Two iconic San Diego buildings find new life as quick-service restaurants
The ‘Top Gun’ house in Oceanside and the former Mission Bay Visitor Center have been revamped into charming outdoor eateries
After many years of being boarded up and abandoned, two of San Diego County’s most iconic buildings have been given new life in recent months as quick-service eateries.
On May 6, the historic Victorian cottage in Oceanside known as the “Top Gun” house reopened after a 36-year closure as the new home of a nostalgic hand pie shop called Famous HIGH-pie. And last October, the long-shuttered Mission Bay Visitor Center off Interstate 5 — vacant since 2010 — came back to life as the Mission Bay Beach Club, a multipurpose tourist-friendly activities center that includes a charming walk-up vegan foods café called Superbloom.
Here’s a look at the refreshed buildings and what they’re serving:
Superbloom at the Mission Bay Beach Club
The building: This shell-shaped, spire-roofed building, designed by the late architect Richard J. Lareau in 1969, was originally staffed by tourism officials promoting bay activities before it shuttered and fell into disrepair. It took more than a decade for the building to finally be renovated and repurposed by a new lessee. Besides a bike rental stand, gift shop, vineyard and large patio area, there’s Superbloom, a walk-up café window serving an eclectic menu of vegan food items, coffees and drinks made by San Diego purveyors. The grounds have been planted with wine grapes and flowers and hidden speakers in the landscape play upbeat music at this popular new destination.
Food and drink: Superbloom’s specialty is coffee drinks, creatively flavored lattes made with oat milk, creative juice drinks and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Its food menu is limited. There’s are vegan pastries from Split Bakehouse and pre-packaged oatmeal, chai parfaits, cauliflower hummus dip, pretzels with sunflower cheddar cheese and chips. Recently, a line of avocado toasts (which are not all vegan) have been added to the menu and are prepared under an adjacent pop-up tent.
What to order? Start with the delicious Sunset Lemonade ($4.50), a refreshing tart-sweet drink that includes passionfruit juice, or the unique Fluffer Nutter Latte ($6.50), with peanut butter and banana flavoring. Of the toasts, the Goat Toast is delicious, with its creamy avocado, goat cheese, microgreens and balsamic glaze ($11). Gluten-free bread and coconut bacon options are available for the toasts.
Hours and location: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at 2688 E. Mission Bay Drive, San Diego. (858) 201-7551. missionbaybeachclub.com
The Famous HIGH-pie shop at the’Top Gun’ house
The building: Originally known as the Graves House because of its original owner, Dr. Henry Graves, the 500-square-foot Victorian home was one of several cottages built along Pacific Street in downtown Oceanside in the 1880s. Over the years, as the downtown area’s commercial district grew, all of the other cottages were torn down. The home acquired its nickname when it was featured in one scene of the 1986 Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” as the home of Cruise’s on-screen girlfriend. To protect the home from demolition in the 1980s, the city of Oceanside purchased it, and for most of the past 40 years, it sat vacant on Pacific Street until S.D. Malkin Properties made a deal with the city for the 2.75-acre oceanfront property to build the Mission Pacific Hotel. After relocating the house temporarily to build the hotel, Malkin moved the cottage back to its Pacific Street lot in the hotel’s beachfront courtyard and spent nearly $1 million renovating the building to its former glory. The property is now leased by Palm Springs restaurateur Tara Lazar, who has decorated its interior extensively with “Top Gun” film memorabilia and whimsical retro Victoriana knick-knacks.
Food and drink: The Americana-style menu is very small, offering deep-fried apple and cherry hand pies reminiscent of McDonald’s old apple pies, but cooked to order and without any artificial ingredients or preservatives. The pies ($3) can be ordered with house-made cheese, chocolate, sea salt caramel and lemon curd dipping sauces ($2 each), or a la mode, where they’re served on a stick with an ice cream center ($5). There’s also coffee, soft drinks and other light beverages.
What to order? Go for the old-fashioned Apple HIGH-pie, which has a light, fresh taste that’s not too sweet, and the sea salt caramel dipping sauce. Add a cup of coffee, which is only $1.
Hours and location: Noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays. Closed Tuesdays. 250 N. Pacific St., Oceanside. famoushighpie.com
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