Sept. 2 2012 01:02 PM

Kearny Mesa place is hard to find, but unforgettable

A pocket and a pie
Photo by Amy T. Granite

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. 

Amy blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28