by Clare Schmidt
Sunny Side Kitchen is a highly ranked restaurant hidden in downtown Escondido. Bob and Kate’s family owned business is dedicated to hand-crafted deliciousness and making people happy. For three years, they’ve served paninis, soups, salads, and cookies, and supported the local community of Escondido.
Sunny Side Kitchen began when Kate got laid off her job in PR. She decided not to continue in that field and wanted to do something different — like making cookies. She had a long history in journalism and PR and had worked with restaurants before, which helped to inspire her and give her an idea of what she wanted in her business. “I was very comfortable in the kitchen, and I wanted to see if I could do it,” Kate said. “I love the feeling you get when you serve people and feed them; I love the feeling of seeing people sit here happy and leave here happy. Food is a great way to do that.”
She started selling homemade cookies at the farmers market. The menu eventually expanded to include paninis, salads, and soups. “We made a business plan where in three to five years we would open up our own little breakfast and lunch place, but we thought the farmers market would be a good place to get started.”
Bob and her sold food at the farmer’s market for about three years, until Bob’s time as a magazine editor came to an end. “I got laid off, and since I thought the whole publishing business was declining because of the internet, I decided to get out and to do this instead,” he said. They found a place in downtown Escondido and opened up Sunny Side Kitchen.
Kate and Bob wanted Sunny Side to have a completely homemade feel to it, from the service, to the food, to the building itself. “There was a divider in the building, so the kitchen was blocked off, and we didn’t want that. We tore it down so we could talk to people and people could talk to us,” Bob said. “We even brought in our kitchen table and got a different table for our house because we wanted this one in here.” The couple strives to make people feel welcomed and at home when they come in. “We use people’s names when they order, and when they come regularly we learn their names so that when they walk in, it feels like a home away from home.”
They really focus on the quality of everything they serve by making all the food from scratch and by hand with fresh, high-quality ingredients. “When you’re making the food, you know what’s in it, so we try to hand-make everything fresh. That’s part of what makes us unique,” Bob commented. “It’s a really long process and it’s hard work, but the result is just that much better.”
Sunny Side also cares about supporting the local community. “We really try to be involved in supporting local organizations and businesses,” Bob said. “We try to buy all local ingredients for our food. Then it’s fresh, better quality, and we’re supporting a local business.” They have also hired several students from JPCatholic and other nearby colleges. Julius Medrano, a JPCatholic student employed by Bob and Kate said, “Sunny Side is the place where small local businesses can come, be who they are and be supported for who they are. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”
Sunny Side Kitchen’s simple but unique approach to making delicious food and their dedication to making their customers happy earned them a place on Yelp’s nationwide list of “Top 100 Places to Eat” two years in a row. In 2017, they were #51, and have risen up to #45 on the 2018 list.
When asked about the naming of their business, Kate commented, “I really try to focus on the positive and stay on the ‘sunny side’, because I think that if you do, it makes your life and other people’s lives that much better. I really feel like we translate that into what we do here. We’re really lucky to have found this perfect little place where people might not notice us, but when they do, hopefully they’re really happy they did.”
Photos by Anne Linn