New San Diego North County Spot Death By Tequila Headed By Former Top Chef Contestant

August 9, 2018

Now open in the heart of North County San Diego's coastal neighborhood of Encinitas is Death By Tequila, an agave-spirits bar and modern Mexican restaurant with a kitchen helmed by a former contestant of Bravo's Top Chef.

El Jardin isn't the only new Baja-inspired San Diego restaurant operated by a former Top Chef participant. Newly opened Death By Tequila in Encinitas has a menu designed by consulting chef Angelo Sosa, who was the runner-up on season 7 of Bravo's hit culinary competition, as well as a contestant on Top Chef All-Stars. Sosa previously lived in New York City for the past 16 years, where he worked at and started many standout restaurants. Sosa also opened an eatery in Las Vegas, competed on an episode of Beat Bobby Flay and has co-authored a cookbook during his long and illustrious career.

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Owned by husband-and-wife Chad & Jessica Mestler, Death By Tequila has opened in the space that last housed Via Italia Trattoria and boasts a food menu centered around the restaurant's woodfire oven with an array of salsas, guacamoles, ceviches, crudos, salads, tostadas, tacos, and entrees prepared with local ingredients. The space has been designed with murals from area artist Juan Marante.

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"Baja is our home away from home," explained Death By Tequila co-owner Jessica Mestler. "We’ve been taking surf trips there for years and this concept was inspired by the excitement of the growing food and wine scene in Mexico. It’s so imaginative and fun. Death by Tequila brings the flavors of Baja together with the energy of downtown and the surf culture of Encinitas."

Sosa, along with Chef Ben McBrien, has created a menu of share plates made primarily with produce from local farms. Signature dishes include ahi tuna crudo, served in a coconut kaffir lime broth with jicama, chile oil, cilantro and dill; red mole potato, grilled fish and carnitas tacos; the elote tostada, topped with sweet corn, aged cotija cheese, arbol chile, jalapeƱo and garlic mayo; and Spanish octopus served with house chorizo, Castelveltrano green olives and cherry tomatoes. The carnitas are made from Duroc pork that is marinated in a red mole and pineapple skin for tenderness and then braised for several hours. The reimagined tres leches uses corn cake - made with freshly ground corn, house crema and kaffir lime leaf; and is served with wild strawberries. Every selection on the dinner menu is gluten free, and most of the ingredients are organic and sustainable.

More than 100 tequila and 30 mezcal selections are complemented by beers from Tijuana, wines from Valle de Guadalupe, and twists on classic Mexican cocktails. Signature drinks, created for pairing with the cuisine, include Tres Cacti, made with Hacienda Silver tequila, lemon, prickly pear, agave and Jarritos served on the rocks in a Collins glass; Los Muertos, made with Milagro Silver tequila, lime, mango and chile ash, served on the rocks; and Frothing in Puerto, made with Gracias a Dios mezcal, lemon, vanilla, pineapple and egg white served in a coupe glass. The drink is finished with a DxT logo that is airbrushed through a stencil with bitters. The cocktails are made and garnished with fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables and spices.

The design is clean, comfortable and modern, blending the surf cultures of Baja Mexico and Encinitas. Along with Mucho Aloha Beer Co., the Mestlers commissioned local artist Juan Marante, also known as “El Gran Tocayo,” to create a Baja inspired 25’ x 8’ multi-layered mural that covers an entire wall of the restaurant. To create a street art vibe, Marante wheat pasted vintage Mexican imagery as the first layer, topping it with multi-layered stencils and then a light wash to achieve a weathered look. The mural is finished with a hand-painted illustration, his signature style, with a pin-up style Latina mermaid at the center. The mural was created so that each of the layers is visible, with the intention that each glance reveals new details.

Death By Tequila is located at 569 S Coast Hwy 101 in Encinitas, CA. For more information, visit deathbytequila.com and check out the menus below.