When you open a restaurant and bar just a stone's throw from Camp Pendleton, it would be silly not to consider the hungry hordes of young military men and women who make up a large portion of the Oceanside community. Helmed by Navy vet chef Mark Millwood, That Boy Good (207 N. Coast Hwy.), understands it has a unique (and transient) audience to serve, as well as an opportunity to be a part of the burgeoning Oceanside restaurant scene.
With a large portion of our military hailing from the south, like him, Millwood wanted to create a place that had the creaky feel of a bluesy ol' juke joint. Walk inside and it feels like you've entered a dusty bar and kitchen that's been around for ages, instead of the modest year-and-a-half That Boy Good has been operating on the northern end of the Coast Highway.
I asked Millwood if he sees a lot of homesick Marines in his place. That's an affirmative. "Some of them say it feels so much like home, they don't have to go home to see Mom," he says. Smartly, he reminds the young men he'll be there when they return—Mom needs a visit.
There's a lack of decent fried chicken in San Diego County. That Boy Good is a bright spot in that department. The plate of fried chicken thighs and waffles is finger-lickin' good, except you'll be too busy eating to bother stopping to lick anything. Chicken thighs are naturally moist, and after being fried to crispy, caramel-colored perfection, the juicy, steaming meat contrasts beautifully with the salty, crunchy, fried outer shell. I'm on a chicken-skin-eating binge, and That Boy Good doesn't disappoint; the waffles are the perfect absorbent side for the chicken. These aren't waffles for the sake of trend or gimmick; they're barely sweet and there to provide the soft, chewy contrast to the rest of the plate.
So many fries taste like an after-thought, which is why the lava-hot, well-seasoned fries that come with most meals are such a yummy surprise here. Millwood let me in on his secret: They're made just the way any fancy French place might whip up overpriced pommes frites . With a pile of twice-fried perfection on your plate, it's hard to feel grouchy or homesick.
The pulled pork doesn't try anything new or fancy. This is slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone pig with a savory sauce that doesn't overdo it on the sweetness. There's a hint of vinegary heat in there that keeps it from being gloppy and cloying.
Like any respectable barbecue joint, the sides are superstars in their own right. I had the chance to peek into the kitchen when the mac and cheese was being prepped and was delighted by the mammoth bowl of sharp cheddar waiting to be mixed with Velveeta (because 'Murica, damn it!) and turned into a luscious sauce.
Even if you're not a homesick Marine, That Boy Good delivers on making you feel like you've found your secret Southern hangout. Just save me some chicken skin.