Carlsbad’s Jeune et Jolie picked to Esquire’s best new restaurants list for 2019
The year-old French bistro on State Street was praised for its charming cuisine and impeccable service and food
Carlsbad’s 11-month-old French bistro Jeune et Jolie got an early Christmas present Wednesday with news that it has been selected to Esquire magazine’s list of the 22 best new restaurants in America for 2019.
Esquire’s food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier ranked Jeune et Jolie in 11th place, praising the 90-seat nouvelle French eatery’s art deco decor, polished service and impeccable food by executive chef Andrew Bachelier. It was the only San Diego County restaurant to make this year’s Esquire list.
Restaurant owner John Resnick was bowled over by the honor, praising his staff in an emailed statement Wednesday morning.
“Wow, wow, wow! It would be difficult to convey the level of competing humility and pride we are feeling right now,” Resnick wrote. “Chef Bachelier and the entire team at Jeune really love what they do, and I really think that — as cliche as it may be to say — our guests can feel and taste that love. To be recognized for this on a national stage, and to be placed alongside so many insanely good restaurants, is just too cool.”
Jeune et Jolie is the second restaurant Resnick has opened with Bachelier on Carlsbad’s State Street since 2016. Their first, the rustic open-fire-focused Campfire, earned a Bib Gourmand honor last spring from the Michelin Guide, but Jeune et Jolie was passed over. At the time, many industry locals thought Jeune et Jolie may have missed out on a Michelin star because it was too new to have an established service and cuisine track record.
Resnick came up with the idea for Jeune et Jolie to showcase Bachelier’s elevated culinary skills. The North County chef, who is of French and Mexican heritage, spent five years working at the county’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, Addison at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Resort.
Gordinier — a former food writer for the New York Times who’s now on tour for his latest book, “Hungry,” about his culinary travels with famed Danish chef René Redzepi — said he visits hundreds of restaurants nationwide each year to come up with his picks. He took over the Esquire list in 2017 following the death of its former writer, Joshua Ozersky, in 2015.
A Pasadena native who grew up in Southern California, Gordinier bucks the habits of many other listmakers by consistently recognizing California chefs and restaurants, including in 2018 when he picked San Diego’s El Jardin led by chef Claudette Zepeda. That restaurant has since been reinvented as a lower-priced cantina-style eatery with a different chef team.
“I am, to some degree, wired for California restaurants,” Gordinier said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think that most of the creativity in America is coming from the West Coast.”
He said the criteria he uses to make his picks is to try and find restaurants that have compelling menus that reflect the distinctive style of their chefs, regardless of the city, style of cuisine or menu prices.
“With any of these chefs, I’m looking for a singular, distinctive voice. It was the same for Andrew that it was with Claudette: An individual perspective, and that’s rare. It’s like a band with a sound that can’t be compared to anyone else,” Gordinier said.
Gordinier, 52, said he wasn’t in list-scouting mode when he and his wife, Lauren, drove down from Laguna Beach earlier this year for a date night at Jeune et Jolie. He described the restaurant as a bright oasis after driving down darkened roads through Camp Pendleton and a stretch of Coast Highway just north of State Street. He had heard great things about the menu but was stunned by its music, decor, hospitality, food and overall ambience.
“We were charmed by the originality, the delightful space, the very attentive service and we loved the reel-to-reel stereo trilling Gallic songbirds,” he said. “Then we were blown away by the food. I had a feeling it would be good, but I didn’t anticipate it would be this exquisite. It struck me that Andrew’s food could be served on a tasting menu in Paris or Tokyo. He’s doing high-level cooking that also manages to be bright, fun and approachable. I felt first, unequivocally, that I love it and I want to go back. Then, also, that it’s probably not on the radar of a lot of the food media ... so it would be a nice surprise to add to the list.”
Resnick said that Jeune et Jolie has been a big investment, with its 1920s-inspired decor by Bells & Whistles, high-end kitchen equipment and a large staff to handle the labor-intensive French cuisine. But it is beginning to pay off.
“We have been open for just under a year, and in that year we have all taken a lot of risks with this restaurant. We are trying to walk that razor’s edge between ‘fine dining’ and ‘neighborhood restaurant.’ We strive to create exceptional food and drink with polished service, but we are just bored if it isn’t really fun. We want our guests to love what they are eating and drinking, but more than anything, to just have a damn good time,” Resnick said.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but we have done it because we believe this is a special place, and because nothing brings us more joy than when our guests feel the same way,” he continued. “We can’t wait to continue to share that joy with every guest that comes through our doors. Now: champagne!”
In his writeup for Esquire, Gordinier wrote of Jeune et Jolie: “Nothing surprised me more this year than cruising along a dark patch of the Pacific Coast Highway and finding myself in a space as sexy as some next-wave bistronomy outpost in Provence. Gallic songbirds trilled from an old reel-to-reel machine. Wine and bread and butter and fresh seafood arrived in gentle waves, followed by artful constructions of vegetables and fish — courtesy of chef Andrew Bachelier, whose roots are Mexican and French — that made me wonder how some of the finest Cali-French cooking in the U.S. can be found a few exits south of a military base.”
He ranked Seven Reasons, a Latin American restaurant in Washington, D.C., as his No. 1 choice, followed by Nari, a Thai restaurant in San Francisco, and Bon Temps in Los Angeles as No. 3. Other California spots that made the list are Sushi Note in Sherman Oaks and Alta Adams and Joy, both in Los Angeles. Dear John’s in Culver City was named “Pop-Up of the Year” and chef Lincoln Carson of Bon Temps was named Rising Star of the Year.
Jeune et Jolie is at 2659 State St. in Carlsbad.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.