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Exploring The Changing Landscape Of Oceanside, California

oceanside california market

OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA – Visitors to this southern California seaside town will still find remnants of the days when it was best known as a place for soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Pendleton to blow off steam. There are old-style movie theatres and diners, and a number of small barber shops proudly flying the Stars and Stripes and offering haircuts for as little as $11.

The Changing Face of Oceanside, CA

But things have begun to change in Oceanside. A new Wyndham hotel appeared a few years ago by the water. SpringHill Suites by Marriott followed. And then came the Mission Pacific and the Seabird, two sparkling, boutique hotels with rooftop bars that sprung up in former parking lots overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Goodbye, greasy bacon and eggs, hello avocado toast.

“Fifteen years ago, nobody wanted to come downtown,” says Kim Heim of the Oceanside Business Association. “There would be military guys in the bars and fights spilling out in the streets.” (I did a little research on the history of the town and read that there used to be billboards along the highway advising folks to “Tan Your Hide in Oceanside.”)

Oceanside Street Market

Heim decided a street market might bring in folks who’d been hesitant to venture downtown. There were some early clashes, “but eventually the interests of the many outweighed the interests of the few,” he said.

“All of a sudden, it was ‘boom!’ The public adopted the market. And now we get 400,000 people a year.”

During the day, you’ll find vendors selling t-shirts, candles, and California-themed gear. At night, the vendors are supplemented by roughly 100 food trucks, offering everything from Greek food to genuine Thai and thick, rich cream puffs.

Kim shuffles off and comes back with a large plate of southern Thailand-style Pad Thai, which has a hint of coconut and is utterly fabulous.

A Food Lover’s Dream

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“I wanted food to be the real focus,” Heim says. “And I wanted it to be authentic. The empanada truck is run by a fellow from Venezuela. The Pad Thai truck is run by a family from Thailand.”

The market was flooded with people from all walks of life on the night we visited. People noshed on ribs, North African-style chicken, and Hong Kong noodles as they walked along the market’s four city blocks, which are closed off to cars. On the edge of the market, a woman of a certain age was sitting alone singing show tunes your grandmother would know. In the middle of the action, a…

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