Dining in La Mesa

When it comes to eating away from home, La Mesa, to the passersby, may look like a bit of a backwater. The glitz and glamour of San Diego’s Gaslamp quarter hasn’t spread through the streets of this Jewel of the Hills. But then again, neither have the Gaslamp’s overpriced meals that start with $15 parking tabs.

To the well-informed local, La Mesa and vicinity offers a surprising range of foods, from America family-style at extremely reasonable prices to a strong range of ethnic foods – led, of course, by Mexican. Take a culinary tour with a foodie who has spent years getting to know La Mesa’s restaurant scene and you’ll find some gems. I challenge you to find a better fish taco than those produced by Sun Tacos, the unassuming drive-thru kiosk on Jackson Drive. Not fancy; just good. And inexpensive. There are many family restaurants that have built a loyal clientele and have managed to survive for decades in an industry in which four or five years is considered an achievement. The Trolley Stop Deli on La Mesa Boulevard stands in the shadow of the corporate Subway shop and more than holds its own. Check out their Saturday lunch special with a side of pasta salad. You’ll understand the lines.

And La Mesa is the kind of town in which regulars can and do order “off the menu’’ to get special dishes only they know the proprietor can deliver. Why Pietro’s Cucina Italiana doesn’t keep his parpadelle bosciola permanently on the menu, I’ll never know. It rivals the best Little Italy has to offer. Still, if you’re interested in experiencing what it feels like to pay $200 for a dinner for two, La Mesa probably isn’t your town. But it does boast subtler and more affordable fare for those discerning enough to seek it out.

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