Tara Lazar is well versed in helping a classic California vacation spot evolve to serve new tastes. The restaurateur helped introduce Palm Springs to modern restaurant concepts — breezy brunch spot Cheeky’s; alfresco pizza joint Birba; nostalgic steakhouse Mr. Lyons — while honoring the desert city’s retro charm.
Lazar continues to operate her hospitality group F10 Creative in Palm Springs, where she was born and raised, but now she’s turning her sights to Oceanside, opening High/Low and the upcoming Charlie’s dessert lounge in the historic Graves House at Mission Pacific. The wave-loving entrepreneur is also no stranger to Oceanside’s breezy charms. “I started renting an Oceanside house in the summer three years ago,” she say. “It’s so authentic — there’s the surf/skate culture, there’s people from a military background, there’s young and old living side-by-side.” she says. Her love for the town spurred her to create something that both locals and visitors would love, with her signature farm-forward, fresh approach to multicultural comfort food.
We caught up with Lazar to learn her must-stops when she visits Oceanside with her young family, her favorite dishes at High/Low.
Tastes Around Town
Angelo’s Burgers has a classic drive-through hamburger, that California, In-N-Out–style double-decker burger. It was actually the inspiration for one of our burgers at High/Low.
Parlor Doughnuts is always a really dangerous stop for me, they’re super flaky and addictive.
For something quick, I love the pizza by the slice Best Pizza and Brew.
Revolution Roasters does everything beautifully, which is how we became partners with them for our coffee program and baked goods. They roast all of their own beans and bake their own goodies, from croissants to muffins. For us, they’re making monkey bread and some really nice pastries.
There’s also a lot of incredible Asian food around the city. We love Thai Table Time in the center of the city for classic curries and noodle dishes.
The Oceanside Farmers Market is only about a block and a half from Mission Pacific. It’s always fun to visit: There’s always something new coming in, and on Thursdays they have a lot of cool craft vendors. We’re going to start scheduling live music at High/Low to coincide with that.
Another favorite stop is always Harbor Pelican, a tiny fish market right off the pier that only sells what’s freshly caught that day.
Shopping, Surfing, and More
There’s just so much talent in Oceanside and it’s full of all these great juxtapositions, like funky used car lots next to cool new projects. The common denominator is that everyone is really true to themselves. It’s a city that’s going to be on a lot more people’s radar soon.
If you want to shop, Linksoul started as a golfing brand but sells all kinds of casual and beach gear, and The Rising Co. is a local cooperative store in an old service station where you can buy clothing, jewelry, and accessories, all from makers based in Oceanside. Plus there’s locally made beauty brands, a plant store, a coffee shop, and tons of other stuff.
In August, I think the best surf in the world is in Oceanside. We’ve taken our son to the Longboard Surf Contest in years past, and there are always great competitions and surfers to watch by the pier. There’s also a legit play area down there — the kind where if you drive by and your kid spots it, it’s a stop-the-car kind of thing.
Tara’s High/Low Go-Tos
Oceanside is such an eclectic place, and we wanted to create something where the locals felt comfortable, so High/Low is very focused on Southern California. We’re very loyal to our farms, and we commissioned illustrator Jay Howell to paint a big mural in the middle of the bar. He’s a major sketcher for Vans shoes, which has a huge following in the area, so it’s a nod to that culture.
I felt like there was room for an elevated breakfast in town and a more farm-forward menu throughout the day. We rely on a local strawberry farm for the filling in our version of a homemade Pop-Tart, and our banana pancake is gluten-free so everyone can enjoy it.
For our burger, we make our own American cheese, and we have an addictively crunchy, Hawaiian-inspired crispy rice salad with our own in-house version of Spam. We’re also using local Baja shrimp for our shrimp roll, with lots of dill. We’re doing a morning martini with coffee and coffee bean–infused vodka. Coffee cocktails aren’t seen enough on brunch menus, and they’re making a comeback!
We were originally planning on closing around sunset, but so many people have been drawn to the terrace, and that roofdeck is stunning, so we’ve been staying open later for drinks. One of our managers has really strong beverage connections and was able to get us a Toki Highball Machine, which makes sparkling highballs. It’s got a following, and they’re not easy to get, so it’s been a draw. Above all, I’m most proud that locals seem to like what we’re doing.