Coast Highway in Oceanside is looking better than ever. Finally, the last few years have seen imaginative restaurants and pubs penetrate the coastal sprawl that has long been dragged down by uninspiring, if not shoddy, businesses. Arguably, the arrival of craft breweries - first popping up in other parts of town - has been the driving force behind Oceanside's changing tastes. Good beer should be in the company of good food, right?
There's no sign in front of BLVD Chinese Kitchen yet, so just look for the big, yellow Victorian house, aka the Hill Street Café & Gallery, and the entrance will be on your left. Another telling landmark that you're close by is the gargantuan Bagby Beer Co. just one block south.
The cozy, 35-seat restaurant has a tavern feel to it with wood detailing and a chalkboard listing rotating taps and daily food specials, like kung pao beef taquitos, that hint at the SoCal-Chinese fusion to come.
Know when you're ordering that portions aren't heaping here like your stereotypical Chinese joint. The brief menu delivers big flavors in tapas-like presentations meant for sharing - like four sweet and savory shortrib sliders ($13), each topped with a sliver of picked onion on Hawaiian rolls. But if Chinese takeout is what you crave, there's some of that, too, in a couple of noodle or fried rice options. Try the simply prepared barbecue pork chowfun ($8) with wok-fired wide rice noodles, tender five spice-seasoned meat, and crunchy bean sprouts.
Our table loved the grilled fish tacos ($9 for three) despite the Baja classic's presence on menus everywhere. Still, flavors are unique inside the street taco-sized corn tortilla with a thick chunk of grill-marked fish and cabbage slaw dressed in a rice wine vinaigrette. Another fish dish to try is the tempura fish 'n' chips that show up in a classic Chinese takeout box, bright red chili peppers protruding through the golden fry.
BLVD Chinese manages to have a flavor all its own, while unapologetically paying homage to Americanized classics, like the semi-ironic yet almost obligatory honey walnut shrimp, made with in-house candied nuts, what else?
Pro-tip: The daily specials are hot here, so plan an early visit should you desire these rotating, coveted items. 514 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside.
More to eat in Oceanside
Further north on Coast Highway, That Boy Good has been serving up soul food classics since 2011. Chicken and waffles are the way to go at this super friendly, down home joint, and they come in both appetizer and entrée sizes.
This version imparts country-fried chicken that's tender enough to cut with your fork and then stack with a bite of powder-sugar dusted waffle - a nice touch. Beware of the house Bloody Mary - it packs a spicy punch and comes topped with an entire barbecued pork rib. A hefty drink, and appetizer in one, it's appropriately served with a plate. 207 N Coast Highway, Oceanside, (760) 433-4227.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at email@example.com