Partake – Downtown Vista, CA

“Why is everyone laughing?” That’s what I want to know; just why IS everyone laughing? I mentioned to the server that was holding my two plates in her hand while she propped the kitchen door open and speaking to the other folks inside the kitchen. “Why’s everyone laughing?”, she asks.

I tell the arriving server, “Please don’t stand in the kitchen door with my plates in your hand while asking ‘why’s everyone laughing?’, as if you or my food is part of the joke” . . . What, did someone just spit in my pot pie?



We found Partake at the distant end of a now emerging and popular S. Santa Fe Av. in downtown Vista, CA. I believe Partake’s location to be too far and possibly still to sketchy of a walk all the way from the likes of Starbucks, Mother Earth Brewery, 50 Barrels Winery or Flying Pig. These establishments are making up the now popular and swiftly growing area of downtown Vista’s finer dining and cultivatingly finer, more upscale nightlife.

If traveling east along S. Santa Fe, and going through the new round-a-bout, you’ll find Partake to have a large storefront, but can be easily missed. Keep going east on S. Santa Fe. They are way down there past the hardware store and just before McDonalds on the south side of the street. There is plenty of parking in the rear of the store; but we kept searching for the rear entrance . . . there is none. We hoped to find some outdoor tables on the quiet alley where we parked, but had to circumnavigate the building back to the front entrance to get in. It sure looked like there may have been something nice out back, but everything was quiet and closed up. From the inside now, there doesn’t appear to be an escape.

Upon entrance to Partake we found a sign to seat ourselves, but the staff was quick to assist us and get us started. Although there were several tables occupied and some still available on this Good Friday before Easter, we elected to sit at the bar. It was rather quiet inside with almost an awkwardness about it being so quiet and calm. The music that was playing was kind of a jazzy, feel-good music. I can’t really put a genre on it, but every time I stopped to ponder things, I kept hearing this “feel-good” music playing . . . and it was really terrible music; but I felt really good while listening to it. Uuuh yeah! I’m sure the regulars and foodites that made up the joint felt good about their wine selections, their crafted burgers and their “feel good” music that was playing from some left-over old garage boom box audio system. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself but to think of the staff having to listen to that crap every day. I think I’d opt to reserve stabing myself with the Chef’s melon baller.

The décor was decent as were the furnishings. I did notice that the flatware was some pretty cheap stuff; then my wife pointed out that Flying Pig uses non-matching stuff from garage sales and swap meets. Ok, you got me there; but these reminded me of flatware used in establishments that are in some very depressed areas to prevent (or minimize expense loss due to) patrons from stealing them. But they WERE wrapped in fine linen . . .

The menu presented some challenges for the wife and I as seemingly everything was something we have had before at some other restaurant. Things like Duck-Fat Fries (also several other kinds of fries on the menu), Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/Bacon and Feta (is this the only way to make them in all of Southern California?), Chicken Wings, a Baked Brie, Portobello Mushroom Burger (also several burgers and common sandwiches on the menu), several flatbread pizzas, a New York Steak w/ Chimichurri  and a 1/2 chicken plate. I did say 1/2 chicken . . . not airline breast. I was ultimately surprised for Partake to be hailing itself as a “gastro-pub”; I think it’s more like a grill-pub. I didn’t see a variety on the menu that caught my eye. Nothing on the menu seemed to possess anything with stand-out qualities to hold this menu above others or to even call it unique. Just lots of common food that are offered most everywhere, and similarly prepared. The only thing missing was the fried Calamari.

The menu seemed limiting to us. The wife ordered the Spinach and Beet salad. I don’t know where the beets went but when I got to the salad, they were gone. The salad was very much presented as a large spinach salad . . . but somewhere seemed to be missing the beet feature at $12. The wife stepped away to investigate the restrooms and asked that I order something unique that we would like to try. Since everything on the menu was not unique, I ordered the special of the day, the Chicken Pot Pie. Kind of unique and certainly making a comeback at the gastro level.

Now wondering if someone had spit in it from the kitchen, I cracked the store bought puff pastry (not uncommon) shell to reveal the sweltering fresh-made chicken, pea and potato filling that was beckoning to be ventilated. Just then the owner Keith came out and warned me of the volcanic filling inside, likening the story of the Marie Calendar pot pies of his youth. As we listened to Keith’s story of how he got started and his venture to Partake with little money, all I could hear was that crappy music playing in the background and think about the temperature of my Marie Calendar pot pie. Marie’s crust is better by the way. Yeah, there was nothing special about “the special”. Yes, the pot pie makes for a great way to use up unused product, but if you offer a special . . . it needs to be special. I was reading some of the Facebook posts about the customer’s liking the pot pie, so they brought it back. If that’s the case, make it a regular or recurring menu item and keep your specials “special”. I found no reason to finish what had been served to me. Just couldn’t bring myself to push through the wall tonight. There was nothing special about any of our menu selections tonight.

