Yellow Deli in Valley Center. I could be wandering for days trying to get out of this Brigadoon.
“Could you let me off at Lilac Road?”
That’s me, asking the driver of the 388 as we climb through the hills and orange orchards of Valley Center Road, northeast of Escondido.
32011 Lilac Road, Valley Center
“Just in time,” she says, and rolls to a halt at this tee-junction. I jump out. Bus pulls away. And then silence. Nothing except for the odd car zapping past, fast.
I love is the oozy juiciness of the spinwich.
Oh, Lord. Check my iPad. It says it’s gonna take “3 hours and 14 minutes” to walk from here to where I’m going.
I cross over to Lilac. Two black birds with albatross-like wingspans cruise over, then back. Buzzards? Not a good sign.
“Take the chili!” says this guy Vincent.
I spot the south-bound bus stop. And I’m just walking up to it when a 388 appears. Miracle! I hail it down, jump aboard. Few minutes later he drops me off at the nearest sign of civilization: a little gedunk opposite a John Deere equipment yard.
Dos Valles Gardeners
Couple’s sipping coffee at a table in the gravel. “You go by…bus?” the guy says.
His name’s John. Wife’s Kristine. Four-door truck parked in the gravel’s theirs. They live up in the back country. Turns out they write books and give seminars. “‘Man-woman relations, made easy,’” says Kristine.
Yoga Vista Special (a veggie burger)
“Where are you heading?” says John.
“Uh, looking for the Yellow Deli. Branch of the Vista one. Religious group runs it. Somewhere up Lilac Road.”
“Need a ride?”
Levi, Tsaraph, Ehud. "We want to be as it was before Judaism and Christianity split apart."
Wow. Now I know I’m in the country. Twenty minutes and many windy turns later, they drop me off under a canopy of wild oaks. I crunch across the gravel to a li’l ol’ yellow house with a rusty tin roof and a whole lot going on out back. Like, a circle of women on a deck overlooking a stream. “Dos Valles Gardeners,” says Nancy Maynard. She’s a master gardener. Talking to them, you find out this Valley Center has always been full of famous people. Huey Lewis, Bill Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Crocker, John DeLorean, Billy Graham.
Wildly fresh-looking lettuces: kale, green stuff with huge veiny leaves I don’t even recognize.
I look around. I see balconies, varnished wood tables, umbrellas, a yellow trailer that has to be the kitchen, and, on the balcony, a display of wildly fresh-looking lettuces: kale, green stuff with huge veiny leaves I don’t even recognize — collard greens? Beets? All organic of course, $3 a bunch. Plus avos, and bread they bake themselves. Raisin walnut sourdough goes for $5.50, whole wheat’s $5.
“The veggies are from our farm further up the valley,” says this guy. Name’s Lev. Biblical?
“Yes. It means ‘Heart of Gold.’ We call ourselves the Twelve Tribes. We want to be as it was before Judaism and Christianity split apart. We liked it better when they were one people.”
I set down at a table between the house and the kitchen trailer. It’s so quiet. Wind, birds, that’s it.
“It’s not so peaceful in the evening, when the coyotes get going,” says another of the guys. Ehud (“it means ‘Unity’”). He brings me a big yellow menu. “Every sandwich has a story,” he says. He points to the “Spinwich” breakfast sandwich, which is a combo of eggs, spinach, parmesan, cheddar, hot pepper jack, onions, red peppers, and “our own special sauce.” Costs $6.50. “This sandwich came about when a friend fell sick. Over two years we gave him a lot of love and care, and one of us invented this spinwich for him. We’re sure it helped him, because it was something developed by a friend. And he recovered. It was a little miracle.”
Breakfast aside, they have plenty. One page is hot sandwiches, the next, salads, chili and desserts, and the last, drinks and breakfast. Hot sandwiches, which all cost $8.25) include Deli Rose (roast beef and corned beef), Reuben, Deli Lamb, Yoga Vista Special (a veggie burger), Yellow Submarine (basically a spread), and Chicken on the Ranch, a chipotle chicken sandwich. Or you can create your own, starting at $6 for cheese only. Cheapest item is a hot dog for $5.
Most interesting salad looks like the cranberry cashew ($8, half size for $6).
But I’m looking at brekky items, because I’ve been up and traveling since five. Heck, it’s only 10:30 a.m. now. I almost go for the deli waffle ($5.50, $6.50 with fruit), but end up choosing Ehud’s “spinwich.”
“Take the chili!” says this guy Vincent, who’s just crunched up in his big new VW.
Oh man. Because I was tempted by that. Costs $7 (“served with artisan bread”). “Bread’s almost the best thing about it,” says Vincent.
So hey, I could be wandering for days trying to get out of this Brigadoon. I order the chili too. And, on Lev’s recommendation, Yerba mate ($2). I try it alone, give in, pour in some honey, and yes, nice grassy, sweet drink.
The chili is delicious, with a hint of sweetness, and scallions and onions and the two cheeses on top adding tang. But the deal-closer is its bread roll with squirts of grilled cheese all over the top. It makes the whole thing pop.
Honestly I hardly have room for the spinwich, but what I love is the oozy juiciness of it. The spinachy li’l egg omelet has just enough twang from the pepper jack and onions to make it interesting. The ooze factor is like a seductress egging you on (oops). Either would have been enough.
And getting home? I tell you. Country people.
Nivea opens the trailer door. She’s the cook in the trailer, all dressed up in an ankle-length blue dress. She mutters to Lev.
“Lady on the phone,” Lev says. “Wants to speak to you.”
“Sweetie, do you need to get back down to the bus?”
Prices: Breakfast muffin of the day, $2; homemade granola, $4.75; Deli waffle, $5.50; with fruit, $6.50; eggs and cheese, $5; lamb breakfast sandwich, $6.75; spinwich (eggs, spinach, cheese), $6.50; Deli Rose hot roast beef and corned beef sandwich, $8.25; also $8.25: Reuben, Deli Lamb, veggie burger (“Yoga Vista Special”), Yellow Submarine, (a spread), Chicken on the Ranch (chipotle); create your own, from $6 (for cheese only); hot dog, $5; cranberry cashew salad, $8 ($6 for half size); chili with bread, $7; date square, $3.50
Nearest Bus Stop: Valley Center Road at Lilac Road (n.b.! around 9 miles away.)