The thought of a food court evokes strong sensory memories burned into my consciousness by the presence of trashy mall franchises: the baked cinnamon aromas of Cinnabon, the pulpy viscosity of Orange Julius, the slab of cheesy pizza crust of Sbarro, or the ridiculous primary color costumes of Hot Dog on a Stick.
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa
When I passed through by the food court on the way to see a movie at La Mesa's Grossmont Center the other day, I didn't find any of that. Yes, there were a few recognizable franchises — hello Wetzel's Pretzels — but there were a number of independent restaurants.
Around a back corner, next to the Macy's, I came upon Smokin' Blaine's BBQ. It looks nothing like a mall food stand, fully enclosed in a vintage-styled wood and tile storefront. But the surprise is the place takes Texas BBQ seriously. This place ain't slinging fast food; owner Blaine takes the time to smoke meats appropriately slow and low, including a brisket that goes 10-14 hours.
The place opens a mere three and a half hours for lunch — 11:00 am til 2:30 — and only on weekdays. That'll make it tough for 9 to 5ers who don't live nearby.
The $6.99 hickory smoked brisket sandwich I ordered ($8.50 with a side) kept it simple — meat and sauce on a pillowy soft potato bun. I found the brisket juicy and tender, though with a little chew to gnash your teeth on. The sauce contributed a decent balance of tang and brown sugar sweetness. While I liked it, I didn't feel the need to dip into the extra ramekin of sauce Blaine provided.
I picked up the sandwich as a lunch special offered that day that included fries and baked beans for about nine bucks total. Satisfying chunks of pork floated amid the beans. Next time, I'll order what Blaine's menu dubs "the Texas way" — mixing and matching meats. A hot link for $4, baby back ribs at $2 each, and pulled pork at $4 per quarter pound.
And there will definitely be a next time. Turns out the Grossmont Center movie theater now has a new big screen auditorium equipped with Dolby Atmos 32 channel surround sound. Ribs and immersive movie experiences just became my new favorite excuse to put off writing Feast stories and spending the afternoon in La Mesa.