7061 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa
I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself driving to Kearny Mesa for lunch or dinner over the years, but I do know 100 percent of those trips involved eating Asian food. Until this week. Rather than ramen or soft tofu stew or dim sum, this time I took the Clairemont Mesa Boulevard exit looking for a Jewish delicatessen.
San Diego doesn’t have a glut of Jewish delis, especially since Elijah’s Restaurant closed its locations in Del Mar and La Jolla over the past five years. But in 2015 Elijah’s took over the former site of a sports bar near the 99 Ranch supermarket and brought blintzes to the neighborhood.
It’s a little strange walking into a brand new deli. Whether in L.A. or New York, most of the traditional delicatessens I’ve visited have been around long enough to earn the descriptor venerable. Even DZ Akins has been around more than 35 years in La Mesa. While Elijah’s has years behind it as a brand, this new address features reclaimed wood décor and a clean-looking custom-built bar complete with limited craft beer on draught.
But I was there for a piled-high cured-meat sandwich on rye bread. Which isn’t to say I didn’t consider something else. Elijah’s menu covers a huge amount of ground: nova lox and eggs, liver and onions, a smoked whitefish platter, and challah french toast, for example. I could have ordered 20 different meals to invoke the classic Jewish deli experience and about 40 representative of American diner food.
Corned beef got this nod this day, because Elijah’s makes it in-house and describes its sandwiches as “overstuffed.” Such sandwiches rarely come cheap, and whether you opt for smoked turkey, beef tongue, pastrami, or chopped liver, you can expect to pay $12 to $14 for a sandwich and side salad. If you opt for one of the “sky high sandwiches” featuring two kinds of meat on three slices of bread, the price goes up to $16.
Elijah’s had the AC pumping, so despite the hot summer weather I felt cool enough to go for the $14 half-sandwich-and-soup special. There’s nothing exciting about chicken noodle soup, so I asked them to throw in a kreplach dumpling to keep things interesting. The broth reminded me of Lipton’s instant soup, but I relished the aromatically spiced ground beef filling that kreplach — it really salvaged the dish.
Likewise, the corned beef benefitted from fresh rye bread and Ba-Tampte deli mustard. Though stacked admirably thick, the beef skewed just a little too dry for me to call it outstanding. It’s still tasty though, elevated by the rye and spicy mustard to make for a satisfying high-stack sandwich.
Whether you’re looking for a classic Jewish deli meal, a pretension-free brunch, or a big plate of comfort food, Elijah’s continues to deliver. Only now it’s in Kearny Mesa.