California Beach Town Oceanside Emerges as Foodie and Getaway Destination

The surfside city north of San Diego has welcomed two new boutique hotels and a restaurant from Guadalupe Valley chef Roberto Alcocer, with a dessert bar in the famed ‘Top Gun’ house on the way.

For the past 35 years, the North County surf town of Oceanside was likely only known in Hollywood circles for being home to the sweet Victorian cottage where Tom Cruise’s Maverick visited his love interest, Charlie (Kelly McGillis), in Top Gun. But, just as the long-awaited film’s sequel is on the horizon in 2022, the small city is making waves as an elevated weekend destination, complete with two new boutique hotels and must-visit culinary sensations.

“Oceanside was once known as a sleepy beach town but is quickly becoming a not-so-hidden gem,” says Michael Stephens, managing director of the city’s two new design-forward hotels, The Seabird Resort and Mission Pacific Hotel.

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Dining highlights include Southeast Asian eatery Dija Mara (232 S. Coast Highway, dijamara .com), which was awarded the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand distinction this fall, around the same time that two ambitious chefs opened the doors to fine-dining restaurants they hope will soon garner stars. In late September, local favorite chef William Eick debuted his 48-seat Japanese restaurant Matsu (626 S. Tremont St., eatatmatsu.com) featuring exquisitely crafted modern omakase dinners that spotlight coastal California ingredients. And mid-October brought Valle (222 North Pacific St., valleoceanside.com), the first U.S. outpost from legendary Baja California chef Roberto Alcocer. In his beautifully moody restaurant, Alcocer brings Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley to life in wildly creative dishes that serve up vivid flavor.

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A guest room at The Seabird Resort. Courtesy Of Seabird

Valle is inside the Mission Pacific, the more boho chic of the two new hotels, which are decorated with some 1,000 works by regional artists, curated by Oceanside Museum of Art. The oceanfront hotels, which opened on side-by-side former parking lots this summer, are serious upgrades to the coastline, both featuring rooftop pools. Rooms and suites at Mission Pacific (from $349 a night, 201 N. Myers St., missionpacifichotel.com) feature natural woods and gray accents, while an East Coast beach house vibe rules at The Seabird (rooms from $349, 101 Mission Ave., theseabirdresort.com). The latter also includes a spa and local chef Kurtis Habecker’s delightful all-day restaurant Piper.

At the center of the action is the Top Gun house, a circa 1887 bungalow that has been completely restored as well as moved to a spot in the courtyard of the Mission Pacific. “[It’s] painted to look just how it did in the movie,” says Stephens. It overlooks the surf, Oceanside’s pier and the city’s historic band shell (seen in the film Bring It On). In early 2022, the house gets new life as a dessert concept called Charlie’s, aiming to make the historical gem “open and accessible to as many people as possible,” says Stephens. In addition to baked goods and ice cream, movie memorabilia will be featured throughout the house, including a restored Yamaha motorcycle nearly identical to Maverick’s.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.