Dining At The Plot Restaurant
Contributing Writer & Photographer: Jordan Younis
I asked my friend the question all women ask each other before any public outing: “What are you wearing?” She advised me to be “casual trendy”, because that’s the South Oceanside vibe. As we made our way out for dinner, I could feel the buzz of energy pulsing through the neighborhood. Even at that early evening hour, eager diners were ready to indulge, and they certainly had their fair share of options.
Oceanside’s restaurant renaissance continues to expand. Over the last few years, a growing mix of eateries have been planted in the community, and restaurateur duo Jessica and Davin Waite have made a notable footprint in the ever-budding local dining scene. With three inventive eateries in O’side, The Plot is their latest addition and Jessica’s passion project. It’s just down the block from their other two restaurants, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub and The Whet Noodle, on the stretch of the city’s coastal highway corridor. Trendy indeed, the neighborhood is known for its craft coffee, vintage shops, regulars at every restaurant and a high regard for quirks, personality and authenticity.
The City of Oceanside is also close to the Waites’ hearts. It’s Davin’s hometown and one in which Jessica instantly loved for its potential and personality. “It felt like a great place to build and evolve with a community,” Jessica said. “Oceanside locals are so proud to support businesses in this community, and we are so grateful for that. I love the camaraderie between the local businesses. When Davin and I were opening Wrench & Rodent in 2013 we were so happy to open up in South Oceanside. Six years later, when we were looking for a space to build The Plot, we found a spot that is just a block away. It felt like it was meant to be.”
The Plot certainly does fit right in. With a zero-waste ethos and an exclusively plant-packed menu, it has something for vegans, omnivores and everyone in between. At this point, I should mention that I’m not a vegan. I’d describe my regular diet as one that’s heavy on plants accentuated by a wide variety of meat and seafood. While you won’t find animal proteins on The Plot’s menu, you will find plenty of meat-mimicking items like “chickën, “cäviar” and “cräb”, all of which are house-made, plant-based and taste amazingly similar to their non-plant versions.
“Both of our chef-partners, Davin and Chef Christopher Logan, are omnivores and have done a great job creating a menu that honors veggies and also recreates items that are traditionally made with animal products.” I was pleasantly surprised when Jessica went further and let me in on what makes up these health-forward items. The tüna is made from chickpeas, the cräb is made from lion’s mane mushrooms and the saüsage, chörizo and meatless loaf are made with a mixture of lentils, wild rice and seasonings.
Naturally, my omnivore mind was intrigued as I walked into The Plot’s rustic industrial dining room shortly before the dinner service early on a Saturday evening. Inspired by Jessica’s travels in Europe, the space is airy yet edgy, with a mix of black and natural salvaged wood elements, white-painted exposed brick and a wood-beamed ceiling. A black and white mural of a hand holding a viney plant with the words “the future is unwritten” is painted on the north wall — one of The Plot’s most instagrammable spots. Guests can choose from a variety of seating options, from high-top family-style tables, to bar tops, to smaller individual tables, all of which are outfitted with wooden benches and black metal geometric chairs. Vining plants and a few indigo dyed pillows complete the indoor aesthetic. There’s also an outside seating area that lines the perimeter of the building and expands into a wood chipped lot of additional tables, complete with heat lamps and blankets for extra coziness.
We opted for a table inside. Within a few moments of sitting down, our dazzling waitress, Lori, came over to introduce herself. She and Jessica then explained a bit about The Plot’s spotlight on sustainability. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more earth-friendly restaurant: scraps are composted through the city’s collection program, all unused table water gets reused to nourish the plants on the property and even the takeout containers are compostable, breaking down into soil within 90 days. The Plot also recently launched a reusable take-out container program featuring reVessel, which provides toxin-free, stainless steel food storage containers.
Earth lover that I am, I was instantly won over by these details. I was captivated further when Lori set down a colorful, palate-priming amuse bouche made of cauliflower salsa and kale-saffron rice on top of an herby cream sauce with drops of tangerine oil. Those first bites embodied another eco-friendly Plot practice: every bit of the plant is used in the dishes. What one person might discard as mere stems and peels are crafted into something delicious.
“Our other restaurants in Oceanside were already practicing a lot of total utilization and waste-minimizing techniques. It’s something Davin and I both believe in and we want to be as respectful as possible in the way we source and prepare the food we serve our guests,” Jessica said. “I loved the idea of building and scaling businesses that create positive impact, and operating a completely plant-based restaurant makes zero-waste even more attainable.”
Next up were the first appetizers of the evening. I chose the cäviar and potato cakes, which consisted of lentils, crema, pickled red onion and preserved lemon. Along with it came a bowl of roasted cauliflower topped with sea beans, which looked a little like a plant I have growing in a pot in my kitchen. Lori explained that these succulents grow in the sand and were meant to be used in lieu of salt. Crisp, crunchy and intensely salty, they added flavor and texture to the roasted veggies.
Salads were the next prelude to our entrees. I opted for the cräb and cucumber salad to go with the sushi roll I wanted next. My friend Alison got the caesar salad with chickën. An unorthodox riff on a classic, the chickën was what I was most interested in. Made with local, organic tofu plus and a little cool science, the chickën not only tasted strikingly similar to the animal version, but had a similar texture too. The meat-eater in me was pleased, and we both marveled at it as we ate it, noting that we’d never had anything quite like it.
More plant-based meat substitutes were featured in the sushi rolls that followed. As a sushi and seafood lover, I was blown away by the innovation of these vegan versions. The popular “chronic roll”, filled with cräb, spicy tüna and avocado, was my favorite. Tempura-fried and drizzled with spicy mayo, it contained just the right amount of crunch and spice. The “what the vegan roll” was like an elevated California roll, containing just cräb, avocado and cucumber. With our stomachs nearing capacity, we decided on one final order: a plate of turmeric-hued angel hair pasta bathed in The Plot’s signature cheesy sauce, topped with charred broccoli and more mushroom-based cräb. We twirled forkfuls of the delicate noodles until we couldn’t eat anymore.
To close out our experience (and to get our digestive juices flowing), we took a stroll back to the urban garden behind the building, which gives literal meaning to the term “locally sourced”. Community Roots Farms in Oceanside manages The Plot’s small regenerative garden, which provides many of the different veggies and herbs used throughout its menu. In addition to what they grow on-site, The Plot truly operates farm-to-table, sourcing much of its produce from local growers like Mindful Mushrooms, San Diego Soy Dairy and other small local farmers for things like citrus and avocados.
It’s these details that make The Plot shine in the Oceanside food scene. “There is magic in the way the veggies come together to create something comforting and familiar,” Jessica said. I agree. Good food will always be the cornerstone of a dining experience, as it is here. But The Plot’s accessible innovation with plants brings diners so much more than brilliant flavors and interesting twists on familiar favorites. Dining here brought me a feeling of being closer to my source — the earth that provides for us. It inspired me to be more conscious and kinder to the amazing place we live, which nourishes us in so many ways. With beautiful food for all palettes and a conscientiousness for the health and future of our planet, The Plot truly is “feeding the evolution”.
About the Writer & Photographer
Jordan Younis is a San Diego-based writer and photographer. She spends her days working in the world of biotechnology, but outside of work, you can find her doing personal writing projects, cooking, taking photos of food, local entrepreneurs and landscapes, and exploring the great outdoors. Connect with her on Instagram @jordanyounis.