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Anything of note in La Mesa? (doubt it, please prove me wrong)

alyd Jul 3, 2013 10:01 AM

I am still mourning my recent move from Hillcrest (culinary center of San Diego) to La Mesa (culinary wasteland?) While I will continue to travel west for my edible delights, I was hoping someone could share with me some not so well known restaurant finds in the East-ish part of the county.

Please help this poor, sad, lost soul...

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  1. s
    Saabiar RE: alyd Jul 3, 2013 10:35 AM

    I have not been there but have heard good things about Antica Trattoria

    1 Reply
    1. re: Saabiar
      l
      Lynnester RE: Saabiar Jul 3, 2013 11:16 AM

      I second Antica Trattoria.

    2. Dagney RE: alyd Jul 3, 2013 10:50 AM

      Cosmo's is a good choice for coffee.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Dagney
        j
        JRSD RE: Dagney Jul 3, 2013 02:57 PM

        I like the coffee better at Treehouse on El Cajon Blvd. They usually have cold-brewed iced coffee and will use coffee ice cubes upon request. Cosmos is bigger and more of a hangout for sure.

        Bonus for Treehouse is that it is right across from the Tubs!

        Same owner just opened Next Door Wine Bar, has anyone tried the food there?

        1. re: JRSD
          alyd RE: JRSD Jul 3, 2013 03:11 PM

          well yay for me, this one I actually found on my own! Delightful coffee house, however Next Door still seems to be working out some kinks. Food was decent but wine was warm (gasp!), in this climate they should invest in a large wine fridge...

          1. re: JRSD
            alyd RE: JRSD Jul 5, 2013 07:36 AM

            I love that Treehouse puts coffee ice cubes in their iced coffee!

            1. re: JRSD
              alyd RE: JRSD Jul 5, 2013 07:44 AM

              I know this is off topic, but JRSD what is Tubs? I checked a little online, but wasn't exactly clear on its, umm, "clientele"?

              1. re: alyd
                Dagney RE: alyd Jul 5, 2013 12:35 PM

                I think I am best qualified to answer this, as The Tubs was on the east edge of my beat when I worked in Mid-City. Additionally, several years ago The Tubs was robbed and I took the case, which necessitated actually walking inside this fine establishment.

                The Tubs is like a mini-semi-hotel-ish place. There are several rooms inside the building. All the rooms rent by the hour, and they all feature your very own hot-tub, instead of a bed. A couple of the rooms are "deluxe," because they are more glamorous. I'll stop here so the mods don't get unnerved.

                1. re: Dagney
                  DiningDiva RE: Dagney Jul 5, 2013 03:12 PM

                  Is this a motel de paseo? something we used to call the no-tell motel? Or is it legit, I've always wondered...

                  1. re: DiningDiva
                    Dagney RE: DiningDiva Jul 5, 2013 03:39 PM

                    Definitely a "no-tell." Wildly creepy! Technically it's legit. Technically speaking.

          2. DiningDiva RE: alyd Jul 3, 2013 11:21 AM

            First of all, La Mesa is not Siberia. While it certainly does not have the dining options that can be found in Hillcrest, it is not bereft of options. You will, however, have to work to find them :-) and they're more apt to be a lot more casual than Hillcrest, and parking won't be as hard to come by.

            In random order, here are some sugestions...

            * Terra...1 block east of 70th on El Cajon Blvd. Farm to table, used to be located in Upton Center in Hillcrest. I've eaten there many times and have had generally good food, only 1 meal was a complete miss.

            * Antica Trattoria...(Von's shopping center corner of Lk. Murray Blvd. and Baltimore Dr.)...actually one of the better Italian restaurants in San Diego

            * The Vine Cottage...(in the tiny strip mall at the corner of Lk. Murray Blvd. & El Paso)

            * West Coast BBQ + Beer...(In the Ross shopping center at the corner of Lk. Murray Blvd & El Paso. Owned by the same people that own Hamilton's in Kearny Mesa, the BBQ is good and the beer selection very good

            * Kalina...next to the 7-11 on the frontage road at Jackson & Fletcher Parkway. Spin off from Pomegranate in NP area

            * The cafe in the Vine Ripe Market...corner of Jackson & Fletcher Parkway

            * Casa de Pico...Grossmont Center

            * HImalayan Cuisine...corner of El Cajon Blvd & Baltimore

            * Rivieria Supper Club...University about a mile or so west of La Mesa Blvd. Grill your own steaks, huge, sharable sides, good cocktails, dive bar atmosphere

            * Nono's Italian Restaurant...on Baltimore Dr. a block north of Fletcher Parkway, behind the Omelete Factory. Decent Italian, decent pizza, eat in or take out. Hole in the wall.

            * BMH Italian Deli on El Cajon a few blocks west of where La Mesa Blvd connects with it. Sandwiches

            * Mario's de La Mesa...East end of La Mesa Blvd. Decent Mexican

            * Johnny B's...East end of the Village, if you get to Mario's you've gone too far. Across the street from what was Gingham

            * La Mesa Bistro & Bakery...La Mesa Blvd & Jackson, somewhat uneven, breakfast is usually pretty good. Used to be owned by the same people that own Swami's up in Encinitas

            * Carnitas Uruapan...Spring & Date, if you do pork, this is the place

            * Valley Market...Bancroft & Campo Rd for their meat counter...with real butchers who are very nice.

