For owners Roger “Roddy” and Aaron Browning and staff, the introduction of a fresh restaurant with un-duplicated cuisine in this emerging market has resulted in nothing short of the classic style they have built over the years with the Flying Pig brand. A gastro-pub right here in Vista, CA.
The lessons they had learned with their first adventure in Oceanside have resulted in an uncompromised excellence at their second location now just a month into full-swing of operation. Our visiting on a Sunday evening just before the Labor Day holiday revealed a very full house; however, with no wait. Flying Pig’s wait for a table is sometimes frowned upon by patrons and written about on complaint sites ( . . . I don’t like Yelp) as being negative. Generally speaking, a wait means a good thing for both patrons and staff. And if you have been to either location, you know the wait for their cuisine is well worth it. Tonight there was no wait, but I can see how a Friday or Saturday night may be a bit frustrating, since they don’t take reservations for parties of less than six. We had a party of eight without reservations and were just momentarily delayed as they set up a table area for our party. We got lucky. And watch the parking around this place as their lot area gets full rather quickly. Luckily there is plenty of parking for the time being within short walks from other nearby streets in this quickly evolving area of town.
We arrived at about 5:45pm on this Sunday. This is a holiday weekend. What a better way to celebrate and I was again excited. The staff was engaged and busily seating and serving customers. I saw a quick turnover of tables and plates arriving to their destinations and the talk of flavors, textures and plating amongst the patrons. It was quite evident by the customers sharing plates between each other. Even my wife and I have become accustomed to passing our plate to each other for forkfuls until we are satisfied that we would like our own plate back in front of us. It’s just something we do now when enjoying food. If it doesn’t cross the table, it usually means it doesn’t pass the test. Yeah, we still reach with a fork at other places but the Flying Pig passes this test every time.
As we talked amongst our party and watched other table’s plates go by, we began to see there was an element of seasoning (pun also intended) that has begun to envelope the staff here. Everyone seemed to move with direction. Everything seemed to be happening when it was supposed to be happening. My one of 32 taps showed up just about when I was ready for a sip. The wine to our table took a bit too long but was filtered with glasses of water as the delay progressed. Finally we ordered and the food arrived spot-on for timing, The food came out one or two plates at a time. That is fine as I was served first at our table and waited about 3 minutes until the balance of the table was served. My plate was still very hot and held up well. It’s great to have everyone at the table “ooing” and “ahhing” until their own plate arrives. Then the sharing begins . . . “pass me that plate” . . . “take this plate”. Again, everything was outstanding and directly in line with the Flying Pig quality. The only problem I witnessed this evening came from the runners bringing those plates from the kitchen. Some of the runners wandered around unknowing of which table was to receive which plate, or which plates was to be delivered to what table . . . or to which patron, for that matter. The runners should know the table layout and the POS reciept should direct which position. That’s a basic “Denny’s” thing. On a couple of occasions the runner paused at our table, checked to make sure everyone had a plate or if perhaps the plate in the runners hand was somehow still missing from our table. At one point a runner paused at our table and asked if “this plate” belonged here . . . on another occasion or server Whitney, had chased another plate away pointing to another table . . . “over there”, she said.
I had noticed neither Roddy nor Aaron was present this evening. I kept trying to find out who was in charge . . . who’s doing a bunch of watching and directing of the staff. I was curious because the operation seemed to be going smoothly, orchestrated, defined and was purposeful. Other than the confused runners (perhaps typical?), the remainder of the service staff and bar staff seemed to be on their game. I kept looking and watching . . . who is in charge? I finally asked our server and she pointed to the front door area where the Manager was helping to greet and seat customers and have a bit of face time with some of those customers that she apparently knows as being customers of Flying Pig. I guess the good thing here is if you can’t see the manager and things appear to be operating smoothly, that Manager must be doing his/her job well enough that their constant presence on the dining room floor is not needed. Perhaps that manager was needed elsewhere . . . perhaps doing “Manager things” elsewhere. My observation indicated there was someone directing the operation, someone must be near, but I could not detect who that person was. It sure seemed like everyone knew what to do . . . and everything was in its place; manager or no manager. That’s a ready staff . . . I like that!
I do have a problem with the Flying Pig brand. When first mentioning this new casual, fun, upscale eatery to someone, they immediately think there is Bar-B-Que involved; however the response was similar when first mentioning the Oceanside location. “Pig, I don’t want BBQ”. That “pig“ the unknowing seem to be referring to, is actually not far from Roddy and Aaron’s place right here in Vista. Having also recently opened in Vista is “When Pigs Fly”. When Pigs Fly is a BBQ place in a gas station. I’m beginning to get tired of explaining that they are two separate restaurants with two separate owners and two separate menus. The menu at “tHE FLYING PIG” (a gastro-pub) serves very eclectic plates, very large portions; uncompromised flavor profiles that involve locally sourced ingredients and carefully selected meats and fresh oceanic menu options. These plates are carefully and elegantly constructed works of art that may normally only be reserved for fine dining establishments found in areas like La Jolla or Beverly hills. The Flying Pig is not a BBQ place. Sorry to let you Yelpers down. This aint no stinkin’ BBQ! I haven’t yet been to that BBQ place yet but I know that’s going to be a soon-to-be feature.
