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He's bent over, chomping into his sandwich.

"My invention," he says. "The California cheese steak sandwich."

Huh. Turns out he took over this joint just...yesterday!

John Forouzandeh, business grad from SDSU. This is Friday lunchtime at his Lemon Grove Deli & Grill (7860 Broadway, Lemon Grove, 619-464-2928).

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The Lemon Grove lemon, nearby

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It's full of locals who know each other by first name. Lots of "The usual?" type questions from the staff.

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Customer Carlos Barradas, from Brazil. He's in a couple of times a day

So, John's invention? Chopped-up steak, onions, jalapeños, avocado, provolone, ranch dressing and, most essential, French fries tucked in there. Looks delish.

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John and his invention

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The invention

(Pause, while Philly purists faint.)

John's the owner...at 25.

"But I haven't changed a thing," he says. "That's what drew me to the place. It has been going 40 years. As they say, if it ain't broke...."

I get a small soup (navy bean and ham, $1.99) and a half pita with steak, cheese, and onion ($4.59).

Other customers say I should have got the fish and chips. Specially because Anne, who works here with her daughter Penni and Rosa, makes the coleslaw herself and it has pineapple in it.

Fish and chips are the Friday special ($7.50). But Anne says too late. "We run out early," she says.

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Anne, John, Penni. Shy Rosa's not posing

Not a problem, as it turns out. This cheese steak pita's totally tasty, and the soup could just about fill you on its lonesome.

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This is what $7.09 buys

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Interior's filled with quaint knick knacks and bon mots from Victorian times

"So, when are you going to start selling your invention?" I ask John.

"Maybe soon, as a special," he says, "but I want to do things slowly. I'm the new boy around here."

"Better get the patent applications out quick," I say.

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