Brussels sprouts at Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden
  • Brussels sprouts at Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden
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Foodies living close to the city's center are waking up to the fact that there are excellent reasons to drive all over this county. Reader feasters have caught on to worthy spots in East County, South Bay, and beyond.

BO-beau Kitchen + Garden

8384 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

BO-Beau Kitchen + Garden

BO-Beau successfully blends upscale food with a casual neighborhood feel that fits the La Mesa lifestyle. The brussels sprouts with pancetta, parmesan, and a port-wine reduction get the accolades, but ignore the deviled eggs with prosciutto at your peril. One of the few places east of I-15 that serves mussels (try them curry style). The Boeuf Bourguignon has enough umami for you, your mommy, and your daddy. Kids’ menu has a steak frites the preteens will love and there’s a school bus set up in the patio where they can climb. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can drink wine, beer, or cocktails like the La Mesa Lemonade. —Patrick Henderson

Alpine Beer Company

2351 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine

Alpine Beer Company Pub

For years, crowds trekked east to Alpine to sit in a dilapidated bar and eat smokehouse barbecue. Actually, they went for cult-favorite Alpine Beer — delicious ribs were just a bonus. This summer the pub upgraded to a spacious modern restaurant and beer garden. The brisket remains a must-try dish, but with the larger space came a menu expansion. Whether you aim to split fried cheese curds or get adult and order pan-seared salmon, trust the beer to taste better than it does anywhere else, either thanks to superior well water or the lengths it took to get here. —Ian Anderson

Romesco

4346 Bonita Road, Bonita

Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro

Owned by Baja Med chef Javier Plascencia, Romesco’s menu features a striking combination of flavors and seasonings. Here you can order classic Spanish tapas with a Mexican and Mediterranean twist (such as the Cazuelita de Gambas, which are shrimp drowning in a garlic tomatillo salsa with fresh thyme, chili oil, and feta, served in the small skillet in which it was baked). From lasagna with ground sirloin and lobster ravioli to duck breast with roasted figs and Scottish salmon, the extensive menu incorporates ingredients and seasonings from around the globe. —Barbarella Fokos

The Hills

8758 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

The Hills

Opened by the folks from Eastbound, a family-friendly Lakeside craft-beer bar and restaurant, the Hills continue to cultivate the all-inclusive local-pub vibe. Choose from 22 taps, a full bar, or $3 mimosas (every Saturday morning from 8 a.m.–1 p.m., when you can have all-you-can-eat Belgian Waffles for 5 bucks if you wear your pajamas). Keep it local with the Cali Burger, a bunned version of the burrito classic ($12.95). The house favorite is the Bouffant Burger, a joie de vivre stack of bacon, avocado, chipotle, fried egg, and American cheese on a croissant bun ($11.95). —Chad Deal

The Purple Mint

6171 Mission Gorge Road, Grantville

The Purple Mint

Southeast Asian vegetarian fusion. All the veggies are super fresh and cooked delicately, and the bright dishes appeal as much to the eyes as the appetite. A koi pond at the entrance suggests the kind of place you’d expect to find attached to a Buddhist temple, but the Purple Mint is situated in a strip mall among flower shops and hair salons. The soy “meats” here are exceptional, especially the lemongrass chicken/beef, spicy fried shrimp, and steak filet mignon. Don’t miss the Summer Rolls: wraps of tofu, purple mint, basil, jicama, carrots, optional fried eggs, and peanut sauce. —Chad Deal

Sunnyside Kitchen pop-up tent

Good luck finding these guys, because Bob and Kate Carpenter are always on the move. But seek them out. Often, you catch them setting up their panini pop-up outside craft breweries countywide. Also at farmers’ markets. Why bother? Because they make maybe the best paninis around. These are fat, squelchy, and, above all, generous. The champ has to be the meatloaf panini with Havarti and Muenster cheeses, red onions, and big blobs of ketchup baked in, all between a crisp sourdough that has herbs and parmesan added. Result is comfort food that’s beyond bellyfiller. 760-470-2468. —Ed Bedford

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