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El Cajon Bistro and Bakery: Fresh ingredients are worth the wait

Organic tomatoes on the vine
Organic tomatoes on the vine
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

El Cajon Bistro and Bakery


East County's El Cajon Bistro and Bakery strives for fresh authentic ingredients and great service. What exactly does that mean? Judging by their menu it means simple ingredients with bold flavour and high nutrition. It is a promising start. Their original location in La Mesa is dubbed the La Mesa Bistro and Bakery. Uncreative but easy to remember. Was that the plan?

Locating the restaurant

Unless you know where to look, or you have been there numerous times, this may be difficult. El Cajon Bistro and Bakery is located in a cramped strip mall at 109 Jamacha Rd in El Cajon. It is the last retail space on the left, but the restaurant hardly advertises itself. Why do they have such a small, indistinguishable sign? Don’t they want to pull in random people passing by? At least things improve once you approach the restaurant.

First-time customer

Opening the doors you walk into a clean, brightly illuminated restaurant. Incredible odours rise out from the kitchen. The interior is broken up into two spaces. One holds the counter and a few tables, and the other is full of booths. There is no sign directing you to seat yourself, so like any good customer you stand and wait to be seated. No one arrives. Instead, the staff members stand around behind the counter and chat. After several minutes of frustration you decide to seat yourself.

Suddenly, in walks a small group of people on their lunch break. They head over to the counter and grab menus. After a quick glance at the menu, they place, and pay for, their order. They head over to the booths and sit down.

Apparently this is how things are done at El Cajon Bistro and Bakery. It would have been nice to know that from the start.

The menu

True to their word, the restaurant menu has plenty of healthy, appetizing items. Organic items are not plentiful, but they do sprinkle across the menu. The number of choices is overwhelming. How do you know what to pick? As for prices, some items are very reasonably priced, while others are on the expensive side. Be careful with a hasty selection. In the end, the choice comes down to the following: Chicken Breast Sandwich, French Fries, Chicken Tortilla Soup and an O’Boy Boysenberry Smoothie.

Lunch time popularity

The lunch crowd has arrived. The line for the counter begins to spread across the floor. Since the staff members who place the orders also bring the orders, be prepared for a long wait. Even if you catch their eye on the way, there is no guarantee they will bring what you asked for.

The food arrives after a substantial wait, but at least the proportions are generous. Make sure you arrive hungry! The chicken sandwich is full of flavour with fresh lettuce and tomato. The fries has a light crunch and spicy kick, and the chicken tortilla soup is rich and hearty. The only downfall is the smoothie. Truly it is the blandest smoothie ever. It is much too thick, and the lack of flavour makes it hard to drink. Not a good choice.

Time for the verdict

El Cajon Bistro and Bakery is full of original dishes as well as common staples. They pride themselves on freshness, and it is evident in every dish. Some items are not quite up to par, but given time, you learn which items to avoid.

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