libations and elevate the experience for the customer.”
Michelle Geller, Oceanside’s economic development manager and self-proclaimed restaurant lover, moved to the city in 2007. At the time, Oceanside’s restaurant community paled in comparison to that of nearby Carlsbad. Then, in 2008, San Diego’s Cohn Restaurant Group took a leap of faith and opened fine dining restaurant 333 Pacific near the foot of the Oceanside Pier. That same year, just blocks away, the city’s first local brewery, Breakwater Brewing, opened, and San Diego’s Harney Sushi opened a glitzy outlet in North County.
Geller said the success of these ventures proves that Oceanside residents and its tourists are willing to support more upscale, artisanal hospitality options. But the recession held back the industry’s expansion for many years.
Geller said a much larger wave of new openings began around 2017 and — despite the pandemic — continues to grow. Between 2018 and 2022, 43 sit-down restaurants (referred to as “casual dining”) opened in Oceanside.
These include Chef William Eick’s Matsu and Chef Roberto Alcocer’s Valle, two new gourmet restaurants offering a tasting menu only; Hi-Lo and High-Pie, two eclectic new restaurants run by F10 Creative, a successful Palm Springs hotel group; and Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, a regionally renowned adventurous sushi restaurant. Over the years, a dozen other craft breweries and wineries have opened in the city, including the award-winning urban cellar project Craft Coast Beer and Carruth Cellars’ Hangar76 near Oceanside Municipal Airport, which has opened in April. The city is also home to two craft distilleries: Oceanside Distillers, which opened in 2017, and Pacific Coast Spirits, which arrived in 2020.
Geller said the growth of chef-run restaurants, beer tasting rooms, wine bars, cafes and more over the past decade has made the city’s culinary industry one of main drivers of its economy.
According to a survey released in May by Dean Runyan Associates, travel spending in Oceanside grew 66% between 2020 and 2021, and the spending category that saw the biggest increase in that year was restaurants. In 2021, $152 million was spent at restaurants in the city, compared to $139 million at hotels in the city.
Anderson with Privateer said the rapid return of travel spending to Oceanside was a welcome relief for hospitality business owners after it was partially or fully closed in 2020. His Privateer pizzeria was named 2021 Small Business of the Year for the 36th State Senate District due to his pro bono efforts to coordinate COVID recovery efforts between local restaurants, the city chamber of commerce, and the city.
Many businesses are still struggling to recover, Anderson said, so a program like O’Side Sips can help new people discover new breweries and cafes in a crowded market.
Rushell Gordon opened Bliss Tea & Treats two years ago on Mission Avenue in Oceanside. Since then, she said the number of tea-themed cafes or shops in the city had “exploded”.
Gordon said she is grateful to Visit Oceanside, the city’s tourism division, for creating programs like O’Side Sips to steer visitors her way. Although she has established a loyal base of local walk-in customers who come to buy tea, Gordon said the majority of her tea business comes from out-of-town visitors.
“I haven’t noticed people coming from the app yet, but I think it’s a great idea that Visit Oceanside is leading the way in this regard. Most of our guests go there first,” a- she declared.
Whitehead and Steinmetz of South O Brewing say their business was designed during the pandemic. Neighbors who live a few doors down from each other, the men started brewing together in Whitehead’s garage to socialize over beers when all the bars were closed. Eventually, Whitehead built a miniature bar with four draft beers in his garage, where they invited friends and neighbors to sample their experimental beers.
With encouragement from their friends, they decided that South Oceanside needed its own brewery. So they opened South O and hired Maurey Fletcher (formerly of Booze Brothers Brewing and Golden Coast Mead) as head brewer.
South O Brewing specializes in making gluten-reduced dark ales and other traditional low-alcohol beers. The men say they have been blown away by the support from the community and are thrilled to see what the O’Side Sips program is doing for them.
“The hospitality industry is growing rapidly in Oceanside when it comes to breweries and wines,” Whitehead said. “It’s a good time to put this in place to encourage people to try new things. It’s a good program to get people moving again.
The O’Side Sips app features nine breweries, 10 cafes, five wineries or wine bars, two purveyors of distilled spirits, and three tea and juice shops. For the list of participants and how to download and use the app, go to visitoceanside.org/oside-sips. To learn more about the gO’side electric shuttle service, a free pilot program running through November, visit ridegoside.com.