8248 La Mesa Blvd., La Mesa CA 91941
Reviewed by a team of East County Eaters
July 2, 2011 (La Mesa) –When it came time to review Swami’s Café, East County Magazine found a team of eager volunteers. The menu is too vast and diverse for any single “eater” to assess, so we sent in our ravenous reviewers to sample the fare. Each enjoyed it so much that they went back again—and again!
Like its sister location in Encinitas, this Swami’s offers both extensive breakfast and lunch menus including an array of healthy and imaginatively prepared cuisine. La Mesa Swami’s also offers a full dinner menu, with an emphasis on creativity far beyond what one might find in a typical café. Swami's is a welcome addition to East County, particularly for those seeking healthy, delicious, and innovative cuisine.
The staff is friendly and eager to please. For instance, one eater asked to substitute salmon on an ahi salad served with raspberry dressing and the waiter cheerfullly complied.
“With the hyper-efficiency of today’s restaurant supply industry, any sandwich shop can add a few standardized entrée salads, soups, and a breakfast bagel to call itself a café; Here’s looking at you, Panera,” one of our eaters observed. “But Swami’s is the real deal: a warm, inviting place where locals and tourists can get either traditional food or a variety of healthy, distinctive dishes at reasonable prices.”
The interior has distinctive local flair. Colorful murals depict a San Diego seaside near the original Swami's on one wall (close your eyes and you can practically hear the surf) and vibrant La Mesa scenes on another. Swami's is clean, bright and relaxing; the décor combines warm, inviting shades of yellow and orange with natural woods and a casual, breezy style.
Choose from a sunny front room with windows overlooking the street scene (best bet for quiet conversation) and a help-yourself coffee bar, or a bustling inner seating area.
Breakfast and lunch are served all day. The daytime menu includes over a dozen egg dishes ranging from standard (eggs benedict, huevos rancheros) to the more inventive. An example of the latter is the vegetarian green omelet made with asparagus, spinach, avocado, green onions, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese. One of our eaters took along her son, who tried the breakfast combo. “Wonderful! Eggs done just the way he asked, with plentiful fruit.” A potato scramble burrito elicited another positive review, as did the “excellent” salsa with hint of cumin.
Swami’s also has waffles with fresh fruits, organic multigrain pancakes and French toast. Two of our three eaters savored the waffles and pancakes, though one found her waffle with fresh berries too crumby to eat with a fork.
Lunch choices include soups, sandwiches and more creative fare, from enchiladas oles to a tropical salmon salad (a favorite of our editor and another reviewer who remarked, “The simply grilled fish was moist and the organic greens finely accented by dried cranberries, veggies and roasted walnuts that were both sweet and salty.” Many of the salads come piled high with fresh berries and other fruits that change depending on what’s available—we’ve found blueberries, strawberries, currants, blackberries, citrus and more. Another favorite was a spicy ginger wrap, tuna wrap and tropical wrap among a trio of eaters who sampled these, along with an herbal house ice tea that is “unsweetened yet flavorful.”
Swami’s also offers more than two dozen smoothies made with fruits such as mango and pineapple, yogurt or ice cream, as well as fresh fruit and vegetable juices. You can add nutritional supplements to any of these, such as spirulina, protein powder, or bee pollen.
The dinner menu offers more sophisticated choices: fish and seafood entrees, barbecued ribs, steaks, chicken, a couple of veggie entries including tofu items, and even a creamy risotto with wild mushrooms and roast squash. The latter was described by one eater as “absolutely heavenly!” This eater also savored a “beautifully fresh” dinner side salad with grated carrots, sunflower sprouts, beets, cucumbers and a “delicious” house ginger carrot dressing. Yet another eater found the linguini with fresh-steamed clams to be his favorite dish.
One eater brought an extended family of eight. Several appreciated the sweet potato fries as an optional side dish. Two burgers elicited complaints that they were undercooked, however others had no such issues, eagerly devouring an avocado burger and a chipotle veggie burger as “savory and satisfying.”
That description seems apt for the vast majority of delightful items on the menu at Swami’s, where you can also order up wine or beer to savor with your meal. Portions are ample, providing many of our eaters the added bonus of taking home leftovers to relish yet again.
All agreed that Swami’s is a delightful addition to what’s fast becoming a genuine restaurant row in the La Mesa Village. The historic downtown district is also home to Gio Bistro Wine Bar, Trattoria Tiramisu, Mario’s, Johnny B’s, Centifoni’s and Por Favor restaurants, as well as Cosmos Coffee and San Pasqual Winery’s tasting room—all in the 8200-8300 block, with more tasty options nearby.
Gearing up for its centennial celebration next year, the “Jewel of the Hills” is earning a reputation as an eclectic yet enjoyable dining destination.