608 chef crosses street for Mission Ave’s kitchen

William Eick photographed Tuesday at Mission Avenue Bar & Grill in Oceanside, where he now serves as executive chef.
(Pam Kragen/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Over the past 18 months, Cameron Braselton had noticed a trend in his business at Mission Avenue Bar & Grill in Oceanside.

Though his 3-1/2-year-old neighborhood pub on Mission Avenue was thriving, many customers were coming in just for cocktails and dining instead across the street at 608 restaurant.

Chef William Eick opened 608 in mid-2016 and quickly earned a steady loyal local following for dishes like his braised short rib, fried chicken, crispy shrimp and burger with house-made fermented chili aioli.

But Eick, 28, had problems with his landlord, who he said refused to make needed building improvements. He didn’t have a liquor license to serve cocktails, and his restaurant lacked the inviting, laid-back beachy vibe of Braselton’s 100-seat restaurant, which is known simply as Mission Ave.

The two men were friends, often drinking and dining at each others’ establishments on a weekly basis. And when Braselton lost his chef six months ago, he reached out to Eick to consult on a new menu. From that seed grew an idea for a permanent collaboration.

On Feb. 28, Eick closed 608 and the next day he joined Braselton’s team as executive chef at Mission Ave. Eick said his goal is to upgrade the menu to make it match the quality of bar manager Guy Marino’s cocktail, beer and wine program. The bar serves more than 180 varieties of whiskey and bourbon.

Braselton, a 33-year-old Oceanside resident, said customers are responding well to the change, since many were fans of 608.

“People in Oceanside are interested in eating more adventurous food and that’s only getting stronger,” Braselton said. “They’re looking for something more exciting and they really like to support local businesses.”

Braselton said the transition is being done gradually with sensitivity to his regular customers. Mission Ave’s clientele is blue-collar and almost entirely local. They appreciate quality farm-to-table food but may not want to pay fine-dining prices.

So, Eick’s fried chicken breast recipe is now being done as a less-expensive chicken wing dish. His crispy shrimp recipe has been adapted into a calamari appetizer. His burger and short rib have transferred over intact.

As at 608, Eick is buying locally farmed produce from Oceanside’s Cyclops Farms and other venues, and he’s making many items in-house like the sour cream, aioli, barbeque and hot sauces and miso paste.

While he won’t be doing fixed-price chef menus at Mission Avenue, Eick said he’s upgrading the menu for its weekly Taco Tuesdays and Whiskey Wednesdays.

For example this week’s Taco Tuesday menu included new options like short rib tacos and pork belly with cashew molé tacos. He’s also planning to host monthly collaboration dinners with other local chefs.

Eick said that being freed from management duties will give him a little more time to expand his foraging program. His goal is to incorporate the flavors of native Southern California plants — like wild mustard, watercress and sorrel — into his recipes.

“So far, it’s been real good,” Eick said. “Everyone is real excited.”

Mission Avenue Bar & Grill

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays.

Where: 711 Mission Ave., Oceanside

Phone: (760)-637-2222