The Lab Collaborative basks in the attention of Oceanside

Fried chicken sandwich with bourbon and habanero sauce

Fried chicken sandwich with bourbon and habanero sauce

If you’ve been paying attention to the travel media in the past year, you may have noticed a renewed appreciation for this three-mile stretch of surf and sand called Oceanside. It doesn’t matter that those who praise it are quick to call the blue-collar beach town “under the radar” or count “fast drive from LA” among its trappings. It is important that travel writers for such as Travel + Leisure as well as Los Angeles Times take note.

The lighting is likely due to the flood of new and newly refurbished hotels that have invested heavily in unlocking the potential of the surf town of Oside. One of them, the Mission Pacific hotel adjacent to the pier, went so far as to install a so-called Best shooter house on your property. That is, this Hyatt resort physically moved the entire beach cottage, which became a local landmark after appearing in the original 1986 Tom Cruise movie, and slapped it next to one of the hotel’s two restaurants. A few weeks ago it was converted into a shop selling hand pies.

But today I’m not writing about the Top Gun pie shop. While the hospitality money pouring into Oceanside may have generated new publicity, travel writers have rightly focused on the food and drink culture that has fully blossomed in recent years. It’s more than just building hotels, it’s a stream of inspired institutions that have truly transformed the city from a military town with beautiful beaches into a place to stay.

Jet Fuel coffee counter as part of The Lab Collaborative

In this regard, a combination of bar, restaurant and cafe, led by a group of the aforementioned locals, decided to join the fray. Right across the train tracks from the beach resorts, The Lab Collaborative offers a 24-hour menu of main courses, salads, hot sandwiches, signature cocktails, local beers and locally roasted coffees. Early press highlights the claim that its owner and management team brings together over a century of experience in the service industry.

This does not mean that they are old people, there are just a bunch of them. Each of the half-dozen people add their expertise, whether it’s food preparation, ingredient sourcing, mixology, or coffee making.

Linguini with seafood, mussels, shrimps and local fish

They built a relatively large corner building with a prominent island bar in the dining room that opens onto a spacious patio. It seems tailor-made for a sunny weekend or a wild night, but when it opened for weekday lunch, I found a strong team handling the establishment’s discrete duties: making cocktails, making espresso at the on-site coffee shop. a bar (branded as Jet Fuel Coffee Co.) recommending meals or preparing them in a kitchen visible through a series of large windows.

Main dishes range from wine-braised beef cheeks and grated pork belly to seafood linguine with shrimp, mussels and local fish. They are not intended for dinner – in fact they are available for lunch. But there are separate sections of the menu offering more mundane options like salads and hot sandwiches, including a burger, Philadelphia cheesesteak and birria.

While the many chatty managers and employees bustling around gave it a local hangout vibe, the place’s glitz and tourist-friendly proximity to the pier suggest a representation of a local, visitor-friendly lifestyle. . Indeed, a massive video wall in one corner showed a Lab Collaborative commercial. The video includes surfers on local waves, slow motion footage of a busy restaurant, restaurant work, slow motion footage of executives and associates smiling and laughing, preparing or mixing cocktails. The constantly running loop makes the locals the stars of their own show, rather than some building that was once used as a movie location.

The interior of the Lab Collective, including a video wall with an in-cycle commercial.

In a way, I think this place reflects the tension between the old blue-collar vision of Oceanside and its looming role as a “tourist hotspot.” Main courses are around $30, while salads and sandwiches are closer to $20. On the one hand, there are elevated main courses balanced with vegan alternatives. On the other hand, the fried chicken sandwich served on a plate of bourbon habanero sauce is a bestseller. Named Oside or No Side, I believe the dish is named after the slogan of the locals. But there’s an obvious double entendre here: the $21 sandwich doesn’t actually include a side dish. So a chicken, fries and beer sandwich will net you over 30 bucks before tips. For that kind of money, you can get a fried chicken caviar sandwich elsewhere in Oceanside.

Yes, we can thank inflation, rising ingredient prices, and service workers who are earning closer to their cost (and patronage of this establishment seems to keep a good number going). But it’s less like a place where longtime residents of Oceanside can flock to, more like how local workers can get a share of Oceanside’s newfound status.

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