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Paris, California?

You know how Naomi, Brandon, and I were talking about the best patio to eat, drink, and watch the world go by? Stop the presses! I hadn’t been to El Cajon yet.

Yeah, yeah. The heat. But these beautiful warm evenings, they have done their city proud. Have you seen the sprouting of cafes downtown? City has made space so they can really s-p-r-a-w-l all over the sidewalk pavement, right up to Main Street itself.

On the north side, either side of the entrance to the park, Mangia Bene (221 E. Main, 619-444-0303) puts its whole corner outside. And Mezzah (165 E. Main, 619-966-9373), a new Chaldean/Mediterranean tapa joint. (Tapa is "little dishes." That’s what “Mezzah” means in, like, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, and probably Chaldean itself.)

Mezzah has a modest but charming little courtyard beside the way-old (1894) hall it has taken up space in.

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Good happy hour, too

Across Main, you’ve got the piece de resistance, and my hangout of least resistance, the Downtown Café (182 E. Main, 619-440-5687). Tables, wrought iron grilles, sun-bleached red umbrellas all over the sidewalk. It’s like those Impressionist paintings you see of Paris, St. Tropez, whatever.

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El Cajon, the Paris of California? We’re getting there. Vive la El Cajon!

Sigh. Guess now I’d better find out how good their actual food is (stay tuned!). But basically you just want to be here with twenty of your best friends and a nice cool brewski. Or two. Especially (while it’s hot) in the night time.

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