            * Rana's Mexico City...Fresh & Easy shopping center at Campo & Kenwood, good to very good Mexican depending upon what you order.

            Skip San Filippos and Centrofoli's. The Brig in La Mesa is one of their flagship operations. It's big, it's one of the only "nice" places, food is all over the place, some is good, some is not. If you must do Anthony's the one in La Mesa is the safest choice, and even at that, it's just not very good any more.

            There are also the Charcoal House and Hearth House, neither of which I've been to and get uneven reports from the people that I do know that have been.

            12 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva
              r
              RB Hound RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2013 01:55 PM

              Diva - West Coast is half owned by Tom Nickel, who owns O'Brien's in Kearny Mesa. Hamilton's is in South Park, and their owner also owns the Small Bar.

              Maybe what the original poster misses is the Hash House - any suitable replacement for it? [ducking]

              1. re: RB Hound
                DiningDiva RE: RB Hound Jul 3, 2013 01:57 PM

                Oops, you are absolutely corrrect. I knew when I typed it out it didn't look right. Thanks for the correction :-)

              2. re: DiningDiva
                Fake Name RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2013 02:09 PM

                "La Mesa is not Siberia"

                Ok, it's warmer. ; )

                1. re: Fake Name
                  Gypsy Jan RE: Fake Name Jul 3, 2013 02:55 PM

                  Siberia is a state of mind. :)

                  1. re: Gypsy Jan
                    Fake Name RE: Gypsy Jan Jul 3, 2013 02:59 PM

                    "Siberia is a state of mind."

                    Solzhenitsyn?

                    1. re: Fake Name
                      Gypsy Jan RE: Fake Name Jul 3, 2013 03:04 PM

                      Exactly or Точно!

                2. re: DiningDiva
                  alyd RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2013 03:06 PM

                  Diva, while I thank you for your recommendations, I was looking less for just a list of restaurants in the area and more for mentions of noteworthy places. while I understand La Mesa is not Siberia, it is much different from where I lived in Hillcrest when I could walk out my front door and have a bevy of interesting/highly praised/innovative choices. I will definitely look more into some of your suggestions, thank you!

                  1. re: alyd
                    DiningDiva RE: alyd Jul 3, 2013 03:30 PM

                    That is very true. La Mesa is a whole lot bigger and more spread out than Hillcrest and unless you're in La Mesa Village, not particularly walkable. And it's true it's not terribly trendy. Kids, Volvos station wagons and superbia, Hillcrest is not.

                    Restaurants of note in La Mesa would probably be limited to Terra at the moment. I think if the new Cohn place going into the old Gingham location gets it right they will be too. But it'll be a long walk between Terra and the new Cohn place ;-)

                    1. re: DiningDiva
                      Fake Name RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2013 03:41 PM

                      I've been to Terra.

                      I'd suggest Coops BBQ in Lemon Grove- one of my favorites.

                      1. re: Fake Name
                        DiningDiva RE: Fake Name Jul 3, 2013 04:06 PM

                        I've been to Terra too, in both locations. Actually like the Hillcrest location better but understand about rents getting too high to be viable for an indy resto.

                        Last meal at Terra, tho', was anything but good, in fact, it was so bad (menu descriptions seriously misrepresented both entrees) we wrote a letter to Chef Jeff complaining and got a - woo hoo - 5% off coupon to return and try again. Not sure we will. And I hate, HATE, H-A-T-E their housemade catsup, it does nothing, nothing I tell you, to compliment any sandwich or potato with which it is served

                        1. re: DiningDiva
                          j
                          JRSD RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2013 04:37 PM

                          We went this past week and decided that we are unlikely to go back. Every time we go we have something that is wonderful and the rest of the meal falls flat and think that if we only ordered something else we would have a perfect meal. Time to break the cycle.

                          I probably should have cut my losses after being told that a dish that did not taste good was likely because I was not used to the taste of the exotic ingredient 5 spice powder.

                          I think their housemade catsup would actually make a great ice cream flavor. They still might have to tone down the sweetness though.

                          While Terra hits higher highs, the food at Vine Cottage is much more consistent.

                          1. re: JRSD
                            DiningDiva RE: JRSD Jul 3, 2013 04:49 PM

                            I hear you. The server we had tried his best to convince me that dark meat yellowtail is perfect for fish and chips (NOT) and that coleslaw is supposed to be served dry.

                            Oh please, bone dry coleslaw? Give me a break. I've spent 35+ years in commerical kitchens, I'm pretty sure that I can recognize undressed coleslaw when I see it. The pantry station screwed up plain and simple and sent a dish out with coleslaw mix that had no dressing on it, not to mention tht the line sent out a piece of fish that was so fishy it was almost inedible. The fry job was great though

                3. c
                  Cathy RE: alyd Jul 3, 2013 12:40 PM

                  Everything DD said, adding:

                  1) Centifonti's has really nice breakfasts as well as house made gelato, pastries and candies.

