East of San Diego State, the cities of La Mesa and El Cajon provide quiet, yet culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods. Less expensive than the greater San Diego area, these cities are great places to rent homes or apartments.
Commuting to SDSU from El Cajon averages about 20 minutes as the city is just off the Interstate 8. The heart of El Cajon has recently undergone urban revitalization with a newly-renovated downtown area.
Currently, the median rent price for a home in El Cajon is $1,300. A one-bedroom apartment in the city rents for around $1,000 per month while a two-bedroom rents for around $1,400.
The main attraction in El Cajon is Parkway Plaza. With Macy’s, Hollister, Victoria’s Secret and Walmart department stores as well as a Regal Cinemas movie theater and a merry-go-round, it may be the most hoppin’ place in El Cajon.
Recently, the mall has changed ownership and installed three new stores: Ulta, Charming Charlie, and Five Guys Burger and Fries. Other than the mall, the International Rescue Committee, a “global humanitarian organization,” hosts the Downtown El Cajon Farmers Market from 3-7 p.m. on Thursdays on East Main Street. A portion of the profits from the local produce supports the farmers and goes back to the community.
Some of the top restaurants in El Cajon, as rated on Yelp, are Sagmani’s Restaurant on Douglas Avenue. A Middle-Eastern restaurant, this place is recognized for its low prices, friendly staff and fresh, tasty food. Beef ‘n’ Bun Whistle Stop on Fletcher Parkway has been around for ages, it seems. It is best known for its delicious burgers and shakes. Tropifruit 100% Natural Juice Bar on North Johnson Avenue is a great place to go for amazing aguas frescas, fruit salads, tortas and, if you’re into it, wheatgrass shots.
La Mesa is located closer to SDSU at about a 15 minute commute. The median rent price for a home in this neighborhood is slightly higher at $1,450. To rent an apartment, the cost is around $1,170.
La Mesa is a central city, bordered by the city of San Diego in the West and north, Spring Valley and Lemon Grove in the south and El Cajon in the east. It is located near the Grossmont Center, which has a Target, Macy’s and Reading Cinemas movie theater, as well as the Grossmont Transit center trolley station. The La Mesa Village is a picturesque downtown area with several boutique shops and mom-and-pop businesses. Mt. Helix Park is also a popular destination for San Diegans to overlook the surrounding cities and scenic view.
La Mesa is home to many unique and delicious dining options. Locals and Yelpers agree that Antica Trattoria on Lake Murray Boulevard is the place to go for great Italian meals. The Riviera Supper Club & Turquoise Room on University Avenue provides a unique dining experience by allowing customers to grill their own steaks while listening to live music on the weekends.
Photo by Camille Lozano, Staff Writer