By Kelley Carlson
Carmel Valley’s Iris Food and Spirits reflects the roots of its owners Tommy and Edd Golden. The restaurant is named for their mother’s favorite flower, and the showy plant is the main focus of the decor. Pictures of the iris hang from the purple walls, and tiles with its image are seen behind the bar. The carpeted floor has a floral print pattern, and the species can be found blooming around the establishment’s exterior.
Yet Iris Food and Spirits also has a bit of East Coast flair — the staff wears Boston team sports caps as part of their uniform in honor of the Golden brothers’ hometown.
Described by Tommy Golden as “neighborhood-y,” Iris is a destination restaurant for many customers, but there are quite a few regulars.
“People will come in wearing shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, and buy $150 bottles of wine; they feel comfortable,” Golden said.
Diners have a choice of sitting in the main dining room, at the bar, or on the patio that offers views of the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. The dining room and patio can each accommodate 45 people; the bar seats 10.
Golden recommends reservations — especially in winter when the patio is covered but not enclosed and not open for seating if it rains. However, there are heaters for the occasional chilly evening.
Dinner is served daily at Iris, with lunch during weekdays. Children receive their own special menu along with crayons and paper to pass the time. The grown-ups can order specialty cocktails made with the establishment’s own syrups, such as the Iris Petal, which incorporates the actual plant. They may also choose from a number of wines or brews, many of which are discounted during happy hour, held from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
The restaurant’s menu is primarily American cuisine; the signature dish is Iris Cassoulet, similar to the French Cassoulet except chicken is used instead of duck making it “lighter,” Golden said. His personal favorite menu item: his namesake, Tommy’s Pork and Beans.
Local organics are used in dishes whenever possible, Golden added. Much of the greens come from San Marcos and Chino’s Vegetable Shop in Rancho Santa Fe, while shellfish are obtained from Carlsbad Aquafarm.
Iris occasionally holds special events — the wine dinners and beer dinners are usually limited to 40 people and often have waiting lists. Tuesdays are Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) Nights, where the corkage fee is waived for up to four bottles. The restaurant does limited catering in the area, mostly in Carmel Valley and Del Mar, Golden said.
Iris Food and Spirits
2334 Carmel Valley Road, San Diego
Casual, Romantic, Fine Dining
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday
5 p.m. to close daily
4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday
On The Menu Recipe:
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollaight.com. This week: