When I heard that Leucadia Company, a restaurant ownership group responsible for Valentina, Moto Deli and Corner Pizza, were opening a burger joint in the former Hapi Fish Sushi location, my interest was piqued.
All three of those restaurants are on my regular rotation and given that there is not a destination burger place in coastal Encinitas, it would be a welcome addition.
As an added bonus, a coffee and breakfast shop run by a culinary school grad and former Food Network producer is part of the mix along with a bike shop just for good measure.
I’ll start with the Hamburger Hut, which, as the name implies, offers single, double and triple hamburgers, made with a Wagyu beef blend, charred on a flattop and served on King’s Hawaiian rolls, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and executive chef Andy Halvorsen’s take on Thousand Island dressing, which he cleverly calls “10,000 Island Dressing.”
And of course, making any of those a cheeseburger is the preferred way to go. They are sized between a slider and a full-size burger, which has always been my preferred portion and I will take a flattop-cooked burger over any other cooking method any day.
Two single cheeseburgers, fries and a fountain soda are the way to go although I will admit I powered through three of them recently. The buns are a nice touch although my fantasy burger scenario would also offer a simple sesame seed bun as an option.
For the non-bun folks out there, they also come in a lettuce wrap but really people…this is not a health-food experience, go with the buns! Jabba fries are an option which would be their take on carne asada fries.
Some crafty beer is on tap along with hard kombucha and fountain sodas that are my preferred companion to a burger and fries.
Actually, I get a beer to sip while I’m waiting for my order and a soda to go with the burger. Outside picnic tables are the perfect setting to indulge and make for some great people watching as this place has been jamming since they opened their doors.
Under the same roof but next door is Queenstage Coffee House, home of my new favorite breakfast options in North County. “Queen stage” is a biking term referring to the hardest, most demanding stage of a race, often at elevation in the mountains.
Valeria Linss and Esteban Rodriguez are the owners and Esteban is the cycling fanatic, hence the name and the proximity next door to bike shop, Velo Town.
Valeria is the culinary school grad and former cookbook editor and recipe tester who also was a producer for the Food Network.
Valeria also developed an amazing salsa called “Otra” that can be found on their avocado toast and as a side to any of their dishes. It’s inspired by salsa macha, an oil-based sauce made with sesame seeds and chile de arbol. Valeria’s version includes pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and a blend of dried chiles.
I’ve had breakfast twice at Queenstage and fell in love with both of the dishes I tried. The first was the Ham Toast, a simple, yet elegant open-faced combination of high-quality ham, cheese and a perfectly poached egg with otra salsa on the side.
I was back the next morning for the Lox Toast and wow, I will be back weekly for this one. The combination of smoked salmon, labneh (a kefir cheese similar to cream cheese with more of a yogurt flavor), pickled onions, capers and lemony arugula.
A poached egg can be added to any of the toasts, and it was a perfect addition to this one. The flavor combinations and textures worked so well together I almost ordered a second…my portion control was engaged.
Besides those menu standouts, they offer Spirulina Chia Pudding, Greek Yogurt with Granola, Chocolate Toast, Fig & Anise Toast, Labneh & Berries Toast along with a full selection of fabulous coffee and beverage options.
Velo Town is a great-looking retail bike shop also under the same roof that offers bike sales and service. It’s from the owners of Leucadia Cyclery and has the perfect location for the sizable population of cyclists that frequent Coast Highway 101.
Combined, Hamburger Hut, Queenstage and Velo Town make very efficient use of the large space they have to work with. All three spots should be added to your places to check out if you have not already.
Find them at 190 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas.