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.