Hey, if this place is good enough for Tiger Woods… Seriously, he used to come down with his buddies for paintball war games at the military range nearby, then pop into the Campo Diner. Always had a cheeseburger, medium rare, with fries.
Debbie Benjamin and Carmen DeLaGuerra-Sylva, two gals who grew up around Campo, bought the place a couple of years ago and now run it for what it is: a for-real down-home country diner. It’s like the glue that holds the scattered people in this rural area together. Heck, there’s pretty much nothing else for 20 miles either way.
It’s hard to miss, too. Bright paint outside, right at Cameron Corners on Highway 94. Inside has that traditional counter with squishy red stools. Breakfasts, like omelets, are around the $8 to $10 mark, but you can get two eggs with home fries and a biscuit and gravy for $5.95. Burgers — certified Black Angus beef — go from $7 (quarter-pounder) to $8 (half-pounder with fries or coleslaw).
Warning: watch out for the triple-decker Clubhouse Sandwich. It is truly ginormous. For snake-jaws only.
600 Palm Avenue, Suite 300, Imperial Beach
In this location, they have no right to succeed. It’s the graveyard of a bunch of previous brave wannabe eateries. But Meijo Sushi, the Vietnamese-owned Japanese place on the edge of I.B., is a wild success. Something about the owners’ fun-loving personalities has endeared them to locals.
Like, they have masu, wooden sake boxes, dangling, each with the name of a customer. Guy comes back from a WestPac, first thing he does is fill his personal masu with sake and down it. Then he’s really home.
Main dishes can get up there, but the place has daily specials, such as sushi mix, fried gyoza (dumpling), tiger eyes (calamari stuffed with salmon), or dream rolls (with tempura shrimp, avocado, and cream cheese inside, and tuna, shrimp, and spicy crab outside) — all falling between $5 and $9.
And they don’t skimp. The sushi mix has five different kinds of fish on rice, plus nine sushi rolls. And it comes on china with a beautiful Japanese motif. And yet, somehow they keep it lighthearted and down to earth.
They even have tacos — except they spell it with a k. Tako in Japanese means octopus. Tako salad is chopped and seasoned octopus with vegetables.
You should visit this deli for its fabulous arty bathrooms alone. And for its quirky, beautifully carved, purpose-built house. And for its musicians who play in the patio at night. And because the place is open 24 hours every day except the Sabbath, which is celebrated from Friday lunchtime till Sunday lunchtime.
The people who run Yellow Deli are a community of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. They try to live like the early Christians.
Their house-restaurant is a collection of rooms, caves, alcoves, barn doors, raw wood, and poles, like a ship (an ark, maybe?).
And, man, they deliver on the food. Yes, it’s a little bit nuts-and-twigs, but they have beef and lamb sandwiches. And salads come direct from their garden in Valley Center, picked today. And wonderful wholesome soups. The potato-cheese soup’s to die for. You can get a cupful for four bucks and change. And the veggieburger would fool even my dedicated carnivore Carla.
But don’t expect TV screens. “TV has replaced the hearth,” says one of the crew.
“‘Hearth,’ ‘heart,’ same word.”
Instead, they have live bands of guys playing mandolins, zithers, and drums, and they hold discussions on subjects like “Should spanking be allowed?”