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EAT Gastropub review

A gastro burger is served with house-made pickles

A gastro burger is served with house-made pickles at EAT Gastropub in Oceanside. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

With its own greenhouse that sends forth herbs and produce, EAT Gastropub gives new meaning to the phrase "locally grown." Along with a repertoire of updated comfort classics, craft beers and imaginative cocktails, the aspirational new place delivers a surprisingly high caliber of cooking. And at diner-style prices, no less.

But just try finding a diner that serves such vibrant dips (guacamole, cauliflower-Parmesan, feta-spinach and hummus) alongside delicate taro chips and tortilla strips, everything made from scratch. Chef John Maher also wins big with his tangy, smoky, meaty "Buffacue" wings, done with a nuanced dry rub, BBQ and Buffalo sauces.

At lunch, a colorful salad of watermelon and microgreens unleashes rapid-fire bursts of flavor. A juicy, savory turkey burger, presented on a wood plank, is paired with superior hand-cut fries and house-made pickles. So it's a shock when the intriguing "hamdog" (burger and hot dog combo on a bun) features an overcooked and underseasoned beef patty. You may not care that it's made with house-ground, grass-fed, organic Piedmontese cattle. Another letdown: deep-fried mini duck tacos that, despite the inclusion of hoisin, sriracha, pickled onions and pineapple, come off as less than the sum of their parts.

But, oh, what a homey and delectable chicken potpie Maher makes. It's served in a cast-iron pan and capped with a buttery (though, admittedly, not house-made) puff pastry dome. Also nostalgically satisfying is a meat loaf TV dinner, served in a compartmentalized metal tray that also holds mashed potatoes, gravy and bright vegetables. Another down-home favorite is mahogany-crusted, moist fried chicken with thick homestyle waffles. And there's mac and cheese laced with smoky Tasso ham.

Even after all that, you won't want to miss dessert from pastry chef Christine Gangitano, who aims high and hits the mark. Her chocolate tasting feeds at least two and includes an ethereal hazelnut sphere, brownie with caramelized cornflakes, frozen raspberry "pop" and more. But the real showstopper is Gangitano's moist, seductive olive oil cake crowned with house-made vanilla ice cream. In the spirit of EAT Gastropub, it's gastronomy both simple and grand.

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