Fact: Convoy Street is the most delicious stretch in San Diego. If you disagree, it's time to put down the new-American Kool-Aid and venture away from North Park for a dose of food culture that existed long before it was cool to slap ramen on a menu and charge $15 for it. It's an epicenter for ethnic food that spreads into the rest of Kearny Mesa, where you can find even more options tucked away in strip malls and, in some cases, business parks.
The area is alive with hungry people whose pocketbooks are like yours and mine—neither empty nor full—and where places like Deli South Africa (8360 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 112, in Kearny Mesa) have remained favorites among those in-the-know while flying under the radar for years.
I'd never eaten South African fare prior to my visit to Deli SA. Its flavors are a mix of those found in Indian and British cuisines; think curries and fish and chips. But the focal point on which hungry eyes fall, causing mouths to drool, is the golden-browned pastry-topped meat pie.
Deli SA is located in the back of a business park. Once you turn in to the driveway, keep going till you can't drive any farther. There, you'll see what looks like any other office front.
Inside the tiny space, there's shelving with all sorts of imported goods for sale and a counter with a glass display case that holds sweets. Off to the side, there's a much smaller case with several varieties of meat pies. Some are fashioned like pot pies; others are flaky pockets you can hold and bite right into. There's only one table, but on Fridays and Saturdays, when fish and chips are on special, Graham, the owner, says he sets up tables, chairs and awnings in the parking lot for the crowd.
Before I left with my pies, Graham offered a taste of his Tuesday special, a chicken curry that he serves with rice—tender chicken falling off the bone and velvety chunks of potatoes in a fragrant curry sauce that I could eat all day.
Once at home, I tore into both pastries—a pepper-steak pie and a chicken-curry pocket—immediately realizing that I should've bought more. The tender steak, shrouded in a black-pepper-flecked beef gravy, was insanely good, its flaky-chewy-crispy pastry rich with butter, like the best croissant on Earth. Once bitten into, the chicken variety revealed tender chunks of meat, vegetables that were still intact and a wonderful blast of curry that the rich pastry soothed.
Deli SA makes all kinds of regional specialties in-house, distributing them across the U.S. and for catering parties here in town. Luckily, it has as mall storefront, too. Graham is gracious, and youcan taste the love in every bite of food.
Oh, and the dessert he handed me on my wayout! Lamingtons are chunks of marble cake wet with chocolate and rolled in coconut. The fist-sized sweets don't look like much, but trust me: Like the meat pies, eating one was a game-changer. I'll be back with all my grubby friends in tow.