A roving taqueria that amassed a local following through several successful North County pop-ups has evolved into an elegant Mexican restaurant that recently landed on Coast Highway in Encinitas.
Échale, which replaces St. Tropez Bistro, is the first San Diego-based restaurant for Sean Yontz but not his first inspired by Mexican cuisine. A fine-dining chef by training, Yontz explored his Hispanic heritage through several Mexican restaurants he opened in Denver before moving to Los Angeles for a corporate chef position with Plan Check, which once had several neighborhood restaurants throughout the city. While in LA, Yontz and his business partner Jon Rhinerson launched a predecessor to Échale as a pop-up in Venice Beach.
During the pandemic, Yontz’s son and his family relocated to Cardiff and Yontz followed, settling in Encinitas and re-starting the taqueria through stints at the Shanty in Cardiff and Vino Carta in Solana Beach.
Yontz tells Eater that his menu for the new restaurant reimagines the gourmet fillings from his tacos through larger format, more fine-dining style plates. Ancho chile-braised oxtail is now paired with homemade pappardelle, salsa ranchera, and grana padana while the chicken tinga has translated to a roasted half-chicken served with chipotle salsa, braised turnip and fennel, and caramelized onions. And Rhinerson’s beer and wine list includes super funky, natural wines from Baja and the Valle.
Local designer Ryder England completely transformed the site, describing the aesthetic as “wabi-Oaxacan”. Inspired by shou sugi ban, a Japanese method of charring wood to preserve it, England used a similar treatment on recycled wood for the restaurant’s furnishings and handcrafted the ceramics that decorate the space. Its centerpiece, a seven-by-seven-foot custom hanging light fixture, takes after traditional Japanese lamps but was made with materials from the Yucatan.
Their popular tacos return to the menu later this month when Échale launches lunch service, which will also include tortas, ceviches, and seafood cocktails. Yontz says they’re also planning to introduce weekend brunch down the line as well as a takeout-focused breakfast of breakfast burritos and other grab-and-go items.
Échale, 947 S. Coast Highway 101 Suite 103D, Encinitas; Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.