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New Switchboard restaurant making a strong connection in Oceanside

The Hawaiian Plate with Korean beef bulgogi at Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
The Hawaiian Plate with Korean beef bulgogi, one of most popular dishes on the menu at year-old Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Year-old downtown eatery and bar serves delicious, affordably priced Hawaiian-Korean fare

Over the past 18 months, a handful of new restaurants have opened in downtown Oceanside, including the Switchboard Restaurant & Bar, an all-day eatery in a historic Coast Highway building that’s serving up delicious and affordably priced Hawaiian-Korean fare.

O’siders are known for supporting local businesses, and Switchboard owner Kevin Shin, a Culver City fire captain, Marine veteran and longtime Oceanside resident, has returned their affection. In the 14 months since Switchboard opened, Shin has raised money for local fallen firefighters’ families, donated meals to the hungry, hosted free concerts by local musicians and honored the city’s history with the restaurant’s name.

In the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Oceanside’s 1927-era DeWitt Hotel was commandeered by the government to serve as an emergency telephone switchboard center for the future Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, which was hastily constructed for combat training in 1942. Eventually, the DeWitt became the Dolphin Hotel, which closed after a fire 2015. In 2018, Hilton revamped and reopened the property as the boutique Fin Hotel. In homage to the building’s wartime history, Shin has installed rows of brass toggle switches along the bar and up one wall at Switchboard.

The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar at the Fin Hotel in Oceanside.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Born to Korean immigrant parents in Los Angeles, Shin said that he grew up frequently visiting relatives in Hawaii, and all of his wife’s family are Hawaiian, so his favorite food is a fusion of both cuisines. Switchboard’s menu, created by former Brigantine and Chart House chef Michael Mitchem, incorporates Korea’s spices, barbecue and pickling techniques with the traditional dishes of Hawaii, including adding the garnish of a Hawaiian purple Dendrobium orchid bloom to every plate.

The tender K-Pop spicy fried chicken sandwich ($14) is a buttermilk-battered breast topped with spicy “Gojuchang Seoul” sauce and pineapple slaw on a Hawaiian sweet bun. The $15 Hawaiian Plate, a standard dish on many island menus, comes with protein choices that include Kalua pork or Korean beef bulgogi. And one of Hawaii’s most popular dishes, the loco moco — white rice topped with a burger patty, fried egg and brown gravy — is spiced up with Gojuchang gravy ($16).

Diver scallops, rice and carrot dish at Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
Diver scallops with spicy Thai red curry sauce, yuzu pearls, macadamia forbidden black rice and jalapeno ponzu braised carrots at Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Most menu items are priced between $9 and $16. But on the weekend nights, Mitchem usually offers a higher-end dinner special. On a recent Sunday, that special was Maine diver scallops with spicy Thai red curry sauce, yuzu pearls, macadamia forbidden black rice and jalapeno ponzu-braised carrots ($30). The tender seared scallops and savory curry sauce were elevated by the pop of acid in the yuzu and ponzu, and the slightly spicy cooked carrots added a satisfying crunch.

Switchboard’s bar has just four beer taps, so its focus is on fresh fruit juice-infused island-inspired cocktails priced from $12 to $16.

With the support of The Fin Hotel and the city, Shin opened a second business at the hotel on July 27. Adjacent to Switchboard, North Coast Roastery is a gourmet coffee house offering “strong and bold” house-roasted beans inspired by his mom’s hard-working entrepreneurial spirit. And in late December/early January, Shin plans to open a third space at the hotel: KNVS Bar (pronounced “canvas”), a sushi bar and rotating gallery spotlighting local artists.

The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar

Hours: 6 a.m. to close (9-10 p.m.) daily

Where: 131 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside

Phone: (442) 266-2781

Online: theswitchboardrestaurant.com

Seared ahi wonton crisps at Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
Seared ahi wonton crisps topped with pineapple ginger arugula, kimchi aioli and sweet soy glaze at Switchboard Restaurant & Bar in Oceanside.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)


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