10 Must-Try Culinary Gems at the Oceanside Sunset Market

Don’t miss the super popular, decade-old Sunset Market when visiting Oceanside. Thousands of locals and tourists flock to this weekly event on Thursdays from 5pm to 9pm. Conveniently located two blocks from the beach at the intersection of Tremont Street and Pier View Way, the bustling market spreads out in the shape of a cross to occupy four downtown blocks. Between the 150+ vendors, live music, arts & crafts, gourmet goods, kids’ activities and cornucopia of international cuisine, you’ll find something for everybody at this unique fun-filled Oceanside attraction. 


The spectacular array of food booths offering specialties from around the world is especially impressive. From Filipino to Japanese to good ole American BBQ, there are plenty of options to tantalize your taste buds. For starters, try a cone of Belgium fries complete with yummy garlic aioli sauce from Belgium Delights. Belgium chef/owner Serge Libioulle cooks these to order by twice frying to golden perfection resulting in addictive “frites” that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. He uses fresh Kennebec potatoes hand cut daily. No wonder Serge has developed a loyal following of market customers!

If homemade noodles are more your style, check out Vietnamese/French fusion cuisine at Garlic Noodles House. Order the steaming garlicky pasta with your choice of grilled succulent shrimp, beef, lamb chop, veggie or tiger prawn.

Craving carne? Stop by bustling MaMae’s Cooking for hearty cheesesteaks and fries. This stand’s version of the Philadelphia staple comes loaded with seasoned steak, chicken or pastrami sliced thin then smothered with steaming grilled onions and topped with melted American cheese. The same options are available as yummy cheesesteak fries in place of a roll.

If you’re a vegetarian, you’re in luck. Order meatless versions of these dishes heaped with grilled mushrooms, onions and peppers. For a bargain, try MaMae’s special: get a sandwich, fries and a drink for $10.

Looking for a healthy choice? Visit Leo’s Kitchen for Asian-Latin fusion cuisine. Enjoy super fresh sushi, poke, ceviche and trendy California sushi burritos. Made-to-order poke bowls capture the spirit of aloha. The classic Hawaiian pairs onolicious tuna with garlic chips, sesame seeds and house sauce. Tangy Mexican-inspired Lemon Cilantro mixes salmon with jalapeño drizzled with citrus ponzu. The Hula satisfies by combining crab with seaweed salad and spicy mayo. Ceviche bowls mix marinated fish with jalapeno, avocado and seaweed salad. Create your own seafood sensation by choosing from a myriad of your favorite ingredients. Select from masago, mango, cucumber and more. Assorted sushi rolls encompass vegan options.

Have you ever tried West Ghana fare? If not, discover authentic African dishes at Olivia’s Kitchen. The Sambusas —triangular deep-fried pouches filled with spiced, savory minced meats or veggies— are particularly tasty. Other menu items include African style Empanadas, plantains, and for the more adventurous, rich Goat Stew.

Closer to home, the Howard brothers launched Wicked Maine Lobster to bring a taste of Maine to San Diego. Order the Lobster Roll served hot with melted butter or chilled with mayo. Both are divinely made with luscious chunks of wild-caught, antibiotic-free imported lobster from the East coast. For a SoCal twist, opt for the loaded Lobster Tacos topped with secret sauce.

Another stellar seafood choice is Chef Michael Bossle’s Flamin’ Salmon. In Michael’s past life he traveled the world performing in a family circus. During this time he discovered flamed smoke salmon stands along the roads of Norway and decided to bring the delicacy back to America. Michael seasons wild-caught Coho salmon simply with paprika, salt and pepper then grills the fish on cedar planks over burning red oak wood. You can definitely taste the sultry smokiness in the tender, moist flakey salmon served with sides such as salad, rice or pasta.

Ever wanted to experience the intoxicating flavors of South America? Look no further than the Paraná Empanadas Argentinas booth. Sample dough-filled delights made from time-tested family recipes showcase both savory and sweet fillings. Order these scrumptious snacks in quantities of one, three or by the dozen. Watch for daily and/or seasonal specials. Roasted red bell pepper and sautéed onion add explosive flavor to the tender chicken pastries. Top this with Paraná’s tangy raw chimichurri sauce made from a piquant mixture of minced parsley, oregano, garlic and olive oil. The vegetarian Mushroom & Cheese empanadas mix aromatic champignon, Portobello and porcini mushrooms with mozzarella, Parmesan and onion.

Select from a variety of dessert empanadas dusted with a thin coating of powdered sugar. Satisfy your sweet tooth with ambrosial Dulce de Leche, Nutella & Banana or exotic Guava & Cream Cheese treats.

Seeking the ultimate in American comfort food? You can’t go wrong with Ye Olde Grilled Cheese & Tater Tot Shoppe. Reminisce about your childhood by indulging in timeless grilled cheese on sourdough. Interested in a more sophisticated ooyee gooey gourmet option? Select the luscious Lobster Melt with tomato and cheddar or zesty Chicken Pesto Melt with onion and provolone. Prefer veggies? Try the Italian Caprese Melt incorporating pesto, provolone and tomato on sourdough.

The tantalizing tater tot menu presents a range of Tex-Mex flavors. Shredded deep-fried potatoes deliver cylindrical shaped nuggets of crispy goodness. Dig into Nacho Tots layered with jalapeños, chipotle ranch and cheddar. Try the Texas Tots slathered with grilled chicken, onions, cheddar and pleasing BBQ sauce. Finger-licking good Buffalo sauce replaces the BBQ on the Buffalo Tots.

Finally, save room for desserts galore! Don’t miss the superbly handcrafted, old-fashioned caramels made with love at Cheryl’s Caramels. Owner Cheryl Stoner prepares her sensational candy in small batches using ingredients that are gluten, nut, chemical and preservative-free. Popular flavors are Organic Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate and Butterscotch. Cheryl also creates seasonal delights such as Pumpkin Pie, Rummy! or Gingerbread. The caramels are sold in quarter pound containers and make a great gift or takeaway treat to enjoy later.

Market Tips:

  • Bring an appetite and consider sharing dishes to get a better idea of what the market has to offer
  • Go on the early side to avoid parking headaches and peak crowds
  • Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers to stay warm once the sun goes down
  • Bring your food of choice into the Stone Company Store where you can kick back in the lovely courtyard garden and enjoy a cold one with your meal

About the Author

Jolee Pink is an Oceanside-based writer, designer and artist. She runs the popular Eat Drink SD Facebook group and her Wabisabi Green lifestyle blog focuses on art, design, food and travel. For more information, please visit wabisabigreen.com.

Published: August 27, 2019

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