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Jul 3, 2013 10:01 AM

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

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

    1 Reply
    1. Cosmo's is a good choice for coffee.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Dagney

        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

          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

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

            1. re: JRSD

              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

                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

                  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

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

          2. 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

            * 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

              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

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

              2. re: DiningDiva

                "La Mesa is not Siberia"

                Ok, it's warmer. ; )

                  1. re: Gypsy Jan

                    "Siberia is a state of mind."


                1. re: DiningDiva

                  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

                    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

                      I've been to Terra.

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

                      1. re: Fake Name

                        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

                          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

                            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

                2. 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

                    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. 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

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

                        1. re: DoctorChow

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