La Mesa rests between urban San Diego and the county's rural back country. Known for its diversity, La Mesa features an array of small businesses nestled in strip malls alongside its many parks and residential streets. Offering great weather and a small-town feel, La Mesa holds particular appeal for families and for students attending nearby Grossmont Community College.
Restaurants & Nightlife
The La Mesa area features great variety when it comes to cuisine. From mom-and-pop restaurants to your favorite chains, La Mesa has it all. You can find these eateries scattered throughout the city, so you needn't go out of your way to get a great meal or have some fun after the sun has set.
At the intersection of Lake Murray Boulevard and El Paso Street, you can find Vine Cottage Bistro, a restaurant locals love for its romantic ambiance and extensive menu of savory and sweet favorites. A perfect place for a date night, Vine Cottage Bistro operates seven days a week, offering discount specials for food and drink on Sundays. Whether you want to sink your teeth into a hand-crafted pizza or try the lamb chop entree served with a saffron-mint risotto, Vine Cottage has something to suit every palate. For dessert, you can't go wrong with the creme brulee. The beer and wine lists round out whatever meal you choose and turn your lunch or dinner into more than a meal; it will be a culinary experience to remember.
If you're craving the taste of South Asia, head over to Himalayan Cuisine at the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Baltimore Drive. Featuring meals inspired by the cuisine of India, Nepal and Tibet, you can find a variety of options at Himalayan Cuisine to suit your taste buds' fancy. Try the signature paneer tikka tandoori, which consist of marinated cheese baked with onions and peppers and served alongside a helping of sauteed cabbage and carrots. The portions will not leave you hungry, but if you manage to finish your meal and still have room for more, try the mango ice cream for dessert. Himalayan Cuisine stays open late to accommodate the dinner crowd, so stop by and see what makes it a local favorite.
No San Diego neighborhood would be complete without an authentic Mexican restaurant. La Mesa's Mexican cuisine scene leaves you with too many options to choose from if you don't know where to look. Look no further: tucked away on Allison Avenue at the corner of Pine Street lies La Torta Cafe, a Mexican restaurant whose tortas make it sought after by locals who know good food. The carnitas torta gets rave reviews from all who sample it. Featuring a fresh-baked roll stuffed full of marinated chopped pork, lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole, the portion size is so generous that the sandwich can easily make for two meals. Several Mexican beers add a pleasant accompaniment to your meal. La Torta operates seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but be warned that this business accepts cash only.
If the sun has set and you feel the need for entertainment, head over to The Go Lounge. Located on the cusp of the San Diego city border on El Cajon Boulevard near 71st Street, The Go Lounge may be tiny inside, but the might of the bar's liquor selection does not leave you disappointed. Live music shows come through this hidden gem of a dive bar regularly, and most have free admission. If you come for a drink, don't be put off by the size of the main room. Near the restrooms, you can find the back door leading out to the extensive patio area, which features several booths and tables where the bartenders will be happy to take your drink order. The Go Lounge supplies the fun for your evening; just bring yourself and some friends.
For a busy bar atmosphere and an extended happy hour, head over to The Regal Bar on La Mesa Boulevard between Palm Avenue and Third Street. Each Saturday, The Regal Bar features live musical acts, and the daily happy hour means steep drink discounts and free billiards for all. If you like karaoke, you will love Friday nights at The Regal Bar with KJ Roman leading the way as everyone sings their hearts out all evening long.
History & Culture
La Mesa's history extends back to the time following America's Civil War, when the construction of a railroad in the area brought people, citrus farmers, in particular, flocking to take advantage of the region's location near a natural spring. Incorporated as a city in the early 20th century, La Mesa has grown and prospered since its earliest days, blossoming into the thriving little city of modern times.
Today, La Mesa hosts several annual events that draw visitors from all over the county, including the yearly Oktoberfest celebration. La Mesa's Oktoberfest features a beer garden, food vendors selling savory bratwursts and other German snacks on the street side, as well as craft vendors and live musicians. If you want to raise a stein of brew and celebrate the coming of the fall, head over to downtown La Mesa early in October for a full weekend of German-inspired fun.
Although La Mesa's museum scene may leave you wanting, if you have an interest in historic homes, you will be pleased at what the city has to offer. Each fall, the La Mesa Historic Society hosts a walking tour of the area's historic houses, some of which date back to the 1920s.
If you like the sound of a walkable, bicycle-friendly neighborhood with easy access to public transportation, La Mesa will make you fall in love. The regular maintenance of the roadways and extensive bicycle lanes and sidewalks make La Mesa easy to get around. Several bus lines serve the area, and four San Diego Trolley stations are within the city limits.
Street parking might prove challenging, as the area's popularity attracts crowds, but if you can find it, the parking tends to be free. Located near Highway 94 and Highway 125 as well as Interstate 8, La Mesa's accessibility makes it ideal for residents who commute into San Diego for work. If you find yourself out late at night and the walk home seems a daunting prospect, call one of the many cab companies that service the area or request a lift from Uber.
The cost of living in La Mesa compares favorably with the city of San Diego. The average rental runs about $1,100 a month, which comes in lower than the San Diego city average of $1,300. Gas prices hover near the average for the state, and shopping, dining and entertainment prices stay low to moderate.
If you have a passion for shopping, La Mesa will put a smile on your face. Located across the road from the Sharp Memorial Hospital system, Grossmont Center is the perfect place to shop until you drop. The open-air atmosphere and expansive sprawl of the mall make it good for mall-walkers too. Parking is free, though it fills up fast in spite of the lots being massive. Come to Grossmont Center and enjoy browsing the offerings of the dozens of stores, then stop off in the food court for a bite to eat before taking your treasures home.
For fresh groceries, the La Mesa Farmer's Market can't be beat. Open every Friday afternoon year-round, the La Mesa Farmer's Market features several local fruit and vegetable vendors, a meat market stand and many vendors selling fresh-baked bread. If your schedule allows for a Friday afternoon stop on the way home, check out La Mesa Farmer's Market for fresh local food.
Thrift store fans love The Consignment Shack. Located on La Mesa Boulevard where it meets El Cajon Boulevard, The Consignment Shack houses one-of-a-kind items that can't be bought anywhere else, and the prices are beyond a bargain. Whether you need furniture, nicknacks or home decor, The Consignment Shack has something for even the most eclectic home design style. It opens every day of the week except Monday, so take an hour out of your weekend and pay a visit to find out why locals love the deals at The Consignment Shack.
If bargain fashion tickles your fancy, Act II in the heart of La Mesa provides gently used women's fashion for prices that won't put a big dent in your wallet. Whether you want something hip and modern or something uniquely vintage, Act II has an inventory that caters to any style. If you want to offload some of your used clothing or accessories, Act II will be happy to take them off your hands and give you a few dollars too. Act II opens its doors for business from morning until evening, seven days a week.
La Mesa has several parks within its city limits, making it a family-friendly place to reside. If you have a canine friend, bring your dog to Canine Corners Dog Park on Milden Street. Nestled within the expansive borders of Harry Griffin Park, Canine Corners has a safe, fenced area where your pooch can run off-leash with its peers and enjoy a little socialization and exercise. Canine Corners opens early and remains open until just after sunset each day, and neither parking nor admission will cost you a penny.
Bring the whole family down to Sunset Park on Lake Park Way. Adjacent to Lake Murray, Sunset Park features over six acres of land with a sports field, picnic area with grills, jogging trails and a playground for the little ones. The parking lot can accommodate 50 vehicles, and admission costs nothing. Sunset Park opens early and stays open late, so come and get a workout in the early morning or bring the family with you for a sunset barbecue.