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Taste of Wine: Del Mar’s Sky Deck is a North County dining mecca

Put away any and all preconceived notions you may have about food halls, food courts and other past efforts. The Sky Deck at the newly remodeled Del Mar Highlands Town Center is the most prominent culinary destination in North County San Diego. The modern dining pavilion is a 26,000 square foot, 1,000-seat culinary location modeled after Barcelona Spain’s upscale El Nacional.

The location, with its maritime industrial design, is poised to become a favorite for those who crave a dining and drinking venue with tastes from around the world.

Under the Sky Deck, there are 13 venues that offer such food and drink as modern Greek; Parisian pastries; Japanese delights; American-Mexican fusion; extraordinary Thai seasonally rotated; pizza experience direct from Milan; glass-enclosed Yakatori and sushi inspired kitchen/bar; completely reimagined American dining experience; colorful Mexican flavored dining with a festive gastronomical setting, and an entire upstairs Brewer’s Deck with three new styles of awesome brewed beverages including a hard Kombucha maker. Each stop has its own exclusive dining area.

A thriving cocktail bar is the center of the Sky Deck party.  All restaurant lanes lead to the “Understory” cocktail bar, the most exciting element of this newest dining and drinking emporium. Here you can order the widest selection of original cocktails and fine wines for San Diego’s adventure-seeking community.

Diners from the various eating venues can take their meals inside the many booths, and tables set up for cocktail and other beverage orders. Table service makes it easy to order your drinks from a full-service staff.

If Sky Deck wasn’t a restaurant mecca, it would be a serious regional maritime museum with its scenic art, sculpture and boating reproductions. Old boats, fish traps and glass floats hang from the 35-foot ceiling. For more, visit  delmarhighlandstowncenter.com/skydeck.

Zizikis Sizzling Greek Street Food Leads the Success at Sky Deck

Third-generation chef/restaurateur James Augustine recently opened Zizikis, a fast-casual modern Greek Street Food restaurant. The 20-year-old chef is also preparing to open J restaurant, a “New American” dining place next to

Zizikis, transforming familiar flavors with modernist cooking techniques in a full-service setting, to be reported by Taste of Wine & Food when open.

In Zizikis, Augustine has curated an original menu based on family recipes offered at their first Zizikis in Dallas.  This successful pioneer Mediterranean establishment was sold in order to come to San Diego to develop a next-generation Zizikis with classic Greek food.

Lamb plate at Zizikis at the Sky Deck in the Del Mar Highlands Town Center
The premier position on the Zizikis menu is the Lamb plate on warm Pita, with Arugula, onion, tomato and Tzatziki. Courtesy photo

Number one on the Pita side of the menu that always includes a warm Pitabase with Arugula, onion, tomato and Tzatziki are hefty pieces of grass-fed, free-range Lamb leg imported from New Zealand. A menu option and the most impressive taste for me was the deepwater Faroe Island Scottish Sushi-grade Salmon kabob.  The stunning flavor brought out the fisherman in me and I couldn’t get enough.

Sides for both included Hummus and Pita with the Hummus made totally from artichoke hearts (yummy). The Pita bread is cooked with a special secret blend of house spices the family’s been using for over 30 years. A substantial side salad completed my feast.

Rico and I were astounded by the small but impressive wine list with selections from Paso Robles, Willamette Valley, Dunnigan Hills and New Zealand.

As we pointed out James Augustine is the chef/restaurateur of Zizikis and the coming J Restaurant. He has been stunned by the initial public reaction to his menu. “Our business has been absolutely crazy,” he said.  “People are really excited about this.”

Fueled by a rich Greek history and over three generations of passed-down family recipes, this made-to-order elevated street food has given us a new norm… fine-casual dining. Zizikis is open Tues. through Sun. from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call 858-925-7595. Visit zizikis.co.

Wine Bytes

North County Wine Company’s annual Anniversary celebration will be held Fri. and Sat. July 30 and 31 starting Fri. at 4 p.m.  Jim Tobin promises an amazing array of top-flight wine tasting along with food and a Champagne Sabering Ceremony.  More details will be revealed or you can call 760-653-9032.

The San Diego Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market is reopening Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Shop safely in an open-air market with meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, baked goods and more.  Open rain or shine.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator and one of the leading commentators on the web. Reach him at [email protected]