It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of eating at the same places. Once you fall for a chef, menu or a particular dish, it’s more likely to pop into your head when hunger strikes than, say, the idea to go try something completely foreign to your taste buds.
But writing about food for a living will do funny things to a person. Eating out a minimum of four times a week takes its toll; no, not woe-is-me, but for crying out loud, there’s only so many inventive tacos, beastly sandwiches, doughnuts, waffles, duck fat and truffle oil a body can take!
Whenever I’m troubled by the ubiquity of midrange restaurant menus, I head to the Promised Land: Kearny Mesa. I’m fairly convinced that I’ll never be able to try all that the Convoy Street corridor has to offer. Just the prospect of trying something for the first time sends me into a fit of joy.
In the best cases, a meal here is so enchanting that you forget you’re in San Diego. It’s where you can put trendy counter service, moustaches, and even your bad outfit out of mind, and just enjoy the food.
That’s exactly what we did for a budget friendly date night at Sang Deuan, 3904 Convoy St., Suite 111, (858) 737-4784, a sister restaurant to Sang Dao in City Heights. It was definitely busier than when we stopped a couple months back during an hour wait for neighboring Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ. After a couple of excellent, robust Thai teas and refreshing spring rolls, we vowed to come back when we could focus on what sets the place apart from your average red curry and drunken noodle joint: Laotian cuisine.
Before going any further, gringos had best take note of the intense heat levels and pungency of Lao food, the latter attributed to liberal applications of fish sauce wherever a dish calls for the stinky yet delicious ingredient.
If lettuce cups filled with fried rice and pickled pork don’t get you going, the crowd pleasing coconut curry noodle stew, mee ga tee, will. Loaded with rich peanut flavor, the fresh punch of cilantro and exotic kaffir lime will make you feel alive and more than well. Next time, I’d order this dish spicier, as it was served on the mild side, oddly enough.
There are plenty of the usual suspects on the menu here as well, but like I said, Lao food is what gives Sang Deuan its panache. Pro tip: Ask your server about what off-menu Laotian items are available that day.
Over on the northeast edge of Kearny Mesa, another spot to try - particularly during lunch - is La Miche Kabobgee, 9350 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., (858) 565-1165,
a Lebanese restaurant that’s been around for two years now. The space is modern and comfortable with views of the wood burning oven and kitchen. Try the beef shawarma (thinly sliced, marinated meat with a hint of cinnamon) and under mezze (small dishes to share), the super creamy roasted eggplant dip, baba ghannouj, that comes topped with pomegranate seeds and freshly baked pita. Service is super charming here - hopefully the owner will serve you, too, and share his knowledge about the cuisine and its unique flavors and preparations.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at email@example.com