The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar
Established in 2020 by local Marine Corps veteran Kevin Shin inside The Fin Hotel, this Hawaiian-inspired restaurant pays homage to the women who worked in the historic building during World War II.
Photos courtesy of The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar
If there’s ever a crisis, Kevin Shin is someone you want nearby. For starters, he’s a fire captain who has spent 16 years as a first-responder. He’s also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Keeping cool under pressure is practically in his DNA.
He never guessed that grace under fire would someday help him to launch a business during a pandemic.
Like many unsuspecting entrepreneurs, he opened his restaurant, The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar, in early 2020 — right before the pandemic hit. As public health orders forced him to scale back, he naturally felt his stress levels rising.
“I decided to muster all the emergency training I had and use it to push through this however I could,” he said. “Mentally, I took off the side and rearview mirrors and hit the gas. It was either break or bust. There was no other direction to push except forward.”
He found inspiration from his mother, who remarkably lived through a similar situation.
“My mother is a Korean immigrant who came to this country with a few hundred dollars. She opened a dry cleaning business in LA two weeks before the Rodney King riots broke out in 1992,” he explained.
Through these turbulent times, Shin has leaned on his mother, calling her his “anchor.” His family heritage has also inspired the menu at The Switchboard, reflecting a blend of Korean and Hawaiian cuisine.
For example, a popular dish is the Hawaiian Loco Moco, a beef patty on rice topped with a fried egg. He grew up eating the dish in Oahu when he was a child — but this version is infused with Korean flavors, like gojuchang gravy.
There’s also traditional pupus (akin to appetizers), poke bowls, cheeseburgers and a mix of entrees ranging from Korean beef bulgogi to kalua pork and cabbage.
During the pandemic, Shin pivoted his restaurant concept from offering Hawaiian-inspired fine dining to hot plate lunches to-go. The takeout concept proved successful, and the food quickly earned a following.
“It was stressful and I felt like I was constantly pivoting as the health orders were changing, but the City of Oceanside did an excellent job of keeping us updated, and the community came through with flying colors,” he said.
The restaurant has returned to focusing on full-service dining. There’s also a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., with $1 off select food and $2 off select drinks.
Eventually, Shin hopes to expand his operation to include on-site coffee roasting, which has long been a passion of his. He dreams of someday occupying more of the historic building, which is home to The Fin Hotel.
In fact, he picked that location because he loves the hotel’s backstory: During World War II, it was used for wartime communications. Many women served there, working the switchboards — hence the name of his restaurant, The Switchboard.
“This is my way of paying homage to them,” he said, adding that he also has newfound deeper appreciation for the Oceanside community at large.
“Oceanside has hands-down been the most supportive community I have ever witnessed. My military service brought me here as a young man, and it’s become my home since then. I am so thankful to have opened my restaurant here, even during this trying time. I feel there couldn’t have been another city where I would have survived.”
The Switchboard Restaurant & Bar is open Monday-Tuesday 4-9 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. View the menu at theswitchboardrestaurant.com.