Foodservice vets test experimental concept with The Lab Collaborative
In a science lab, the only way to get the perfect formula is through years of trial, error and experimentation.
The approach is no different for the team behind Oceanside’s brand new The Lab Collaborative (TLC), a multi-concept dining destination that opened January 5 in downtown Oceanside. TLC’s six on-site executives have a combined 119 years of experience in restaurants, bars, cafes and hotel management, so they’re pretty confident they’ve found the proven recipe for satisfying Oceanside locals.
Located in a new 5,200 square foot indoor/outdoor space on Cleveland Street, TLC is a restaurant, bar, cafe and food truck. TLC also has a large glass-walled collaborative kitchen where its owners plan to host guest chefs for gourmet events and special menus. The place is decorated with molecule-style light fixtures, a wall decoration of test tubes and beakers, a menu divided into sections labeled “Experimental” and “Clinical Trials” and a house seasoning known as “lab dust”. .
TLC is the brainchild of Oceanside pals Jack Everett and Chef Ramiro Guerra, who met years ago while working together at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Ready to run their own show after the pandemic ended their industry, they teamed up with local businessman Mark Davis to create the multi-pronged 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. Cafe owner Mikayla Torres has worked in the coffee industry for five years. Kitchen manager Ivan Castillo has 18 years of kitchen experience and general manager Eddie Navarro brings 29 years to the table.
When Everett and Guerra started working on TLC in 2021, their concept was even more scientific in design. Everett had envisioned the project as a test kitchen where chefs and mixologists would go in-residence for two weeks and the menu would change constantly. But Guerra, who was the founding executive chef of Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill in Vista in 2016, knew from experience that the concept would fail without an on-site executive chef overseeing operations, spending 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 father was a Marine and their family lived at Camp Pendleton when he was a child. Now he lives on Oceanside Fire Mountain. He said he’s “designed” a menu he knows Oceanside locals will love, with hearty portions, global flavors, fresh local produce and good value.
While the project was under construction last year, he tested his menu with weekly pop-ups through the TLC food truck, which now serves food on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons at South O Brewing Co. Now perfected , the menu offers a mix of appetizers, soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches and plated dishes, including pork belly in bourbon and tamarind, beef cheeks braised in red wine , seafood linguine, banana leaf smoked pork shoulder and vegan options.
Guerra said he would always experiment with the menu and refused to be locked into any particular 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 draft beers from breweries within an 5 mile radius. Specialty cocktails include the Botanists Basket, a blackberry liqueur-flavored drink that pairs with gin or vodka, and the Up Late Martini, made with homemade cold-brew nitro coffee.
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 coffee drink menu and bakes her own vegan pastries. Jet Fuel is an exciting project for silent partner Davis, who hopes that one day Jet Fuel stores will be star sellers at US airports nationwide.
Since opening the doors, Guerra and Everett said TLC has been doing great business across the board, which is a promising start to the off-season for tourists, COVID concerns, staffing issues and the cold weather.
“We’re happy with how everything is going so far,” Everett said.
The collaborative laboratory
Address: 201 N. Cleveland St., Suite 109, Oceanside
In line: thelabcollaborative.com