It’s been eight years since I first wrote about American Legion Post 416, the fabulous slice of history, music, food and a wide cross-section of good people in the heart of an ever-changing downtown Encinitas.
And while the basic good vibe of the Legion has stayed the same, it has stepped up its culinary offerings, so I thought it was a good time to revisit the “post by the coast,” as members call it. I’ve been following the cooking adventures of member Boomer Schilling and his SoCal Southern BBQ, so I reached out to get a refresher on the rich history of the Legion and what’s new in the kitchen.
LTP: For folks who are unfamiliar with American Legion Post 416, give us a brief history and what’s new there.
Boomer: American Legion Post 416 submitted for charter in 1931, and in 1932 the “barracks” building was relocated to Encinitas. This building was one of the first buildings in Encinitas. Throughout the years, we added to the barracks in an effort to increase our capacity to host the nearly 700 veteran and active-duty members that we have. Currently, we’ve established a 501(c)(3) foundation to seek donations as we have plans submitted to rebuild our Post to modernize the facilities. We had a custom-made draft tower built that resembles a Navy submarine.
LTP: How does one become a member and can the public pop into events there?
Boomer: Membership is based on some simple criteria. To be a Legionnaire one would have had to have served in the military. However, we do offer memberships to those who may not have served but had a
parent or grandparent who did. Those individuals would fall within our Sons of a Legionnaire members and/or our auxiliary members. We open our doors to the public as we encourage them to come in as a guest and to enjoy our bar/kitchen area or to come watch some of the talented local artists that we have performing here.
LTP: Is it also available to rent?
Boomer: 100% correct. We do rent our Post to both members as well as to the public. We’ve had some incredible events here as a result of that.
LTP: Tell me a bit about your background and how you got involved in the Legion?
Boomer: I relocated to San Diego in 2010 for work and haven’t stopped loving Southern California. I have three boys who have grown up here and are thriving in this community. I became involved with the Legion as I served with the US Navy, and actually did my basic airman training in downtown. A former veteran actually recruited me to join, and when I visited our post by the coast, I saw that it was a place I could call home. I’ve made some amazing friendships as a result of the 416.
LTP: When did you start cooking for groups and how did SoCal BBQ happen?
Boomer: I’ve been cooking since I was a teenager and quickly added my skills to the Post’s events and weekends. As we increased our rentals, I naturally offered my culinary services so that the group could have food available for their guests. Outside caterers are welcome as well. SoCAL Southern BBQ evolved from a BBQ competition that was held at the Del Mar Racetrack. The competition organizers wanted to highlight a veteran organization and I was invited to compete. Thus began SoCAL Southern BBQ.
LTP: Going back about 10 years, I hosted a series of dinners at the Legion called GRUEL, a one-plate meal with a band. Since then, the food scene there has really become a thing. Who else is cooking and what are some of the better nights for food there?
Boomer: So why are we not doing GRUEL now? I love it! Seriously David, it’s time to bring it back. Our food service is typically Tuesday evenings, and then Friday and Saturdays. Our Riders group offers one of the most amazing breakfasts on the first Sunday of every month. The Riders put out an amazing breakfast brunch, totally affordable and open to all. Additionally, we have Brad & Savannah’s Fried Chicken that pops in when I’m off catering and recently we launched a Thirsty Thursday series where we featured Hot Dog on a Stick’s newest food truck. We have some ladies who prepare select meals on Tuesdays and then I cook on Fridays and Saturdays. The weekend menu is pretty legit offering appetizers like coconut shrimp, loaded tots, poppers, tenders and then more extensive main courses from ¼-pound all-beef dogs, burgers, fish & chips, flatbreads as well as chicken wings. My favorite burger is our Strikeforce Burger — two 1/3-pound Angus beef patties, grilled onions, cheese, bacon and a fried egg on a brioche bun and a garlic sriracha aioli. Pretty massive feast, but YOLO.
LTP: Music is also a big part of the Legion with a wide variety of performers. Who are some of your favorites?
Boomer: Music has been a staple within our Post. Doug Allen is typically performing on Tuesday evenings and a variety of bands perform on both Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. Honestly, I love all the bands that perform here, and the musical genres all vary from classic rock to blues and country. If your reader base hasn’t come out to watch, I encourage them to do so. I can personally guarantee that they won’t be disappointed. We’ve also started doing Comedy Nights on the third Thursday of the month.
LTP: And last but not least, you always have a great team of folks tending bar, including my friend Cowboy. What is the current lineup behind the bar?
Boomer: I’m a huge believer in TEAM, and you’re absolutely correct in saying “a great team of folks.” Cowboy is still here and can be found working the door on our busy weekends, and yes, he’s still rocking the cowboy hat. Behind the bar daily we’ve got a couple of new faces like Ava, Nancy and occasionally Cinnamon. Evenings vary as well, but typically we have Kim, Hannah and Shantai slinging drinks. All are extremely talented and help make up a truly awesome experience.
Post 416 is located at 210 West F Street, Encinitas. Follow them on Facebook and www.post416ca.org