Our order included the pork chop, the house made spaghetti and clams, the evening’s Flat Iron Steak special and the infamous Pork Burger. The Pork Chop was consumed in its entirety by an older gentleman at our table who told me, “I was surprised I ate the whole thing”. He explained that he rarely finishes plates when dining out, usually resulting in taking home something for the dog. That older gentleman from our table said it was the best pork chop as a dinner he has ever had. Cooked perfectly and very flavorful, moist, tender and juicy. As one of the Flying Pig’s most popular favorites, his comments of excellence were anticipated. And I must agree, having already had the Flying Pig’s Pork Chop myself on a previous visit. The flat-iron steak was terrific, lean and tender, but was perhaps under salted as the sauce from the mushrooms was needed as a mop-up for the entire plate that included their always excellent Polenta. Still a very good plate.
I ordered the spaghetti and clams since I had never had their house made pasta. I would have ordered the Yellow Tail (catch of the day) had I known there was another plate of the pasta being ordered at our table. I thought the clam sauce was very good . . . not quite like my own recipe, but very good as was evidenced by my very clean plate after using the crostini bread to sponge up every bit of that sauce. The clams were plentiful on my plate but seemed to have separated themselves from almost every clamshell. I just picked the shells out. Not a bad thing, but just identified by me as expecting most of the clams to be in the shell. No worries, it just made it more convenient. The clams were tender and not tough from overcooking, they just seemed to want to be free . . . I have read other reviews that complained about the pasta sticking together in parts and making the tenderness of the house-made pasta inedible for some bites. I found that contrary to my experience as the house-made pasta was fresh and tender all the way through . . . even the occasional clumps. That should be a characteristic of fresh pasta. Hard? Sorry, not a word here. Any of those “clumps” were certainly edible and they were still certainly tender like fresh pasta is. I am not a big fan of house made spaghetti because it does seem to loose its length from breakage. The more it is played with on the plate, the more it breaks down and I found myself scooping the remnants with my bread. I have to say the spaghetti’s presence on the plate tends to take on a more “Spaghetti-O’s” (small broken pieces) profile. Perhaps a larger or wider noodle would cure this dilemma.
My son had ordered the Pork Burger (another house favorite) along with the Truffle Fries. He said the burger was exceptionally good and a very big meal. He never made it through the very large portion of his fries, and I was helping. The portions here at the Flying Pig are plentifully the right size. Period.
I’m again saying this. The experience here at the Flying Pig is just that good. Chef Mario Moser continues to put eclectic meals together with substantial portions that seem to have everyone enjoying their Flying Pig experience. The party I had arrived with quickly expanded from 5 upon checking in, to 8 upon sit-down; and the staff quickly made seamless adjustments to our agenda. Whatever seemed to be a detriment to this experience was quickly countered by Roddy or Aaron (i.e.having the sun-shades installed) or by their staff (having water rolling while the wine service awaits). Our table would have rather had ice with our water as normally served; but Whitney our server, quickly brought two beer glasses full of ice upon our request. There was no base missed tonight. I even heard music . . . albeit, it was difficult to discern at first but I kept hearing something . . . a low-frequency and an occasional guitar lick from the very cool genre (currently undefined by me) of music. Kinda jazz-blues-rock-country. The music was definitely audible in the bathrooms as I found myself trying to figure out just what it was that is to be used as a urinal (looked like a copper back-hoe bucket) or staring at myself in the truck mirror set on the wall above the sink. I found the audio levels to be just about perfect.
This place is cool. We find ourselves looking around at something different each visit as is with our visits to the Oceanside location. There’s always something to look at. We have noticed they are not using record album covers for their menus. It could be they’re searching for a new idea. Perhaps not. The grounds around the facility are looking good as there are water-saving succulents along the street-side entrance. The ample outside bar and table area was rather full of patrons doing exactly what customers inside were doing. Enjoying themselves. There’s another outside area just off the main dining room for waiting/drinking customers with a very old tractor. Go look at the very old tractor please, because I didn’t get a chance (seated too quickly). There is plenty of room outside for more pub (drinking) customers waiting for their table. That is something that still is missing from the Oceanside location. This area is going to have Roddy and Aaron working hard because this is going to be of their essence for success here later on as things start to get real busy. Alcohol sales are everything! “I like” (Borat, 2006).
A touchdown! (Charger season!)
So go check out the Flying Pig Pub and Kitchen in Vista, California. A very welcome new gift to North San Diego County.