Friday, January 30, 2015

New List of America's 100 Most Romantic Restaurants Neglects Brockton Villa, La Jolla's Hidden Gem

Brockton Villa style, with scenic La Jolla Cove in background
The folks at OpenTable, the online restaurant reservation company, have just released their 2015 Diners' Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America. The awards, which recognize alluring ambience, scrumptious food and above-and-beyond service, reflect more than 5 million restaurant reviews by verified OpenTable diners.

The view from The Brockton at sunset
For me there's no place in San Diego more romantic than Brockton Villa, better known to my family simply as The Brockton. If San Diego is America's most romantic city, and I believe it is, then The Brockton, a converted and modernized beach cottage built more than a century ago, is its most romantic locale.

California Cool
Brockton Villa, which does well yet is a rather well-kept secret in this city, is refreshingly unpretentious. California cool and casual, The Brockton has great food and a warm, friendly staff. And best of all, it enjoys an unrivaled location overlooking La Jolla Cove, a stunningly beautiful stretch of rocky coastline.

Brockton Villa is classy but unstuffy, and with all respect to the Addison, Chez Loma and Cucina Italiana, that's the environment in which I feel most welcome, most at peace, and most romantic.

The inside dining room features a quirky abalone-inlaid fireplace added nearly a century ago. The tables inside are light woods, with charmingly mismatched chairs and quilted bench seating. But the outside patio is where we usually hang our hats. San Diego enjoys America's finest weather (sorry, Florida, but humidity sucks), and this restaurant takes full advantage of that. 

The outside dining area offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. The outside tables are shaded by umbrellas and a whimsical old pepper tree growing right up through the floor which is lit at night by white party lights. And there are well-placed and movable space heaters when you want or need them. 

Brockton Villa has tremendous breakfasts. Try the Crab Ipanema Benedict or the Artichoke & Asparagus Omelette. The restaurant is perhaps best known for its "Coast Toast," which isn't gluten-free but is a sinfully good variation on french toast and a guilty pleasure. It's delish, it melts in your mouth, but I only reward myself with it after playing at least a set of tennis or an hour of basketball.

For dinner, I like the Fire Grilled Swordfish, the Brockton Villa Ciopppino, the California Lobster Role, the Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Stuffed Airline Chicken Breast, and the Whiskey & Grana Padano Crusted Filet Mignon. All excellent, though the filet at $32 is pricey, even for a place with such a magnificent view and terrific service. 

And here's a scoop: Brockton Villa has the best clam chowder in the entire country, and that includes Boston and San Francisco! 

I've had 'the chowda' in dozens of restaurants in every region of this great land, and Brockton's "Epic Chowder," as they call it, is tops. I'm still trying to get Jeff Beyoghlow, the restaurant's tireless but personable manager, to reveal the enticing mix of ingredients that make Brockton's chowder float above the rest. You can quote me.

The Brockton's Storied History

As if all that weren't enough, the place also has a fascinating history. Brockton Villa is a converted beach cottage built way back in 1894 as a primo oceanfront retreat by a San Diego doctor. He paid a whopping $165 for it.

The home was subsequently owned by sisters Olivia Mudgett and Nellie Mills, who were La Jolla's first real estate agents. Mills rented out the house and named it in honor of her New England heritage in Brockton, Massachusetts. 

For many years the house was occupied by Moreland MacPike, who was known to many as "The Turtle Lady." A painfully shy woman, Moreland supposedly performed with her piano-playing turtle for President Harry Truman at the White House.

Fast forward to the late 1960s, when the familiar Pannikin, which had already opened a coffee store in La Jolla, obtained Brockton Villa, which by then was in dire need of restoration. Pannikin founder Bob Sinclair smartly renovated the cottage and in 1993 won an Orchid award for his preservation of this historic home. 

Megan Lee Haine, daughter of the "Pannikin family," took ownership of Brockton Villa 21 years ago, and the restaurant continues to serve customers like me who enjoy everything about this special place. 

In 2005, Megan and husband Dave expanded their restaurant reign into the Bird Rock area -- between La Jolla and Pacific Beach -- with Beaumont’s Neighborhood Eatery, another one of our favorite casual but topnotch San Diego beach-area restaurants. The delightfully surfy Beaumont's has live music on weekends, and features an extensive grill menu (dinner & weekend breakfast) a full bar and live music.

Lastly, don't believe what you may have heard about the smell at The Brockton. Yes, it's close to the rocky cove and sometimes the smell of the surrounding, uh, natural habitat (seagulls, seals, etc) can be a bit strong. But it has never been an issue for me or my fellow diners. The Brockton is golden, it's a beach charmer with a rich history, great food, a location that is nonpareil, dedicated service and, yes, romance. 

Brockton Villa is at 1235 Coast Blvd., at La Jolla Cove. Call 858-454-7393 for more information. Tell 'em Jamie sent you. 


  1. How much did they pay you for this hagiograph?

    1. hey bernard, they paid me nothing. this is all written from the heart. we genuinely love this place. by the way, the fact that i didn't delete your stupid comment and even took the time to reply is proof that even morons are welcome here. :)

  2. Ate there once many years ago. After reading this I am determined to go back - very, very soon. Thanks for the reminder, Jamie, and love the elements of history you threw in.

    1. thanks, thomas. we ate there last nite. another casual, beautiful, kick-back evening at the brockton.

  3. Hi Jamie, I attended college in San Diego and have heard of Brockton Villa but have never been there. Definitely on the to-do list for next time I'm down in SD. Great write-up.

    1. thanks paulina. so did you check it out? what did you think?

  4. The first time I came, I was with my cousin! And, I fell in love with this place already! Their mushroom rice was good as well, my cousin said that it was better than risotto! After one visit, I knew I had to come back to Boston restaurants again soon.

    1. boston restaurants? what are you talking about spammer dude?! wrong coast! the chowda's better here...

  5. How great list of most romantic restaurants!! Very soon we are going to celebrate our first anniversary and we would love to reserve one of these restaurants for the party. Well, I just reserved the best live music bar nyc for my husband’s birthday party. I wonder if you have ever been to this bar!

  6. best mealpoints in united states.

  7. Thanks for this. That picture up top looks stunning. I love eating by the water. It somehow make the food taste so much more fresh. That is probably horrible reasoning but I do truly enjoy it. And I appreciate the post as well. It can be very helpful to read this little insightful articles so that I can know restaurants.

    Cristopher @ Lamoraga Restaurant

  8. Nice blog, thanks for sharing this article? I will come to look for update. Keep up the good work. Click here