Bright and open, Nautilus Tavern in La Jolla is very inviting to all who enter. “When you come off the beach and you’re looking for a fun, laid back place to hang out, we are your spot,” says Executive chef Shelly Valez.
Serving unique pub and tavern food, the menu at Nautilus Tavern represents a bit of coastal cuisine, with a little bit of Latin and southern comfort food flavors thrown in from Valez’s background. “We cater to everyone, especially the neighborhood families who want to come in for casual dining, or with friends to grab drinks, apps, watch a game or two, and enjoy good conversation” she says. “From the young to the young at heart, there is something for everyone to enjoy!”
Nautilus Tavern offers weekly specials that aren’t on the menu, so be sure to ask your server to get the inside scoop. On Friday nights, Valez makes a mean Mac n’ Cheese, which has become very popular. “Our most unique dish is our Nautilus plate. It’s a cross of Hawaiian, meets southern, meets Latin: Kalua pork, mac salad, coconut rice, and fried sweet plantains, served with a maple bourbon bacon BBQ sauce,” she says. “When I first made this plate, I wasn’t sure how all the flavors would meld, but they pair perfectly.”
Valez likes to source a local produce company, and orders all-natural meats. She offers house-made salsa cruda, salsa verde, most salad dressings, and all dipping sauces. She marinates all meats, and from the burgers to the blackened chicken sandwich, nothing goes on any plate without having her “special flavor” added to it.
Valez especially loves the chicken lettuce cups, and egg rolls from the appetizer selections. Her preferred salad is the the grilled Caesar, and, since there are too many good choices of sandwiches, she finds it impossible to pick just one. “My absolute favorite item on the menu is probably my homemade chili,” she says. “I have a least one cup a day.”
When guests come to Nautilus or Pillbox Tavern (sister restaurant in Solana Beach), Valez says she wants them to feel as if they are extended family. “I want them to feel welcomed and relaxed, have a cocktail of their choice, and enjoy the food and atmosphere.”