In a science lab, the only way to achieve the perfect formula is through years of trial, error and experimentation.
The approach is no different for the team behind Oceanside’s just-opened The Lab Collaborative (TLC), a multi-concept food and drink destination that opened Jan. 5 in downtown Oceanside. TLC’s six onsite leaders have a combined 119 years of experience in restaurants, bars, coffee shops and hospitality management, so they’re pretty confident they’ve figured out the time-tested recipe for satisfying Oceanside locals.
Located in a new 5,200-square-foot indoor/outdoor space on Cleveland Street, TLC is a restaurant, a bar, a coffeehouse and a food truck. TLC also has a large, glass-walled collaborative kitchen where its owners plan to host visiting chefs for dining events and special menus. The venue is decorated with molecule-style light fixtures, test tube and beaker wall décor, a menu divided by sections titled “Experimental” and “Clinical Trials” and a house seasoning know as “lab dust.”
TLC is the brainchild of Oceanside buddies Jack Everett and chef Ramiro Guerra, who met years ago working together for BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Ready to run their own show after the pandemic up-ended their industry, they partnered with local businessman Mark Davis to create the multipronged project in their hometown and staff it with seasoned experts.
Managing partner Everett has 25 years of operations experience, most recently with Tocaya Organica. Guerra has 20 years in restaurant kitchens. Everett’s wife, Raschelle Everett, is TLC’s bar manager, with 22 years of experience, most recently at Señor Grubby’s in Oceanside. Coffee shop manager Mikayla Torres has five years in the coffee industry. Kitchen Manager Ivan Castillo has 18 years of cooking credentials and general manager Eddie Navarro brings 29 years to the table.
When Everett and Guerra first started working on TLC in 2021, their concept was even more scientific in design. Everett had conceived of the project as a test kitchen where chefs and mixologists would visit for two-week residencies and the menu would change constantly. But Guerra, who was founding executive chef for Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill in Vista in 2016, knew from experience that the concept would fail without an onsite executive chef overseeing operations, expenses and consistency. Everett offered Guerra the job and Guerra agreed to leave Belching Beaver if he could become a partner in the project.
Guerra’s dad was a Marine and their family lived on Camp Pendleton when he was a boy. Now he lives on Oceanside’s Fire Mountain. He said he “engineered” a menu that he knows Oceanside locals will like, with hearty portions, global flavors, fresh local produce and good value for the money.
While the project was under construction last year, he tested out his menu with weekly pop-ups via the TLC food truck, which is now serving food Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons at South O Brewing Co. Now perfected, the menu features a mix of appetizers, soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches and plated entrees, including bourbon and tamarind pork belly, red wine-braised beef cheeks, seafood linguine, banana leaf-smoked pork shoulder and vegan options.
Guerra said he’ll always experiment with the menu and refuses to be locked into any one cuisine. There are now German, Mexican, Indian and Asian-inspired dishes on the TLC menu.
Raschelle Everett’s bar program features 30-day barrel-aged cocktails and eight beers on tap from breweries within a 5-mile radius. Specialty cocktails include the Botanists Basket, a blackberry liqueur-flavored drink that pairs with either gin or vodka, and the Up Late Martini, made with nitro cold brew coffee made in-house.
The Jet Fuel Roasting & Coffee Company is a small all-day coffee bar tucked into the north corner of the property. Manager Torres, who worked for Starbucks and Steady State Roasting before joining TLC, has created her own menu of coffee drinks and is baking her own vegan pastries. Jet Fuel is a passion project for silent partner Davis, who hopes that one day Jet Fuel shops will be featured vendors at U.S. airports nationwide.
Since the doors opened, Guerra and Everett said TLC has been doing very strong business in every sector, which is a promising start during the off-season for tourists, COVID worries, staffing issues and cold weather.
“We’re happy with how everything is going so far,” Everett said.
Address: 201 N. Cleveland St., Suite 109, Oceanside
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