Tucked into the Village Faire outdoor shopping center in Carlsbad Village, The Compass offers patrons an inspiring American gastropub experience. From the outside, it’s as unassuming as the cluster of other eateries in this one-square-block dining and retail space. But visitors would be remiss not venturing in for a midday craft brew and a bite to eat. It’s a great place to refuel after a morning at Tamarack Beach a couple short blocks away, or a place to unwind following a shopping spree at Carlsbad’s numerous neighborhood fashion boutiques. Evenings kick it up a notch when the nine to five crowd rolls in for happy hour, and The Compass remains a lively place to drink and dine well into the night.
The Compass Ambiance
The ambiance is what you would expect from a well-known neighborhood gastropub. Lively. Casual. Fast-paced. Especially from happy hour into the night.
The modern décor has earthy textures with a black industrial-style ceiling, brick walls, heavy natural wood trim and furnishings, and plank-look tiled flooring. There is a row of bright red banquettes along a wall of large windows opposite the bar. Several high tops with leather cushioned bar stools fill the rest of the space. The large windows add light to the otherwise dark interior.
Outdoors, a large concrete patio with metal bistro tables and chairs beneath a natural wood pergola creates a comfortable space to enjoy lunch or dinner in Carlsbad’s near perfect weather. If it does happen to get chilly, there are heat lamps scattered about to keep diners toasty warm.
The Compass Food
By definition, the food in a gastropub is upscale with a unique spin for pairing with the main attraction – a full menu of craft brews on tap and an ample selection of bottled beers. At The Compass, diners can expect the food to live up to the gastropub hype.
The restaurant’s five menus start with their afternoon menu, followed, of course, by happy hour, an evening menu, and late night bites. Then there’s the brunch menu from mid-morning to mid-afternoon on Sundays only. Each offers a number of ways to ‘wow’ your taste buds.
If you stop by in the afternoon for a snack and a beer, their bacon wrapped corndog – which is really a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed bratwurst fried in a house batter – is a must-have small plate. Truffle pomme frites (truffle fries) are in a dead heat with the corndogs for the most ordered snack item. You can’t go wrong with either. Another winner is the cast iron baked mac ‘n’ cheese in four versions.
The Compass Burger is their signature burger with a proprietary blend of beef, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, sriracha aioli, and cheddar cheese on brioche. It’s on both the afternoon and evening menus. The braised short rib grilled cheese on ciabatta with caramelized onions, horseradish aioli, and cheddar is another in-demand afternoon delight.
The evening menu is an expanded version of the afternoon menu with a larger selection of appetizers, small plates, salads, and main course hot plates. Standouts are squash blossoms, grilled chicken kale salad, and braised beef short ribs. And of course, every offering can be paired with the perfect craft brew or bottled beer.
The Compass has 20 craft brews, a variety of wines, and a full bar for tasty signature cocktails.
The Compass Details
If you choose your restaurant by the speed of its Internet, this is your place. With a download speed of 19 mbps, an upload speed of 6 mbps, and a ping speed of 16 ms, this might be the best place in town for a business meeting or to get some online work done over lunch.
As a gastropub, The Compass has more of an adult-friendly vibe and is less appropriate for families with children. The best times to come are from happy hour to their late, late night closing. They do take reservations, and although they have take-out, they don’t have delivery. There is bike parking and an off-street parking lot. Dogs are welcome on the outdoor patio.
The Compass serves Sunday Brunch with grownup menu items like a carne asada breakfast burrito or traditional eggs benedict, and a full menu of brunch drink specials.
There are several of vegan-friendly items on the menu, including an alternative to their famous corndogs. The vegan corndog is a garden dog dipped in vegan batter, fried, and served with Dijon mustard.
The Compass Neighborhood
Carlsbad is an upscale neighborhood, and Carlsbad Village is its heart. There are numerous independent shops, unique clothing boutiques, antique and curio stores, flower shops, art galleries, art supply shops and other great Carlsbad Restaurants all within walking distance of The Compass.
Carlsbad is also a stop on the Coaster that runs from San Diego to Oceanside, making it easy to ride the train from downtown San Diego, spend the day in Carlsbad at the village and the beach, and return on the last train.
Besides the incredible Tamarack Beach two blocks from The Compass, Carlsbad has four other beaches to explore. This coastal city is also home to the famous Flower Fields, the Carlsbad Outlet Mall, and the wildly popular LEGOLAND California.