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Sunny Side Kitchen Sees the Bright Side Post-Pandemic

Bob and Kate Carpenter opened Sunny Side Kitchen in Escondido five years ago to make fresh, homemade food for the community. 

“We call it California Cuisine,” said Kate. “Our recipes are inspired by California cultures.” 

Owners Bob and Kate have a tight-knit team of staff and interns at Sunny Side Kitchen

The eatery’s menu includes crustless quiches, fruit cups, soups, salads, panini sandwiches on fresh baked sourdough from local bakery Bread & Cie, and assorted drinks. 

Local hairdressers and their clients, CPAs, attorneys, and nearby medical offices have flocked to Sunny Side Kitchen since it opened and have remained loyal regulars. “Our customers are people who are busy,” said Bob. “And they care about the food they are putting in their body. We make everything from scratch to order.” 

This loyalty is what helped the Carpenters stay open through the pandemic and was boosted by some new patrons too. “This community is trying really hard to support independent restaurants,” said Bob, who added that many new customers found them on Escondido Eats (a City and Chamber of Commerce partnership). “It’s very heartwarming.” 

Even with the support, their business dropped 50% when other local businesses around them were shuttered and foot traffic came to a standstill. 

However, as regulations have been lifted and people are getting back to work they are seeing an increase in sales. “We have been crawling back,” Bob said. 

The Carpenters were able to survive in part because they slightly shifted their business model to accommodate take-out only. “We are a very small place,” Bob said. “Before COVID-19, there was only customer seating for 12 outside and 12 inside. So when COVID hit, it wasn’t a huge pivot, and everything had to be to-go.” 

Included in the to-go orders were prepared dinners. “We didn’t want to stay open later but we thought we could supply people dinner,” Bob said. These “Dinner at Home” meals for four include meatloaf, roasted chicken, a noodle bake, and sides, available a la carte. “They’ve been very popular and it’s what saved us in the beginning.”

This noodle bake to-go meal is one of the eatery's many delicious meal offerings

Bob said now with the dining room opened, people are still being very cautious. Meanwhile, the tables outside are spaced further apart for social distancing.

New regulations have also made the in-dining area smaller. “We only have two tables inside,” he said. “People seem to be more comfortable sitting outside.” 

The Carpenters feel the City of Escondido has been supportive and creative in adjusting to the new standards - the Escondido Business Recovery Strategy is a fine example of that. 

“The City has been amazing,” Bob said. “They have been really proactive. I was surprised at how progressive they were. And they said they want to let restaurants spread out beyond the normal boundaries and maybe even use the parking lot for tables. It’s really nice to see that they are trying to work to make it better.”

Owner Kate holds a tray of delicious, fresh-baked cookies

Overall, the Carpenters say they are lucky to be where they are. Kate said, “In general it has been really hard but, we have been lucky and are grateful to the community of Escondido. They are very supportive. We are happy to be working in this community, feeding them, and being here for them.”

Sunny Side Kitchen  is located at 155 S Orange Street in Escondido.

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