8325 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa
(No longer in business.)
For some, a Starbucks is a sign that the neighborhood has arrived. For others, it’s a microbrewery. For me, it’s a noodle shop.
La Mesa already has its share of sushi joints, pho spots, and Thai restaurants, but until recently there was no noodle spot. Locals craving ramen had to drive out to Convoy or North Park to get their fix.
That may have changed with the recent opening of Blvd Noodles, a ramen shop in La Mesa’s quaint village neighborhood. The ramen will satisfy locals who might otherwise drive ten miles for soup and shouldn’t disappoint people who are in La Mesa for whatever reason.
Blvd Noodles is the second restaurant opened in the past six months by Aaron Dean. The first was Sheldon’s Service Station, a charming outdoor cafe a few blocks away. Dean also plans to open a yogurt shop and a brewery in La Mesa in the next six months, as well as some high-end condos.
All of those are well and good, but for many Blvd Noodles is the real test, as it marks legitimate proof that La Mesa is hip. (“It has a noodle shop, for crying out loud!”)
Blvd Noodles is more Asian-inspired than authentic, featuring a grab-bag of mostly Japanese Asian specialties. Yes, there is Japanese ramen and edamame, but also Chinese bao buns and Filipino lumpia. Oh, and the signature dessert is peanut butter and jelly wontons (we’ll get to that later).
As far as the ramen is concerned, the tonkotsu broth used in the non-vegetarian bowls is spot-on — nice and meaty, just full of pork umami. It differs from other ramen broths in that there are bits of pickled ginger throughout (a nice touch!). Also, one of the ingredients is a soft-boiled egg cooked in soy sauce. This adds a nice touch of saltiness.
I got the Blvd Bowl ($12), which comes with char-siu pork, black-roasted garlic oil, bamboo shoots, corn, green onion, naruto (a type of fish cake), and the aforementioned soy-boiled egg and pickled ginger. A satisfying dish on a cold night, for sure.
The Village Bowl ($10) is basically the same but without the garlic oil or corn, while the Fletcher Bowl (also $10) uses a miso base instead of the tonkotsu broth.
My wife had the Spring Bowl ($9), the vegetarian option. It uses a vegetarian miso base with cabbage, onion, spinach, bamboo shoots, corn, and Ito chili pepper. She was happy and considered it one of the better vegetarian ramens she’s had.
Blvd Noodles is trying to be delicious, not necessarily authentic, so there are some items that aren’t necessarily Japanese such as the Bao Bun Tacos ($7), which are soft piece of dough filled taco-style with brisket, pickled vegetables, and hoisin sauce. The beef was tender, and I enjoyed dipping them in the ramen (which probably isn’t “authentic” either).
The Lumpia ($6) is another dish that isn’t Japanese, but these eggroll-like appetizers are stuffed with savory beef that goes great with the sweet chili and jalapeño vinegar dipping sauces. My son liked this dish the most of all.
My wife was also a fan of the Green Papaya Carrot Salad ($5), which includes strings of papaya, carrots, and jicama sliced to be chopstick ready. It’s served with a sesame soy dressing topped with peanuts. The veggies and fruit had a nice crunch, and my wife liked it, but I think the dish needed a dressing with more tang, such as from rice vinegar.
For dessert we tried the Peanut Butter and Jelly Won Tons ($4) served with whipped cream. I thought it was okay, my kids liked it, and my wife wasn’t a fan. I suspect other diners will debate these as well.