“Comfort food that has been elevated” is how the Carpenters describe what they serve at Sunny Side Kitchen in Escondido.
Sunny Side Kitchen has been open on Orange Street (155 S. Orange St., between Second and Grand) since March 2, long enough for owners Bob & Kate Carpenter to begin carving out their own niche in that section of town.
Some features stand out: small menu, lovingly prepared. The willingness to deliver delicious handcrafted lunches anywhere in the surrounding neighborhood that includes the Arts Center, the library, Graybill Medical and the businesses along Grand Avenue. An incredible attention to detail.
“Escondido’s downtown is bustling with professionals in small- and mid-sized businesses,” says Kate. “We know they often work through lunch and appreciate the convenience of hot food delivered to their door. During tax time we were happy to feed quite a few CPAs in town!”
They started small, with a few items. “We want to grow accordingly,” she says.
Sunny Side Kitchen is not just Panini, it’s also soups, salads, exquisite coin-sized cookies (chocolate chip, old-fashioned oatmeal, peanut butter and their most popular called “Delicious,” and which is buttery and rich, with bits of coconut, walnuts, oats and Rice Krispies) and an attention to the preparation of coffee that is just short of OCD.
If you’ve ever wanted to try cold-brewed coffee, give Sunny Side a try. The coffee has less caffeine and less acidity, and, is a refreshing alternative to hot coffee as summer ramps up.
They make hot coffee with just as much attention to detail. “Coffee is important to us,” Bobs says, recalling when they met their coffee supplier, Ruben, of Carlsbad’s Origen Coffee Roasters at a farmers market.
“We take coffee very seriously,” he says. “There is an art to making coffee and also a science. We are very exacting about every cup.” They use water that is almost boiling, about 205 degrees. They use very fresh beans and a burr grinder with ceramic blades.
They discovered just how wonderful coffee could be when they were visiting Rome. “We got on our quality coffee kick while in Italy,” he recalls.
The Carpenters maintain a close connection to their expanding circle of loyal customers. Once a week they send out an email newsletter listing their soups (this week they introduced tomato and orange—sounds interesting!) Except for Clam Chowder, they make them all, including tomato bisque, broccoli cheddar and lentil.
The Carpenters started in the corporate world of journalism. Her specialty was journalism and P.R. and he was an editor of popular car magazines. They spent twenty years inthat world, and decided they wanted to get into the food business. They didn’t suddenly jump into owning a restaurant. They spent several years as mobile food specialists. What they serve at the restaurant is an extension of the mobile food business. They serve the same sandwiches at farmers markets, especially their basic gourmet grilled cheese sandwich made with Havarti, Muenster and Parmesan.
The melted cheese lazily slumps over the edges of the bread, and the flavors of the cheeses marry in an irresistible combination.
“All of our sandwiches are built on that basic model,” he says. They use Bread & Cie, a bakery near Sea World. From the basic cheese sandwich comes their meatloaf sandwich—homemade meatloaf made from scratch with breadcrumbs from leftover Bread & Cie sourdough, freshly shredded zucchini, red onion and a special barbecue sauce.
“That’s our secret sandwich,” he says. Their Tuscan Chicken Panini takes the basic cheese sandwich plus oven roasted rosemary and citrus chicken, fresh spinach, sundried tomatoes, and homemade aioli.
That chicken, torn into tiny bits to preserve the juiciness, is used in their Tuscan chicken salad and chicken Caesar salad.
Sunny Side Kitchen is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. They plan on opening on Saturday beginning in August.
“This is an exciting expansion for us,” says Kate. “We love having an actual restaurant, a place with big picture windows and a kitchen table where customers can sit and chat over a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, a couple of bite-sized cookies and something cheesy from the grill.”
Their lemonade is also special, handcrafted to order, one glass at a time, with farmers’ market lemons.”
The restaurant is casual. “We want people to come and sit and chat and read the paper. But if you’ve got to run, we can accommodate you!” You can call ahead and pick up your sandwich when you get there.”
Sunny Side Kitchen is definitely a family enterprise. Assisting them is her daughter, Larissa Trageser, who is a creative adviser who often comes up with recipes. Bob’s daughter Jenni Carpenter is an advisor who has managed cafeterias, and knows how things should be done. “Both have a lot of food experience,” says Kate. “They push us both!”
Her son Chris Trageser also helps a lot with customer relations. “People love him,” she says.
So, if you want to buy in the restaurant, grab and go or catering, they are ready to serve you.