Mexican fare comes to Del Mar Highlands plaza
Photos and Story By Kelley Carlson
Casa Sol y Mar is the newest hot spot in the Del Mar Highlands Town Center. The restaurant — whose name means “house of sun and sea” — is the latest endeavor from Diane Powers, owner of the Bazaar del Mundo Restaurant Group. Her quartet of dining establishments, which serve traditional Mexican cuisine, also includes Casa Guadalajara in Old Town, Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad and Casa de Pico in La Mesa.
“Our philosophy is to offer great value and a delightful Mexican dining experience,” Powers said in a news release. “This includes memorable flavors; abundant selections; high-quality and fresh ingredients; and a spirited, authentic environment that captures the essence of Mexican traditions.”
Guests immediately get a sense of Casa Sol y Mar’s festive atmosphere upon entering through the large wood-and-glass doors.High above is an iron chandelier, and a quick scan of the establishment also reveals an abundance of sun-themed accents, copper wall sculptures, Mexican folk art, handmade mirrors, and iron and rawhide lamps. The walls are painted in vivid tones of gold, orange and crimson.
In the main dining room, 35 glass lanterns and brass stars that were hand-crafted by Latino artists hang from a vaulted ceiling, creating a dramatic effect at night. Nearby, underneath a large painting depicting a cactus, is the best seat in the house, according to General Manager Eddie Zepeda — one that provides a view of almost the entire restaurant.
Guests often sip frosty margaritas and Mexican beers, take advantage of the full tequila selection (which includes Patron Burdeos), and nosh on appetizers such as Chorizo Sliders with sweet potato fries while watching sports on one of four TVs in the cantina.
A few steps away, there’s an open tortilla kitchen, responsible for much of the aroma in the restaurant. Patrons can watch these thin disks being formed from dough, rolled out and heated constantly throughout the day.
On the west side of the restaurant is a smaller dining area that seats 40 people, ideal for private parties. It’s offset by a series of arches. Outside is a patio that is reminiscent of a Mexican coastal garden, bordered with cacti and agaves. By day, guests are shaded from the sun by red-and-green umbrellas, and often feel at ease near the bubbling fountains. At night, the space becomes spirited, as strung lights brighten the vicinity.
But no matter where people sit, they may be serenaded by a trio of mariachis, consisting of members from the family group Cielito Lindo. They travel and twirl throughout the establishment from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
As for the menu, it contains a variety of regional entrees — some similar to Powers’ other restaurants, but others unique to Casa Sol y Mar. The fare is created from scratch, and the dressings, salsas and sauces are made fresh daily. There are vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, and the restaurant is sensitive to an individual’s dietary needs, Zepeda noted.
For a meal that is “light and refreshing,” Zepeda recommends the signature item, Ensalada Sol y Mar. It combines crab and shrimp with avocado slices, red bell pepper bits, tomatoes, queso Cotija and lettuce, and is served with chipotle dressing.
Zepeda also speaks highly of the Healthy-Grilled Salmon Salad, featuring flame-grilled fish on salad greens, topped with grapes, mangoes, oranges and avocado, and mango chipotle dressing.
Another favorite, which is a bit heavier, is the Chile Verde, consisting of pork carnitas sauteed in a tomatillo sauce with onions and green bell peppers, accompanied by arroz Mexicano (Mexican rice), frijoles de la olla (pinto beans) and tortillas. An additional entree to ponder is the Enchiladas de la Casa, according to Zepeda. It’s two enchiladas stuffed with sauteed shrimp, mild roasted peppers and onion, and jalapeño cheese sauce, and covered with a golden chile sauce.
For kids, the family-oriented restaurant has a special menu that was designed by Zepeda’s children. It offers favorites such as the Crispy Fish Burrito, Nacho Mac & Cheese and Rolled Tacos, and playfully includes English/Spanish translations of various ingredients.
Regardless of the day, patrons may consider capping off their meal with a dessert such as the Chocolate Lava Cake, created from a unique recipe by Executive Chef Elio Mendoza. The moist, slightly spicy cake gets its “kick” from cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and has melted chocolate “lava” sauce inside. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry top the confection.
Casa Sol y Mar
Address: 12865 El Camino Real, Del Mar Highlands
The Vibe: Casual, Relaxed, Festive
Signature Dish: Ensalada Sol y Mar
Open Since: 2013
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
Phone: (858) 792-4100
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Casa Sol y Mar’s Mexican Chocolate Lava Cake
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