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Feast! The Mesas

Culinary explorations in the land between freeways

Lobster roll at Supernatural Sandwiches
Lobster roll at Supernatural Sandwiches

Adventurous eaters know to dig deep into Kearny Mesa, Clairemont Mesa, Mira Mesa, Linda Vista, and Miramar for hidden joys and authentic Asian restaurants. And while some are launching more convenient outposts closer to a downtown audience, there is always something new to explore in this land between freeways.

Place

Supernatural Sandwiches

7094 Miramar Road, San Diego

Supernatural Sandwiches

Many of San Diego’s classic seafood sandwiches err on the side of simplicity, often little more than tartar sauce, sourdough, and fish. Supernatural hits the opposite end of the spectrum, turning out beautifully cooked seafood dressed with rich sauce and toppings on tasty breads. It’s impossible to go wrong with lobster, either grilled cheese or roll, but any of the fresh-caught, Catalina Offshore–sourced fish of the day will put a smile on your face. I used to go to Miramar for beer, then stop here for a snack. Now this is the main attraction. —Ian Anderson

Place

Yakitori Taisho

5185 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego

Yakitori Taisho

The formula is simple: fire, meat, and salt. It is executed to perfection at this 14-seat shop in a strip mall off Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. The chef trained in Nagoya, famous for its chicken, so it’s not surprising that the bird is front and center. Start with the Teba (Wings), Tsukune (meatball), move on to the Kawa (skin), Hatsu (heart), and the wonderful, somewhat chewy Akahimo (Chicken vein). For a change of pace, try the tender Buta-Shiso, a pork and shiso roll. The karaage, fried chicken with a hint of shio koji flavor, is good, as are some of the specials, like fried squid beaks. Try the Nagoya Teba; deep-fried wings in the style of its namesake city, sprinkled with black pepper and sesame seeds, dipped in a sweet and salty “tare.” All the grilled items are prepared over binchotan, a charcoal made from ubame oak. Reservations are recommended. —Kirk K

Place

Wa Dining Okan

3860 Convoy Street #110, San Diego

Wa Dining Okan

With its fortunate proximity to one of San Diego’s best Japanese markets, Nijiya Market, Wa Dining Okan has the luxury of seasonal, often organic foods at the ready. Both the menu and the atmosphere are homey and comforting. My favorite dish is the lovely, brilliantly orange kabocha squash, mashed smooth and combined with paper-thin-sliced cucumber and Japanese mayonnaise. Velvety, tangy/sweet and crunchy all at once, it’s addicting. Chicken Karaage is also a must — boneless pieces of chicken are marinated in ginger, garlic, and soy, then coated in potato flour and fried. The potato flour gives the crust a different texture from cornstarch or wheat flour, a little more tender but still crisp. Braised dishes like Stewed Potatoes and Pork in Sweet Soy Broth or Stir Fried Mild Peppers in Ground Beef Sauce have that long-simmered, savory, umami goodness that makes you sit back and smile. —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Tofu House

4646 Convoy Street #116, San Diego

Tofu House

Boiled tofu may sound bland, but few dishes are more exciting than Tofu House’s soondubu jjigae, a simple tofu soup that is spiked with red-hot peppers, pork, beef, veggies, and served to you still boiling in its tiny cast iron cauldron. Before your meal, snack on a variety of pickled banchan (side dishes) that are also great to enjoy with your hot pot of goodness. When the server places the steaming, boiling dish before me, I’m quick to crack one of the eggs provided into the broth, where it quickly cooks. —Barbarella Fokos

Place

Kitchen 4140

4140 Morena Boulevard, San Diego

Kitchen 4140

You’d never think that an industrial park on Morena Boulevard would be home to a charming restaurant. Kitchen 4140 combines new American cuisine with a stylish garden patio that makes the most of its location. Emphasis is on using farm-to-table ingredients, such as heirloom carrots in chili sauce or the heirloom tomato salad with burrata cheese. Entrées include the crispy skin salmon with a cauliflower purée and the Korean-style Bulgogi-braised short ribs with kimchi. Excellent wine list and there’s even a special room for wine-tasting parties. —Patrick Henderson

Place

Sushi Diner

7530 Mesa College Drive, San Diego

Sushi Diner

Imagine a little eatery in the countryside of Japan, with bamboo torches, cloth-flap entrance, palm fringes. Add an island vibe: owner Daisuke loves — and plays — Bob Marley. Value? Check the big small-plates section. Try the five-piece baked green mussels ($5.25), monkey brains (tuna/cream cheese-stuffed mushrooms) for $5.95, or yakitori: two chicken skewers for $2.95. More value? During Sushi Diner's happy hour you buy a basic beer, then sake, sushi rolls, and hand rolls; appetizers like fried chicken go for 99 cents each. Also, good bento boxes (around $12), seaweed salad ($4.95), and especially the smokin’ Jamaican roll ($8.95). —Ed Bedford

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Lobster roll at Supernatural Sandwiches
Lobster roll at Supernatural Sandwiches

Adventurous eaters know to dig deep into Kearny Mesa, Clairemont Mesa, Mira Mesa, Linda Vista, and Miramar for hidden joys and authentic Asian restaurants. And while some are launching more convenient outposts closer to a downtown audience, there is always something new to explore in this land between freeways.

