Staci Miller shares her passion for unique craft beer and fine wine tasting along with food pairing at the Millers Table, 514 S. Coast Highway, Unit A, in downtown Oceanside.
Staci left her job running other people’s restaurants in 2012. “I wanted to pursue opening, quite frankly, a beer bar in the Silicon Valley. My business partner and I were working for an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles and we both fell in love with the vast world of beer.”
The beer industry was growing rapidly in the Los Angeles and San Diego area, “but my business partner didn’t see that happening where he was from in the Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley area. We had six negotiations fall through up there but because those deals didn’t happen, I was blessed with the opportunity to come down to the San Diego area as a wine buyer for Whole Foods Market.”
Once Staci was here, things seemed to work out just right for her and her idea of what she wanted to accomplish with her establishment. “I was in negotiations for a place down the street and they hit a rough patch. The owner of this place, a former Chinese restaurant, had just decided he wanted to sell. There were some other restaurateurs that were interested but for some reason, this was the spot I just needed to have.” explained Staci, “It’s incredibly intimate, homey and it’s tiny. It has twenty-four seats at a community table, on a good day. That allows me to be really creative about what I’m preparing. I don’t have to have fifty portions of something. If I make 8 portions of something and I run out because I am using a fresh vegetable or something that was roasted in the oven, so be it because the place is small enough and its okay as long as I have my signature items going. The place is a perfectly suited for what I’m doing and the response has been amazing.”
What they are doing at the Miller’s Table is building a menu around the exploration of wine and beer flights. “When we build that menu, we think of them first, really simply as thoughtfully constructed sandwiches. We are bringing in different meats and cheeses and putting together cheese and charcuterie boards where everything on the board sort of has a purpose.” Staci continued, “We put a jelly, a jam, a dried fruit or a nut on the board because it's going to compliment the flavors. For example, we put a pickle or something we pickle in-house on the board because it cuts through the richness of a salami. They all become an interactive experience with the wines you are drinking from around the globe.”
Staci said she is incredibly driven by produce; “We have a salad made with locally grown baby head lettuces that we tear off by hand for a crunchy salad. We get vegetables, from Cyclops Farm in Oceanside, that we shave real thin so they don’t counteract the delicate lettuces that we’ve put into the bowl.”
The Miller’s Table offers fresh homemade soups that are usually vegetarian. “Give me any vegetarian soup and I can throw some bacon or sour crème in it if you’re so inclined. Everything is super adaptable on our menu,” explained Staci.
An item on the menu that gets rave reviews is the Tuna sandwich. “I start with sushi grade, white albacore, poached in olive oil, then we hand flake that. We put in some preserved lemon, which is basically lemon that we put into salt so that it draws and concentrates the flavor. We add finely chopped baby celery with a little bit of mayonnaise, an olive tapenade to give it saltiness and it's served on an artisanal bread made in Carlsbad. Added Staci, “I was blown away by the response and the fact that people could tell these are all handcrafted flavors. I don’t tell people how it's made beforehand. I explain what went into it after they’ve enjoyed it.”
Staci likes to get her ingredients locally as much as possible and she is looking into putting in a hydroponic garden for growing her own vegetables for the Table but when it come to wine, “Having international along with domestically produced wine in a flight, together they all tell a story.
“I like to tell people, briefly, about the wine as I’m pouring it. That way they will learn about what they like about a wine and what they don’t. It’s a soft education but when you walk away and go somewhere else and order, They will remember; Oh yes, I remember I like this type of wine because it was aged in American oak. You will be able to go to a restaurant and ask the sommelier or professional wine person if they have anything like that because it has a flavor you enjoy.” Staci has brought a variety of vermouths to the Table along with Cappelletti Vino Aperitivo for a drink popular in Italy, the Spritz. “I want to expand what people think about when they want refreshments,” said Staci.
Staci has gained her expertise working one aspect or another of the business her entire working life. She has been a private chef, a wine educator. She has gone to wine school, studied at UCLA, Napa Valley College, and the wine program a the Culinary Institute of America among others. She has been pursuing beers for the past six years. “My knowledge comes from education but mostly from just a ton of exposure in the business. I have lived and worked in both Northern and Southern California and that has given me the benefit of the exposure to the dining, food, and agriculture up and down the state.”
The Miller’s Table is open six days a week and Staci is there every one of them. “Because of the way it is set up, with the community table set up in the middle of the room and no more than 24 seats meant that having a traditional waiter, they wouldn’t be able to make enough money and I would lose them. Especially the caliber of server that I wanted”, continued Staci. “So I’m having my culinary team prepare the food. They also talk about the food table-side. That means you as a consumer can ask them questions about the food in front of you and since they are the ones that made, they will know the answer. It also gives the chef an opportunity to become a tipped employee. So when they are serving you, they get those tips. That means these guys are going to be some of the best compensated cooks in the area. That helps them stayed dedicated and with their eyes on the prize.”
Staci may be exhausted, “but I am so very happy. It has been an amazing journey and I’m sincere when I say every single aspect of what this place is has been pulled from something I’ve done in my professional life. It’s pretty cool.”
The Miller’s Table, 514 S. Coast Highway, Unit A is open Wednesday through Monday, 11am-9pm. You can learn more about the Miller’s Table on their website theMillersTable.com or visit their Facebook page, the Miller’s Table.