New Death by Tequila restaurant offers Baja flavors with a twist


Inspired by their surfing and culinary visits to Baja’s coastline and its Valle de Guadalupe, Chad and Jessica Mestler have brought a taste of Baja to Encinitas this summer.

Death By Tequila, which opened on Coast Highway in mid-July, serves Baja-inspired cuisine as well as a bar menu with more than 80 tequilas, 30 mezcals, beers from Tijuana and wines from the grape-growing Valle de Guadalupe.

“Our vision for Death By Tequila was to bring the flavors of Baja together with the energy of downtown and surf culture of Encinitas,” said Jessica Mestler.

Death By Tequila, which is nicknamed DxT, is the first restaurant for the Carlsbad couple, who have roots in the business world. Chad is the president and CEO of Helvetica Group, a real estate investment banking firm in Carlsbad. Jessica is the former marketing and promotions manager for Playboy Enterprises.

To help craft the restaurant’s culinary vision, they hired “Top Chef: All-Stars” alumnus Angelo Sosa, who moved to Carlsbad in 2016 after nearly 16 years in New York City.

Sosa’s background includes stints working for famed Michelin-starred chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse, appearances on “Top Chef” seasons 7 and 8, and appearances on “Iron Chef America” and “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Sosa, who grew up in New England and learned to cook from his Dominican dad, opened several restaurants in New York and Las Vegas that celebrate both his Latino heritage and the years he spent living and cooking in Asia. He was the kitchen visionary behind the upscale Añejo Mexican restaurants in New York City and he co-wrote the 2015 cookbook “Healthy Latin Eating” with Angie Martinez, a Latina radio/TV personality.

The Death By Tequila menu, which Sosa created with chef Ben McBrien, is billed as modern Mexican, but many dishes are accented with Asian flavors and ingredients. One example is his ahi tuna crudo starter, which is served with jicama julienne in a bowl filled with a broth of coconut milk, kaffir lime, cilantro and chile oil that he encourages diners to drink after consuming the raw fish.

Sosa said he moved to North County from New York City to escape the hustle-bustle of city life. His daily routine now involves sunshine and meditation, as well as visits to local farms to buy produce for the nightly menu.

Since Encinitas residents are known for their devotion to healthy cuisine, Sosa said all the ingredients on the dinner menu are organic, gluten-free and sustainable, and all sauces, condiments and even the chorizo sausage are made in-house. He even offers a side dish of the city’s unofficial dish, quinoa, served with coconut, pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

The bar’s tequilas menu includes a range of blanco, reposado, anejo and extra anejo tequilas, which are made from only blue agave, and mezcals, a similar spirit made from a variety of agave plants. There are fresh fruit margaritas, tequila and mezcal cocktails and draft, canned and bottled Baja beers and Valle wines.

The restaurant’s interior was designed by Cindy Courson. One wall in the dining room is devoted to a 25-by-8-foot mural by local Cuban-born artist Juan Marante, who paints under the name El Gran Tocayo.

Death By Tequila is now open for dinner and bar service only. Brunch service will be added in the coming months.

Death By Tequila

Where: 569 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas.

Hours: Bar opens at 3 p.m.; dinner service begins at 5 p.m. nightly.

Phone: (760) 230-6108