Feb. 14 2014 05:34 PM

Spanish-influenced menu and community vibe overshadow small kinks

2-19 fork art
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

Have you guys ever been up to San Elijo Hills? I'm not going to lie—there's a slightly Stepford vibe to its pretty, planned layout. But my 30-something-mom side does love a "Community" with a capital "C," and San Elijo Hills, an enclave of San Marcos, has it in spades. You can fight it all you want, but when you reach a certain demographic, the suburbs do have a hypnotic allure. Plus, playgrounds!

But the biggest problem with the 'burbs is the mind-numbing uniformity of everything. That's why I love finding little nooks of originality—eateries that are trying to raise the standard for what we should be demanding in a family-friendly restaurant. On a busy corner in the heart of San Elijo Hills' town square sits Café Stoked.

Café Stoked (1215 San Elijo Road) has a great selection of coffee, pastries and smoothies, including cold-brewed "Kyoto" style coffee that slowly drips, for 14 hours, through a twisty glass tube into the coffee pot below. Alas, the day I visited, there was no cold-brewed coffee to be had since the place had been closed the day before and no one came in to start the painfully slow process. I'm sure it's delectable, although a little part of me thinks we're sort of eating our own brains in the quest to get the perfect cup of coffee. Dear God, just pour some hot water over it and move on with your lives. But I digress.

There's a Spanish influence to many of the menu items, from patatas bravas to a Spanish tortilla—Spain's version of a frittata. As someone who spent time living in Spain, I'm a tortilla snob, so I was pretty happy with what Stoked had to offer. The eggs were tender, the potatoes soft and the tortilla served at room temp—none of this hot-out-of-the-pan business.

I also dug the grilled sandwich featuring a generous pile of salty jamón Serrano, creamy, warm goat cheese and sticky fig jam. The ubiquitous grilled-chicken sandwich on every lunch menu known to man is the bane of my existence, so this sophisticated delight made my mouth and tummy quite happy.

All was not perfect, however. The day I visited, not only was the Kyoto coffee not ready, but the bowl of chili I tried was lukewarm at best. The flavors were quite good, but not being hot enough is unacceptable. This was the day after a holiday, and although I'm certainly empathetic to the slow, grinding restart after a well-deserved day off, those missed details can be quite frustrating for paying customers. 

But I root for Café Stoked, and like scrappy Nutmeg Bakery and Café in Sabre Springs, it's working hard to create a family-friendly neighborhood hangout that doesn't have to sacrifice quality ingredients and unique flavors. Suburbanites should demand more than Pat & Oscar's and its horrible breadsticks. (Yes, they are horrible—stop lying to yourself.)

The next time you're lost and afraid in suburbia, know that bright spots do exist. Let's meet up on the playground.

Write to jennym@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennymontyinsd.


  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28