El Zarape
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La Mesa is not known for its food, but it’s a great place to raise a family and there are plenty of good places for tasty, reasonably priced food for my perfect food day.

La Mesa Bistro & Bakery

8697 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

For breakfast, my family would ride our bikes over to La Mesa Bistro (8697 La Mesa Blvd.). It’s a hole in the wall that serves breakfast and lunch, but does breakfasts much better. If it’s a perfect food day, they will have the Green Frittata available. It’s full of avocado, asparagus, and spinach as well as parmesan cheese. It’s a filling but healthy dish and comes with fruit, thick wheat bread, and homemade salsa that is very spicy. I eat it and have lots of energy for all the things I need to do… such as eat a few hours later.

My wife and daughter will probably each get the açaí bowl, which comes with fruit, coconut, bee pollen, and granola. The açaí served at La Mesa Bistro is in the consistency of sorbet, and my wife and daughter always ask for extra granola to add crunch.

Now, it may be a perfect food day, but I may not have perfect service. It is usually crowded at the Bistro and you have to order at the counter. This means either my wife or I will stand in line while the other hovers over tables where the diners look like they are going to leave. Usually that’s my job because I have no shame.

If there is a free table, then we will be hovering over the wait staff to make sure the table is cleaned so we can sit at it. Then I jump from table to table to steal a bottle of Cholula that is fuller than the one at the table where I’m squatting.

This sounds like a lot of work, but the food is really good, and if this is a perfect food day, then this may be the only exercise I get all day.

Himalayan Cuisine

7918 El Cajon Boulevard, La Mesa

If this perfect food day takes place during a weekday, lunch will be at Himalayan (7918 El Cajon Boulevard), an Indian/Nepalese place located in a downtrodden strip mall near Baltimore Drive. The food is some of the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten, but dinner prices are expensive with smaller portions. Lunch may be the best deal in the whole county — Ed Bedford would love it. For around $7, you can get a bowl of Himalayan daal soup, which is lentils cooked in a thin broth with spices, and your choice of two entrées and lots of naan bread. The lunch choices are usually classic Indian food choices such as chicken vindaloo and tikka masala, and there are usually two vegetarian choices, such as coconut curry or Saag Ra Aloo, which is spinach and potatoes in a cream sauce.

The lunch plate is huge. Plus, there are some interesting Indian pale ales and mango lassi, a yogurt drink that pairs brilliantly with spicy cuisine.

People I respect consider Himalayan one of the best Indian-style restaurants in the area. If you can only get out for dinner, it’s worth a visit, but considering how much food I get for $7 at lunch, why should I pay twice as much for dinner?

El Zarape

4642 Park Boulevard, University Heights

For this to be a perfect food day, I have to eat Mexican food. San Diego has tons of great spots, but I think I would pick El Zarape (4642 Park Boulevard). Considered one of the best burrito spots in the country, according to fivethirtyeight.com, a website run by stats guru Nate Silver, El Zarape offers some innovative dishes in a cozy taco-shop setting. I love the shrimp burrito (lots of grilled shrimp in these babies), but the wasabi burrito with deep-fried shrimp often gets my attention.

The carne asada taco plate is also a favorite of mine. Ideally, the perfect food day would coincide with a concert at nearby Trolley Barn Park, so we could eat our food while being serenaded by a Steely Dan cover band.

Honorable Mentions:

Fancy Dining JSix (616 J Street, Gaslamp)

Beach Dining: Nati’s (1852 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach)

Patio Dining And Cocktails: BO-beau Kitchen + Garden (8384 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa)

Alternate Mexican Restaurant: Mario’s de La Mesa (8425 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa)

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