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When You're Forced to Eat Out...(gasp) East County/SD

I never thought I'd say I never wanted to eat out again, but when a kitchen is being remodeled and there are no walls or floor, let alone appliances, priorities change. Things are being compounded by the fact that my 88 year old mother (who invariably orders the cheapest thing on the menu + water) is one of the diners. So...since August 6th, here are most of the places we've eaten. All but one are in the dreaded dining wasteland called the East County. We've got at least 2-3 weeks to go, we're open to other suggestions.

* Coco's - so/so but their coffee cake is really good
* Megan's Cafe - Kiels shopping center at Jackson & Navajo. Dinky, lots of food, small price.
* IHOP (MC Costco shopping center). Not bad but noisy as heck
* Original Pancake House - Kearny Mesa. Terminal wait, good food, noisy as heck.
* Cafe One-Three - 3 words...Fried Egg Sandwich. the horseradish cheddar is inspired
* Omelet Factory (Santee) - food wasn't horrible but the interior and ambiance certainly was. Shopworn, threadbare and plain worn out. Needs a complete overhaul inside.

* Little Fish Market in MV - spendy for lunch, but the albacore tuna sandwich was PDG (pretty darned good)

* La Trattoria (Santee) - very good and was surprised by the garlic basil pasta with italian sausage. Killer.
* Blue Water Grill - swordfish torta was terrific and the outside patio nice and cool after a long week of no kitchen and work
* Anthony's in La Mesa - not bad, not good. Seabass was actually good, service sucked
* The Brigantine in La Mesa - surf & turf chef salad interesting, not overdressed. Too much avocado and too much blue cheese (volume of both was overwhelming not enhancing), Service was abysmal
* Nicalosi's off Waring Rd. and I-8 - Pizza is decent but the crust is too thin. Portions are ENORMOUS (there's a reason American's are fat and this is one of them) good value for the price and portions though
* Ranas.com - wear your shades the interior is neon chartreuese green. My cochinita pibil did not resemble any cochinita I've ever had, but it tasted just fine. The chicken enchiladas were just short of spectacular. One of my mother's favorite meals so far
* Coco's for dinner (Lake Murray & Baltimore) don't bother
* El Torito on Baltimore - okay, not bad, not good, didn't have to wait
* Vine Ripe Market Cafe - really, really good. Slow but very fresh flavors
* Ra*Ka*De*Ka at Mission Gorge & Zion. I have no idea if this is even close to "authentic" but it sure tasted good.
* Soup Plantation on Mission Gorge - salad bar was good, so was the soft serve. Kids were allowed to run through the place unsupervised, not good. Could not believe the way people acted like vultures anytime something new was brought out. Another reason America is fat and getting fatter.
* West Coast BBQ - Lake Murray and El Paso. They really smoke their meat you can see the smoke ring. Pulled pork was a little fatty and the beef a tad dry but flavors are excellent, so are the beans as a side.
* Chopsticks Inn - Jackson Dr & La Mesa Blvd. in La Mesa. Surprisingly good old-style Chinese/American food

While the house was being tented for termites I ate several meals by myself. Those were at
* Jaynes Gastropub - very good but spendy. My most expensive meal to date
* Mayahuel - loved the floral nuances in the mole, not so enamored by the ultra spicy rub or seasoning they put on the chicken breast it overwhelmed the mole which is very, very well balanced and doesn't need the extra hit from other seasonings.

Luckily I have the option to eat at work and have eaten most of my weekday breakfasts and lunches at either City or Mesa College. Thursday is rib day at City and the cook does well with them, BBQ-style (i.e. not smoked) and her collards (fresh not frozen) are outstanding, but skip the mac & cheese, still needs work.

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  1. What a great roundup! Sometimes these little thumbnail reviews can be more informative than the long form. I gotta say, though, that after reading your whole post I'm really feeling full. <smile>
    . . . jim strain

    1. Looks so familiar, DD, except for the Coco's, and we do Anthony's appetizers in the bar for Happy Hour only...and have never been to Jayne's. I totally forgot about Chopsicks Inn- thanks for the reminder.

      I hope it really will be over by October.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cathy

        You should try Jayne's, but I'm not sure the price/value is there. 2 apps., dessert, a glass of champagne, tax and tip was $50 for me only. The shrimp app was good, but not outstanding, the ceasar was actually very good, the lemon tart so-so. I'm not sorry I went, I'm not sorry I spent that much, but I'm not sure the meal was really worth $50.

        1. re: DiningDiva

          Well...our birthdays are coming up...very soon...

          1. re: Cathy

            Try it, I don't think you'd be disappointed. The room is very quaint and my server was very nice and did a good job. There were several young couples coming in as I was leaving. They were clearly on dates, and I think that's a pretty apt description for Jaynes. It would be nice place to go on a date regardless of age. It's a nice local place for a decent dinner.

      2. Thanks DD for a great list!

        1. Hey DD --

          I am interested in your meal at Ranas.com -- care to go a little more in depth?

          1. I highly recommend Antica Trattoria (http://www.anticatrattoria.com/). We're in the process of relocating back to mid-city from the SDSU area but we'll still make the trek east as we feel this is the best Italian in SD.

            1. Hi Gayla--yeah, getting burned out on eating out is definitely a novel experience, eh?

              Another suggestion for your list: Golden City, in the strip mall at the corner of Kearny Villa Rd.and Clairemont Mesa Blvd. just off the 163. Many of the dishes, especially the lunch specials, are very reasonably priced, and the menu mix of more Chinese-American dishes and more authentically Chinese fare should appeal to both your mom and yourself. :-).

              1 Reply
              1. re: mizducky

                ...and if you go there after 9 p.m., they serve the (less expensive) lunch menu...

              2. There's also the Downtown Cafe Bar and Grill at 182 E. Main St. in El Cajon. Decent American food, attractive interior, outdoor patio, plus it's not part of any chain. Have only had lunches there. I was actually surprised to find a place like this in El Cajon.

                Regarding Rana's, we trekked out there a few months ago for lunch, on the recommendations of Chowhounders, and it was terrible! I don't remember all of the details, but I do remember, but none of the three items we ordered was good AND the tortillas were very stale and had that sort of yellowish color they get when old.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JeffSD

                  I think we'll have to try the place in EC. I understand we're doing breakfast at Perry's out there this Sunday. So maybe Sunday is the day for El Cajon dining, at least it's cooled down.

                  I, too, was disappointed in the corn tortillas at Ranas.com. I think there are much better ones available commercially than they're using. Kind of reminded me of die-punched Mission brand tortillas. The ones I had weren't stale, but they were too thick and a little on the tough side. I remember being surprised at the corn tortillas since it's not hard or expensive to get relatively decent ones (such as Gilberto's) in SD.

                  What did you order? The chicken enchiladas my mom ordered were as close to what I've had in Mexico in flavor and presentation as anything I've seen NOB. OTOH, the cochinita pibil I had resembled nothing I've ever seen served as cochinita in Mex. The rice was good and the beans were really good.