Finding Solace in the Local Dining Scene

Acclaimed Urban Solace sister restaurant joins Pacific Station. Published on: 08/15/2011 by Anastacia Grenda

Last Thursday, the staff at Solace and the Moonlight Lounge was moving at top speed. That night would be the first dinner service in advance of the restaurant’s Aug. 15 opening in its Pacific Station space and there was still much work to be done, as seen on the to-do lists scrawled on posterboard and hung on the walls. Staffers in gray shirts prepped pepper shakers and swept floors, while others managed an incoming load of chairs destined for the upstairs lounge. Through the dining room’s open window into the kitchen, chefs in black shirts could be glimpsed already hard at work.

The flurry of activity probably couldn’t happen fast enough for local foodies, who have been anticipating the opening of the sister restaurant to acclaimed North Park eatery Urban Solace since chef-owner Matt Gordon signed the lease to come here more than two years ago. With Solace and the Moonlight Lounge now open for business, expect crowds flocking to see if it’s been worth the wait.

Gordon will be ready to welcome them. He says he knew Encinitas would be a prime spot for another restaurant. At Urban Solace, Gordon and his staff learned by chatting informally with guests that more patrons came there from Encinitas than any other North County city. And when he began discussions about opening at Pacific Station, he had a familiar feeling.

“When we first identified our location in North Park in December 2005, it was early in the gentrification process there. There were some new things coming in, and we felt a resurgence in the air,” says Gordon, whose wife, Young-Mi, partners with him in the restaurants. “Up here, there is a completely different resurgence. Encinitas is far from what North Park was, but this is the first new development project like this in 22 years. We felt a charge in the air.”

Gordon and crew are aiming to amplify that charge in Solace and the Moonlight Lounge. The space is kind of coastal industrial—soft mauve and blue walls offset wood beams on the ceiling and a black staircase to the second floor. Wood-carved art from the David Alan Collection in Solana Beach and abstract paintings soften the angles of the rooms. The lower level has been divided into different dining spaces, including a chef’s table adjacent to that kitchen window. Upstairs is the lounge, where, as Gordon says, the only thing missing are giant TV screens. Instead, the focus is on the company you keep with communal tables, outdoor deck seating to soak up the view of Coast Highway 101 and a handsome bar. Light fixtures are fashioned from repurposed wine bottles; the restaurant takes that sustainability up another notch by trading the use of some bottles for 12 wines on tap. A dozen beers are also on tap, and the cocktails are made from fresh mixers.

Urban Solace built its reputation on quality comfort food, and while some dishes will make their way to Encinitas—such as the cheddar and chive biscuits, the beef cheek, and the watermelon salad in season—Gordon says the new restaurant gives him the chance to spread his wings. There is a healthy selection of seafood, such as the mustard-crusted local halibut served with a farro stew and toasted black pepper sauce or the sumac-rubbed wild salmon with toasted quinoa, spiced butter sauce, and roasted lemon, plus offerings from the raw bar upstairs. Other entrees include grass-fed ribeye, leg of duck confit, and roasted Jidori chicken. While the Urban Burger boasts Niman Ranch chuck in the patty, vegetarians aren’t left out, thanks to the housemade quinoa-hazelnut veggie burger. Desserts include seasonal items such as berry-peach shortcake and more timeless options such as peanut butter ‘n’ chocolate crème brulee.

But just as important as the menu is the atmosphere, which is why all those staffers were so focused on the last-minute details.

“What I’ve noticed in coming up here is that everyone knows everyone else; there is a real sense of community,” Gordon says. Combining a welcoming space with his trademark culinary sensibility, Gordon believes “we have something creative to offer [Encinitas] that’s new.”

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  • Brunch Callout

  • Hours Callout

    Open for Lunch at 11:30am

    Mon - Tues, Kitchen closes at 9:00pm
    Wed - Thurs, Kitchen closes at 10:00pm
    Friday Kitchen closes at 11pm

    Brunch begins at:
    10:30am Sat. & 9:30am Sun.

    Saturday Kitchen closes at 11 pm
    Sunday Kitchen at 9pm

    The Moonlight Lounge will remain open one hour after dinner.

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