A musician plays acoustic guitar ballads on the patio, while servers shuttle drinks to a mixed crowd, ranging in age from their 20s to 50s. There are no seats left at the bar, where busy tenders sling a long list of local beers and cocktails, and most of the tables are occupied; either with large groups of friends gathering to celebrate the weekend, or small groups of singles, looking to celebrate the night. Here in downtown Oceanside, it’s the typical, Saturday night bar scene. But something about this late night visit to Mission Avenue Bar & Grill makes it better than the usual, and that thing is duck confit.
711 Mission Avenue, Oceanside
Duck leg cooked in its own fat is a rare enough find in a San Diego restaurant. Finding it in a bar atmosphere, served with shitake mushrooms and thin slices of kumquat, I’d have to call astonishing, even at $19. Especially given how good it tastes. The skin has just enough char and crisp, the meat within succulent and tasty, with subdued gaminess. Its teriyaki flavoring and stock simmered rice make a pleasing dénouement of a long day, and I almost can’t get over the fact this is what bar dining has become in downtown O’Side, birthplace of a million Semper Fi tattoos.
Last time I was here I ordered a cheesesteak for lunch, which seems more in line with bar grub. But even that had a nontraditional twist: the Philly-standard Amoroso roll stuffed with short rib, grilled onions, and globs of melted cheddar. The thick, sumptuous sandwich earned its $16 price tag, and my veggie-hungry soul particularly appreciated the option to enjoy it with sautéed vegetables rather than fries.
Mission Avenue’s food successfully straddles an unusual line between elevated bar food and pub grub, making it the rare place a food snob and pub grub fan might find common ground. You can grab a burger, or a lobster grilled cheese. Appetizers include fried Buffalo wings, but also beef tartare. Entrees range from fried chicken and corn bread to wagyu steak.
As much care seems to have been taken to make the bar one size fits all. There are cans of Coors Light to anchor the long list of draught craft brews, ciders, and meads. There’s a decently stocked wine list, and an excellent assortment of whiskies and whiskey cocktails. In addition to whiskey flights, brown liquor fans may sample from a decanter of “infinity whiskey” kept behind the bar. The bottomless blend gets an ounce or two pour whenever top shelf bottles have a little extra to give, meaning just about every whiskey flavor imaginable is swirling around in there, if you look hard enough.
Somehow, this place manages to be part sports bar, part craft taproom, part cocktail lounge, and part restaurant destination. Which I guess kind of sums up Oceanside these days.