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Inside Track

The ponies are in town! Grab that fedora or wide-brimmed hat, because we’re counting down the must-hit haunts to make your race season the most classic yet. And away they go…

Searsucker is replacing the Burlap concept in Del Mar Highlands.

The Pony Room at  Rancho Valencia

10. Hot to Trot
So long, Burlap. Hello, Searsucker (searsucker.com). That’s right, the fabric-themed restaurant empire has ditched the “Asian cowboy” concept for the widely popular Searsucker, which dishes out updated American cuisine (pork chops with duck fat potatos, Kobe carpaccio) and designer cocktails in chic digs courtesy of Thomas Schoos. Most recently, Searsucker opened in Austin as well as Scottsdale, and there are unconfirmed rumors that Orange County is next.

9. Sea Change
Has a Hamptons-esque beach-chic barn landed smack-dab in Del Mar? No, it’s just the spiffed-up, stripped-down Jake’s Del Mar (jakesdelmar.com), which recently underwent a modern makeover, replacing the aloha decor of yore with communal tables and industrial lights. Burger fan? You have arrived. The signature beef patty on a King’s Hawaiian roll is topped with Tillamook cheddar and sautéed onions for an exacting meat-to-bun ratio. You can watch the surfers and beachgoers outside, but we promise the people-watching inside is way more fun.

8. Saddle Up
After a $30 million remodel, Rancho Valencia (ranchovalencia.com) is a study in casual sophistication. Every inch of this romantic resort oozes with understated elegance, from Damien Hirst art crowning the dining room to locals wearing riding gear to sip margaritas at the Pony Room bar. Outside, a croquet lawn is at the ready. So too are the hot air balloons that fly overhead at sunset like clockwork.

7. Hop to It
Not that we need more reason to go shop Cedros, the quaint main drag in Solana Beach featuring mega destination stores like SoLo, but Culture Brewing Company (culturebrewingco.com) has added to the draw. With its mod airy design, it’s just the place to hang with North County locals sipping the ballyhooed Black Lager. It’s further proof that the craft brew scene is taking over the world one neighborhood at a time.

6. Raising the Bar
Just down the street from the track, Flower Hill Promenade (flowerhill.com) is promising to be one of the season’s hottest hangs with several new offerings.On top of the alluring list is Cucina Enoteca, slated to arrive in August, with a buzzy wine bar and lots of sharable nibbles. The high-designed Sea & Smoke is also on our radar. But if you’re on the prowl, believe it or not, it’s the new Whole Foods bar that’s been drawing the bedazzled crowd.

5. A Sure Bet
There’s sushi, and then there’s sushi at Market Bar + Restaurant (marketdelmar.com), the favorite North County staple is getting a long-needed remodel just in time for race season. The nightly offerings are all about freshness, and the be-seen bar is as scene-y as it gets.
Across the way (in what has previously been a doomed location), don’t rule out Sublime Ale House (sublimealehouse.net) for a more casual setting—and lots of craft beer.

4. Pay It Forward
Big day at the track? The lobby and its sprawling patio at L’Auberge Del Mar (laubergedelmar.com) is just the sophisticated spot to spend your winnings. The lobby lounge is ideal for big groups, or grab a cozy seat by the firepit. Across the way Del Mar Plaza (delmarplaza.com) is another iconic spot­ to catch the view—and the show ponies. Coming in August is the Old Town tequila-stocked classic, El Agave. In the meantime, there’s always Pacifica’s vodka bar, and the chic wine hang, Enoteca.

3. To a T
There’s nothing like easing your way into race day with a nosh at T’s Cafe (tscafesolanabeach.com). The beloved breakfast and lunch joint is a hop and a skip from the Solana Beach train station, where the double-decker trolley can whisk you off to the Turf Club after a few of the famous housemade Bloody Marys, served in pint glasses with cherry peppers. Standouts include indulgent eggs Benny, chorizo-laden scrambles, high-piled potato skillets and a good ol’ reuben. Nudge your way into the bar and peruse your daily racing form, and voilà, you’re a regular.

2. Go Old-School
Red Tracton’s is the must stop for any race fan (redtractonssteakhouse.com). The history, the classic dark bar, the lobster club sandwich... And of course, owner Tracy Tracton, who took over her father’s post, is filled with enough stories for a page-turner of the racing world. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Tracton’s (as locals call it) has managed to keep itself fresh with remodels while maintaining all of its old-school cool. “We’re continuing the legacy,” says Tracton, whose son Morgan mans the front of the house. “I grew up in this bar. I’ve seen it all.” The menu features fat steaks and several tableside classics, including the goddess salads and and baked potatoes topped with decadent accoutrements. It’s high time to step back in time.

1. Mex It Up
When it comes to favorite Mexican haunts in North County, you’re either a Tony’s Jacal (tonysjacal.com) devotee or a Fidel’s fan. Our dedication is with Tony’s. The 1946 restaurant, replete with a saloon and festive terrace, is a family-owned Solana Beach charmer. Newcomers: Expect a sense of discovery, and don’t expect chicken. The house specialty is roasted turkey, and guacamole has never been so heavenly. The margie and roving mariachi are calling your name.