I stood in line twice for a single sandwich last week, and it was worth it. The first time, I didn’t know Chez Nous is a cash-only establishment. I put my order in, gave my name, and then the owner and I both watched as I opened my wallet and the proverbial moth fluttered out of it.
He told me the nearest cash machine is about a 12-minute walk further into Scripps Ranch, “but only two minutes by car.”
I wonder how many times this has played out over the shop’s 20-plus years in business? Probably more so over the past ten, as we’ve become an increasingly cashless society.
I hopped in my car and drove to find an ATM. And, because we’ve also become a shorter-attention-span society, I spotted a different Scripps Ranch restaurant and grabbed a seat there instead. This place had a huge menu, and when I asked my server which of the 40 or so dishes she’d recommend, she got miffed and said, “You shouldn’t eat what other people tell you to eat. Order what you like, not what I like. Read the menu!”
9821 Carroll Canyon Road, Scripps Ranch
I read the menu a second time, and again, nothing stood out. The problem was that I really wanted the sandwich I’d ordered at Chez Nous. So, back in the car, this time with more cash than necessary to get that spicy chicken melt.
The second time in line at Chez Nous proved much like the first — every person in front of me ordered the spicy chicken melt. One person told a friend, “Yes, the lamb is good, but it’s your first time here and you have to order the spicy chicken!”
“Welcome back Ian!” said the owner, Ali, who takes care to greet his guests by name. “Spicy chicken melt?”
Yes. When this many people rave about a sandwich, you do eat what other people tell you to do.
Far as I can tell, this sandwich is unique to Chez Nous. It’s similar to a spicy chicken salad, made with a chile-garlic sauce that comes off as a bit creamy but isn’t. Ali would only tell me there’s a little egg in there. He did mention he special orders a cheddar-jalapeño bread daily from La Jolla Baking Co. exclusively for this sandwich, and it’s terrific. The lightly grilled slices are held together by melted provolone and tomato slices to complement the chicken, which can get messy. But the bread stays toasty and crisp, with a soft center and tiny pieces of jalapeño adding to the sandwich’s medium kick.
Ali told me Chez Nous did start out serving light French dishes — he wanted to own a restaurant, and his wife loves France — but the place has evolved over the years. While you may find hints of global influence throughout, Chez Nous remains original and easily worth two visits in one day.