UPDATED NOVEMBER 2014
Bistro West is one of two onsite restaurants at the top-rated West Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, California. I have had the opportunity to dine at Bistro West on two different trips to Carlsbad – with my children and without – and it is one of my favorite restaurants in the San Diego area.
At first-glance, Bistro West doesn't look like a family restaurant. Its upscale ambiance makes it look like the sort of place that we would love for date night, but avoid with our children. However, we and our children were pleasantly surprised.
It turns out that Bistro West is more sports grill than snobby. The stylish decor combined with the open kitchen and flat-screen televisions tuned to sports channels make the restaurant a good option for a casual date, a get-together with friends or a nice family meal out.
Bistro West has a noisy atmosphere, which ensured that any noise made by my children was not likely to annoy anyone else. That said, my children are ages 9 and 6, so they are (usually) old enough to sit through a restaurant meal.
If you have busy babies or toddlers, you may wish to enlist your server's help to speed your meal along. The service at Bistro West has been great on both my visits, but unless you make a special request, expect the meal to move at a leisurely pace.
Bistro West grows many of its ingredients on its own local farm. Its goal is to grow all of the fruits, vegetables and herbs for its dishes on the farm. Everything we ate was made from scratch. That depth of involvement in the restaurant's ingredients is evident in the flavor of the food.
The menu at Bistro West is diverse and accessible, with salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, seafood and other entrees. We started with the Minute Mozz, a colorful heirloom tomato and mozzarella appetizer, and my children and I ordered from the menu. The menu changes seasonally, and I chose a ravioli from the list of Chef's Creations. My husband chose one of the daily specials – a pork dish with seasonal vegetables and homemade pasta. The flavor of that dish was amazing.
One of the things that wowed us most at Bistro West was the children's menu. It includes favorites like cheeseburger sliders with fries, pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwich – all made from scratch with the same farm fresh ingredients as the regular menu. That's the way we try to eat at home, but my kids can still be really picky when restaurant food doesn't taste like what they're used to. They ordered the sliders and macaroni and cheese and happily finished both entrees.
Bistro West was a bit of a splurge for our family. However, our Bistro West meal didn't cost much more than what we spent on a so-so theme park lunch on the same trip. If you love finding great local flavor like we do, pack a picnic into the theme park and then try Bistro West on your next visit to Carlsbad.
I dined at Bistro West for a third time in November 2014 as part of the TMS Family Travel Conference in Carlsbad. I learned that Bistro West has a new chef and that some changes have been made to the menu, but the emphasis on farm-to-table is stronger than ever. Favorite dishes from the old menu – including the kids' menu – are still there. During the conference, we were hosted for meals by several restaurants and resorts who brought out their best, but Bistro West remains my favorite restaurant in Carlsbad.
Good to Know
Where: 4960 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92008. At I-5 and Cannon Road.
When: Lunch – Monday through Saturday, Dinner – every day, Sunday Brunch. Visit www.bistrowest.com for hours.
How Much: Regular dinner entrees are available for $15 and up. Most Kids' Menu entrees cost $6 or $7.
How Long: At least an hour, unless you make other arrangements with your server. Arrive early for lunch or dinner or call (760) 930-8008 for reservations to avoid a wait before your meal.
Disclosure: Bistro West provided my family with a complimentary meal so that we could review the restaurant for other families. The opinions expressed here are my own.
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