                  2) Charcoal House is owned by the Dallo Restaurant Group; same group that owns the Junction Steakhouse (formerly Jamacha Junction) and Jonathan's and the two Harvest Ranch Markets in the County. We have gone for Happy Hour and Prime Rib Wednesdays and food is good.

                  3) La Casa Blanca, next to Charcoal House is family owned and very good. Just started serving breakfasts and lunch specials.

                  4) Shizuoka, Japanese inside mall with Souplantation and Michaels on Fletcher Parkway is small, family style (and family owned) Japanese.

                  5)There are many family run places to eat in Spring Valley, La Mesa, Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside and Alpine. They are not 'see and be seen' places and the clientele includes empty nesters and retired, but plenty of young families and parents of children who will attend or are attending the 13 High Schools in Grossmont Union School District live in La Mesa. It is far from being a 'wasteland'.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cathy
                    ipsedixit RE: Cathy Jul 3, 2013 03:40 PM

                    I'll second Centifonti's gelato.

                    If I'm in La Mesa (or Siberia) and want gelato, that's where I'd go. Pistachio is good, not great, but good. Plus, you're in Siberia, right?

                  2. w
                    wrldtrvl RE: alyd Jul 4, 2013 08:39 PM

                    The two restaurants in La Mesa that we actually leave Hillcrest (where we live) to go to La Mesa to eat at:

                    Antica Trattoria

                    The Village Kalina (related somehow (I forgot) to Pomegranate on El Cajon in Hillcrest/Normal Heights.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: wrldtrvl
                      d
                      DoctorChow RE: wrldtrvl Jul 4, 2013 08:43 PM

                      Soooooo...the Village Kalina is a Russian restaurant?

                      1. re: DoctorChow
                        c
                        Cathy RE: DoctorChow Jul 4, 2013 08:48 PM

                        http://www.kalinavillagehouse.com/

                        Yes.

                        1. re: DoctorChow
                          w
                          wrldtrvl RE: DoctorChow Jul 4, 2013 08:49 PM

                          Yes--Georgian to be more precise. Similar but not identical to Pomegranate. My favorite is always the borscht and do try the walnut cake.

                      2. alyd RE: alyd Jul 5, 2013 07:35 AM

                        Thank you everyone, I am feeling much better now. :) I knew Chowhounds would save me. I can't wait to try some of these places. I think first off will have to be Antica, I am craving some pasta...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alyd
                          DiningDiva RE: alyd Jul 5, 2013 08:30 AM

                          If you haven't seen it already, here's their website with the menus

                          http://www.anticatrattoria.com/

                          The lasagna is very good and they often sell out early

                        2. b
                          bradly RE: alyd Jul 7, 2013 10:08 AM

                          Been living in La Mesa for 6 years and my wife all her life. Honestly, there isn't much. Downtown La Mesa is a wastland and surrounding areas aren't much better. We usually just drive the extra 15 minutes west, but when we don't these are the places that we enjoy:

                          Tamarind for Thai. We especially like their tamarind fish and the yum steak salad.

                          Antica Trattoria for a nicer, Italian meal.

                          Carnitas Uruapa for amazing carnitas. They give you a ton of food, so we usually get the two person order for a group of 4.

                          Terra is solid too for American farm to table style cooking.

                          1. j
                            jmiyazawa RE: alyd Jul 8, 2013 07:46 PM

                            Agreed with everyone. La Mesa is not Hillcrest, but it's hardly a wasteland. Antica is better than any of those awful places in Little Italy (save Bencotto and Monello). Terra is super for any occasion, and La Mesa Bistro & Bakery is a can't miss for breakfast/brunch.

                            1. l
                              LisaSD RE: alyd Aug 7, 2013 03:14 AM

                              I second the recommendation for Carnitas Uruapan. They are consistently flavorful and moist.

                              The Lunch Box draws big crowds at lunchtime and for breakfast too. I love their curried chicken salad sandwich that is served on grilled raisin bread. Sounds weird but it is delicious!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: LisaSD
                                j
                                JRSD RE: LisaSD Aug 7, 2013 03:20 PM

                                Carnitas Uruapan has Al Pastor outside on a spit on the weekends that is very good as well. $1 street tacos.

                              2. w
                                wrldtrvl RE: alyd Aug 7, 2013 10:42 PM

                                We just went to Village House Kalina in La Mesa (Ukranian food--somehow formerly related to Pomegranate in North Park. We had the weekday "buffet." Not a buffet. Rather one chooses one soup (out of a choice of about 5), 1 salad (again out of five or so), and one entrée (a list of 8 or 9 items) all for the huge total of $7.99. Price is kept down by reasonable portions (instead of the frequent huge plates at many restaurants). Yet, plenty of food for lunch. Their borscht is my favorite, ever. The cabbage salad was good and the chicken with a mint/herb sauce and homemade mashed potatoes was very good. I am going back for sure.

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