Aug. 9 2013 07:12 PM

Craft cocktails, savory meatballs and a damn good sandwich

Priority Public House’s chicken sandwich
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

With all the restaurant-related activity going on north of Highway 56, it's a challenge for a food writer with a North County beat to stay on top of all the new eateries. This is a delightful problem to have, of course. My calendar is packed with places to visit, and it's exciting to see such vibrancy after the last few years of economic hand-wringing. And regardless of what we've all heard about the challenges of opening a restaurant, I'm pleasantly optimistic about Priority Public House's chances.

I've written before about the changing energy in Leucadia. Many residents are content with its funky, sleepy stasis. Others want to see new development and more change. I think Priority Public House (576 N. Coast Hwy. 101) might just be the place to bring those two camps together. It's fresh and hip but has the funky, neighborhood feel that defines this northern pocket of Encinitas.

Everything is painted black, from the outside of the building to the interior walls. There's a studied-hipster vibe to its styling, with antique scales and cameras perched on shelves in a way that's a little bit contrived but manages to be homey instead of pretentious. PPH feels distinctly Leucadian, a place to hang out and linger. 

Noshing options abound, from burgers to salads to mac 'n' cheese. On a recent lunchtime visit, we pillaged the appetizers, devouring both the tangy, gorgonzola-topped Priority Fries and the lesser-but-still-tasty sweet-potato fries.

The turkey-meatball bites were a salty kick in the pants. The hot pile of lumps comes glazed in soy sauce and lemon grass. The lemongrass gives the bites a bright, herbal note that tastes oh-so-good with the hearty meat. Be advised: These are intensely savory. They left other things tasting a bit under-seasoned, but I would venture to say that it was merely my taste buds on a sodium overload.

Putting a fried or poached egg on top of things is a delicious but messy trend. PPH's charbroiled chicken-breast sandwich looks gorgeous when it arrives at your table, stacked high with arugula, tomatoes and a glorious mass of Gruyere, mushrooms and caramelized onions. Then there's that over-easy egg. Two bites into this sandwich, you'll have yolk running down your chin and fingers, along with onion fond and chicken juice, but unless you're on a first date or a job interview, embrace the piggery and enjoy. This is a damn good sandwich. 

It delights me to no end that the craft-cocktail scene in San Diego is elbowing its way to prominence just as fiercely as the burly beer crowd. Priority Public House does indeed have an exceptional beer menu for those of you who prefer the less-fussy hocus-pocus of cocktailery. Lightning, Hess, LaTrappe, Manzanita—it's a great beer lineup. But I liked diving into the cocktails from Blind Tiger Cocktail Co., particularly the delicious combination of bourbon, blueberries and lemon.

Pack your calendar with all that North County has to offer, but make sure you prioritize.

Write to and Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennymontyinsd.


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