Place

Supernatural Sandwiches

7094 Miramar Road, San Diego

Supernatural Sandwiches

Many of San Diego’s classic seafood sandwiches err on the side of simplicity, often little more than tartar sauce, sourdough, and fish. Supernatural hits the opposite end of the spectrum, turning out beautifully cooked seafood dressed with rich sauce and toppings on tasty breads. It’s impossible to go wrong with lobster, either grilled cheese or roll, but any of the fresh-caught, Catalina Offshore–sourced fish of the day will put a smile on your face. I used to go to Miramar for beer, then stop here for a snack. Now this is the main attraction. —Ian Anderson

Place

Yakitori Taisho

5185 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego

Yakitori Taisho

The formula is simple: fire, meat, and salt. It is executed to perfection at this 14-seat shop in a strip mall off Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. The chef trained in Nagoya, famous for its chicken, so it’s not surprising that the bird is front and center. Start with the Teba (Wings), Tsukune (meatball), move on to the Kawa (skin), Hatsu (heart), and the wonderful, somewhat chewy Akahimo (Chicken vein). For a change of pace, try the tender Buta-Shiso, a pork and shiso roll. The karaage, fried chicken with a hint of shio koji flavor, is good, as are some of the specials, like fried squid beaks. Try the Nagoya Teba; deep-fried wings in the style of its namesake city, sprinkled with black pepper and sesame seeds, dipped in a sweet and salty “tare.” All the grilled items are prepared over binchotan, a charcoal made from ubame oak. Reservations are recommended. —Kirk K

Place

Wa Dining Okan

3860 Convoy Street #110, San Diego

Wa Dining Okan

With its fortunate proximity to one of San Diego’s best Japanese markets, Nijiya Market, Wa Dining Okan has the luxury of seasonal, often organic foods at the ready. Both the menu and the atmosphere are homey and comforting. My favorite dish is the lovely, brilliantly orange kabocha squash, mashed smooth and combined with paper-thin-sliced cucumber and Japanese mayonnaise. Velvety, tangy/sweet and crunchy all at once, it’s addicting. Chicken Karaage is also a must — boneless pieces of chicken are marinated in ginger, garlic, and soy, then coated in potato flour and fried. The potato flour gives the crust a different texture from cornstarch or wheat flour, a little more tender but still crisp. Braised dishes like Stewed Potatoes and Pork in Sweet Soy Broth or Stir Fried Mild Peppers in Ground Beef Sauce have that long-simmered, savory, umami goodness that makes you sit back and smile. —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Tofu House

4646 Convoy Street #116, San Diego

Tofu House

Boiled tofu may sound bland, but few dishes are more exciting than Tofu House’s soondubu jjigae, a simple tofu soup that is spiked with red-hot peppers, pork, beef, veggies, and served to you still boiling in its tiny cast iron cauldron. Before your meal, snack on a variety of pickled banchan (side dishes) that are also great to enjoy with your hot pot of goodness. When the server places the steaming, boiling dish before me, I’m quick to crack one of the eggs provided into the broth, where it quickly cooks. —Barbarella Fokos

Place

Kitchen 4140

4140 Morena Boulevard, San Diego

Kitchen 4140

You’d never think that an industrial park on Morena Boulevard would be home to a charming restaurant. Kitchen 4140 combines new American cuisine with a stylish garden patio that makes the most of its location. Emphasis is on using farm-to-table ingredients, such as heirloom carrots in chili sauce or the heirloom tomato salad with burrata cheese. Entrées include the crispy skin salmon with a cauliflower purée and the Korean-style Bulgogi-braised short ribs with kimchi. Excellent wine list and there’s even a special room for wine-tasting parties. —Patrick Henderson

Place

Sushi Diner

7530 Mesa College Drive, San Diego

Sushi Diner

Imagine a little eatery in the countryside of Japan, with bamboo torches, cloth-flap entrance, palm fringes. Add an island vibe: owner Daisuke loves — and plays — Bob Marley. Value? Check the big small-plates section. Try the five-piece baked green mussels ($5.25), monkey brains (tuna/cream cheese-stuffed mushrooms) for $5.95, or yakitori: two chicken skewers for $2.95. More value? During Sushi Diner's happy hour you buy a basic beer, then sake, sushi rolls, and hand rolls; appetizers like fried chicken go for 99 cents each. Also, good bento boxes (around $12), seaweed salad ($4.95), and especially the smokin’ Jamaican roll ($8.95). —Ed Bedford

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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