Upon completion of my first beer, the server asked if I wanted another. I was just about wrapping this dinner up and declined a second beer. The server did cleverly remind me that they had  several dessert offerings. Since I had read something about this chef’s forte was baking and pastry and had a previous dessert bar/restaurant (I think), I decided to give ‘er a try by selecting number three tonight; as the server knew the dessert selections and rattled them off. I elected the Panna Cotta with berry reduction. Again, another let down as the berries were an incredibly potent mixture of sweet and sour preventing any creaminess of the actual Panna Cotta to be savored. I was not impressed.

As I watched some of the patrons, and kept listening to that really weird music, I noticed some of those patrons picking through their food and nodding their heads as if they were some kind of food CritDicks. I noticed the average age of the crowd. I noticed very few of us silver and grey haired patrons. I noticed a lot of burgers, fries and mac-n-cheese being ordered. I noticed that there were two bathrooms divided up as “female” and “unisex”. I tried to wait for the unisex bathroom to become available as I stood over other patrons trying not to be too obvious as they were eating their dinners. I never got into the unisex bathroom because there was yet another female waiting for that one. The whole bathroom thing is just kind of awkward. Good thing I got the nod from my wife to use the female head instead . . . on the other side of the restaurant.

I don’t know if I’ll be returning soon. I think Partake has a large following but this could quickly dwindle as other establishments begin to open their doors closer to the action in the happening area of town.

So I wish Partake success in the future; but, perhaps it’s time to reinvent the menu . . . or reinvent the Chef. I have, in the past, written about another place (Prohibition Brewery) that I recommended a menu change. Since that time they had successfully reinvented their Chef and their clientele has skyrocketed.

Also, what’s behind those doors? See about reemerging as a hideaway with superlative food and sound.

I could only find one rating for Partake this evening.


Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. Whatever that means.



A cheap date at a Holiday Inn.

I wanted you to understand what it means to provide someone with an exceptional customer experience, and I wasn’t necessarily the customer. I had recently written this letter to the General Manager of the Oceanside, CA Holiday Inn (Oceanside Marina).

I hope this makes it to the GM.

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize one of your employees, Mr. J—– B—; and I’m sorry it took so long for me to write this. I am a published columnist of customer experiences related to the Food Beverage and Hospitality (FB&H) services industry. You see, as a customer, I believe every customer deserves a great experience. That’s what brings them back.

I was part of a training course being offered through Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Our group was there for 3 days mid week to learn about procuring government services and how to write up “Performance Work Statements”. Essentially we were there to learn how to explain in writing what it is we want from a contractor providing services to a government organization.

That nonsense aside, myself and several other civil service employees were not necessarily used to eating lunches away from our desks. Several of us ate lunch down in the Oceanside harbor the first day, but we had thought we noticed a microwave oven in the lobby of your hotel; so I made plans for myself to bring my lunch in the second a third days and sit in my car and do some work from my tablet.

For the second day of our class I had brought my lunch in the form of a plastic tupper with some left-over pasta, BBQ pork ribs and a jalapeno pepper. That morning I tried to locate the microwave to help expedite my lunch since we normally only have a 1-hour timeframe in which to get to a restaurant, eat and return to our seats for the afternoon session. I looked everywhere in that lobby area for a microwave and couldn’t find one. I even made pre-arrangements with another student staying in the hotel that had traveled in from a more distant location to use their room microwave; but before I went that route I figured I would ask the front desk just in case I happened to miss it somewhere I wasn’t looking in that lobby area.

I asked J—- who was working behind the counter at that moment if there was a microwave available. He indicated that there was not but he would gladly take it into the kitchen where the employees heat their food if needed. He asked me how long to put it on for and I said about 4 minutes.

About ten minutes went by and I hadn’t seen J—-. I asked another employee in the office area of the lobby as to J—-’s whereabouts. The other employee got up and said, “yeah, I wonder where he is”. Just about that moment J—– walked out from the kitchen carrying a plate of hot food, a dinner service linen roll with knife and fork inside and my empty tupper. The food was actually arranged and plated nicely as if it had come from a chef in a professional kitchen. As he handed it to me he apologized for taking so long because he needed to “wash the container”. I told him he didn’t need to do all of that as I was going to just eat in my car. He even offered me a seat in the dining room of the café if I would like.

Well I didn’t eat my lunch in the dining room; and as a matter of fact after eating my lunch in my car from a restaurant plate with linen napkin, I felt very awkward returning a dirty plate to J—– for him or someone else to clean. I asked J—– for his business card and told him what I do as a writer.

I was very appreciative of him treating me like . . . honestly, a guest in his home. Now that’s what this game is all about.

Please ensure this guy gets the ol’ pat on the back and possibly something a little bit special; because that’s how he made me feel, and I wasn’t even staying there.

Thank you


%d bloggers like this: