Category Archives: On Food Patrol

Jimano’s Pizzeria Celebrates Official Grand Opening

Jimano’s Pizzeria celebrated its official Grand Opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, October 23. Members of the Santee Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors were on hand to celebrate with owners Matt and Bernadette Miller, Manager Jason McCarty, and the entire Jimano’s team. Although the restaurant has only been open a few short months, the Millers have already stepped up as part of the community. Just two days before the grand opening, the restaurant hosted a fundraiser for Ryan O’Dell, a young Santee boy recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. That effort brought in around $2000 to help the family with medical costs and other expenses.

I had the chance to try out one of Jimano’s deep dish pizzas and definitely enjoyed it – great flavor and just enough spices to give it a nice kick. Several people there were raving about a beef sandwich that comes smothered in melting cheese and stuffed with jalepenos – definitely on the “to try” list.

Jimano’s Pizzeria is located on Mission Gorge Rd. in the center across from the Post Office. Check them out soon.

Matt and Bernadette Miller are joined by members of the Santee Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors


Filed under Chamber Activities, Community, On Food Patrol

Santee Wine and Bluegrass Festival on the Way

This Saturday night the inaugural Santee Wine and Bluegrass Festival will happen at the Town Center Community Park from 5:00-9:30 pm. The event will raise funds for the city’s Voucher Incentive Program (VIP), which provides financial assistance to qualifying Santee families so they can participate in recreation programs, and to support local parks and facilities. The evening has been organized by the Santee Parks and Recreation Committee (SPARC) as part of their efforts to improve the city’s parks and other facilities.

The evening will feature wine and beer tasting, with beverages supplied by a number of local wineries and breweries. Included in the group is Santee’s own Manzanita Brewing Company, which just opened this summer and is already becoming a local force in the craft brew industry. Also on hand will be nearly area restaurants offering samples of their best dishes. Music will be provided by local bluegrass groups Gone Tomorrow and Shirthouse Band, and the event has the support of the San Diego Bluegrass Society.

A huge “Thank You” goes out to the event’s sponsors, including Pacific Home Remodeling, SDG&E, Padre Dam’s Santee Lakes, Steven Smith Landscape, Wells Fargo, and West Coast Arborists, Inc. It is because of companies such as these that Santee is able to provide many of its family-friendly events during the year. And congratulations to SPARC for pulling everything together to make this evening possible.

The Santee Wine and Bluegrass Festival is a 21-and-older-only event, so call up those babysitters early. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple. For more information about the event, including full lists of wine, beer, and food establishments scheduled, visit the event website. The Town Center Community Park is located at Riverwalk and Park Center Drives, between Rio Seco School and the Cameron Family YMCA.

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Smokin’ Joe’s Opens in Santee


Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue had its Grand Opening celebration on Saturday, January 30, from 2:00-9:00 pm, and it was one busy day for everyone.  The restaurant is located in the Home Depot/Hometown Buffet section of the Town Center, in the same corner spot as two previous eateries.  From the looks of things, this one should be around for the long haul.  Smokin’ Joe Jones himself was on hand to cut the ribbon, greet people, and make sure everything was cooked just right.  I even found out what an “Old Fashion Pig Pick’n” is – but more on that later.

This is the third Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue in the San Diego area (the others are in Poway and San Diego).  The restaurants have been around for a few years, but Smokin’ Joe’s barbecue style goes back some 60 years to his grandfather and grandmother in Mississippi, where he would help prepare the meats and baste them with the ‘secret’ sauce his grandfather made.  Joe proudly boasts that his special recipe won’t burn on the grill like many sauces, because he doesn’t use brown sugar.  Well, whatever it is he does or doesn’t use, it certainly seems like a winner.  During the two hours I was there taking photos of the goings-on, there was barely a moment for the crew to stop and breathe.  It bothered Joe that people had to wait, sometimes as long as 20 minutes, for their food because of the crowd – but no one seemed to mind.  I had the pulled pork plate with barbecued beans and a huge hunk of corn bread, and I can say the wait was definitely worth it.

Now, about that “Old Fashioned Pig Pick’n” mentioned earlier.  This is where a whole pig is cooked in the smoker for several hours until the outside is black and the inside is falling-apart tender.  Then the succulent sow is cut open and the meat is picked out and chopped up for serving.  It was hard to tell what was the bigger draw here, the process of pick’n or the delectable results – but my guess is the samples of pork Joe  handed out.

I had a chance to talk with Joe later in the day after the busiest time was over.  He has some big plans he hopes to be able to do here in Santee, and my guess is that he can pull them off.  I won’t spoil it for now, but let’s just say that Santee could eventually be the biggest name in barbecue west of the Rockies.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Santee Smokin’ Joe’s Team: (L-R) Roy Landers, Smokin’ Joe Jones, Andy Lott, Joe Lott

Presentation of a Certificate from Assemblyman Joel Anderson’s Office

Smokin’ Joe Jones Stokes the Smoker with Oak

Santee Chamber of Commerce Members waiting for their orders

Welcome Bouquet from Cookies by Design

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2009, A Santee Review – Part 2

As I indicated yesterday, I’m using these last few days of the year to look back over 2009. In Part 1 I reviewed January through April, so today we begin with May.

May actually started off with a post on an event from the end of April. On April 30 Simply Spa held a Wellness Expo and Open House to provide an opportunity for people to learn about massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, and nutrition. The evening was quite successful, with a good deal of information being shared. The first few days of the month also included promotional posts for the final “Love and Forgiveness” series discussion at the Santee Library, the Post Office’s annual Stamp Out Hunger Day, and River Days. Later in the month I posted on an E-Waste Recycling event, new restrictions due to the ongoing drought, the Hollywood Tans third anniversary celebration, and the May Chamber Mixer.

The first big event of the month was the grand opening ceremony for Marketplace at Santee – also known as the Henry’s Center. This is the shopping center that was built on the site of the old roller rink on Mission Gorge Rd. The event included music from the West Hills High School Pep Band, the obligatory speeches, and dedication of the Santee Schools Arts Attack Tile Project – a series of decorative tiles created by local students. Each of the students involved in the project was honored and given a certificate and a gift bag.

Not as big, but important in other ways, was the Frubble After-Prom Party. This event was created to provide students with a safe, alcohol-free activity to go to after their prom (after all, who wants to go home right after the prom?). The party included $1 frubble drinks, snacks, and music provided by DJ ANOMIE and the Mayors of Sexy Town.

The real BIG EVENT of the month was the first Santee Street Fair. This was an amazing event on many levels. First of all, the planning for the Street Fair didn’t even start until January. In just a matter of a few months the Chamber of Commerce was able to pull together scores of interested participants, plow through red tape, promote the heck out of the event, and live through it all. The few thousand that the Chamber hoped would attend became tens of thousands, and all this with very few minor problems and no major ones.

June started off with a promotional post for the annual San Diego’s Best 2009 survey/competition from the San Diego Union-Tribune. Two Santee businesses, Domo Sushi and Santee Lakes Campground, were nominated and one, Santee Lakes, won its category. Now, I’m not saying that I had anything to do with their victory, but…

Early in June I posted a more detailed review of the Santee Street Fair, including more photos. Another event I covered was the seventh annual Legoland Teachers Are Heroes award ceremonies, during which teachers from Cajon Park School and Rio Seco School were among the dozen educators honored. During June I also wrote about the new off-leash dog parks, the Greater East County Chambers of Commerce Alliance (GECCA) Networking Trade Show, Frubble’s first Open Mic Night, and the monthly After-5 Mixer. June also saw two fund raising events, the Friendly Grounds Pancake Breakfast for Santee Santas and the 6th Annual Golf Classic to support the Santee Schools Foundation. Oh, yes, and I posted two Food Patrols on Frubble and Domo Sushi.

Above all, June marks the beginning of the annual Santee Summer Concert Series. Every year this musical extravaganza features popular local groups performing in the Trolley Square amphitheater. This year the June concerts featured 80z All Stars, Lindsay Spurlock, and the Cat-illacs.

As busy as May and June were, I’m going to end here and pick up with July in my next post.


Filed under Business, Chamber Activities, Community, Entertainment, Health, On Food Patrol

2009, A Santee Review – Part 1


Here at the end of the year, with little going on, I thought it would be a good time to look back over the past 12 months and see what has happened in Santee. In spite of the down economy and the poor housing market, there were a lot of positives. So, without further ado, a review of Santee 2009.

The year kicked off with the Santee Library hosting the first of a series of book discussions centered around the themes of “Love and Forgiveness.” The series was developed by the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute, and the Santee Library was one of 50 around the country chosen to take part. Dr. Martha Stoddard-Holmes, Associate Professor of Literature and Writing Studies at CSU San Marcos, was the host/moderator for the series, which ran through May. Also in January were the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation Dinner (which I was unable to attend) and monthly Sunrise Santee and After-5 Mixer. On the down side, I posted a request for help from the Sheriff’s Department after a high school student was attacked by one of a group of 8 young men, suffering severe injuries. I did not hear what followed on the incident.

My final post in January, on the new Edgemoor Hospital facilities, has, interestingly enough, become the top post on my blog. I wrote the post after going to an Open House held at the new location, and after reading a rather scathing opinion piece in the Union-Tribune. In contrast to the impression in the U-T article, I was very impressed with the facilities and the people I met there. The new hospital is now completely up and running and the old facilities are scheduled for the wrecking ball this week.

February started off on a decided down note with the coverage of the search for two suspects in a horrifying child molestation case. Aaron Zendejas had been arrested for providing children he had been hired to babysit to Jared Yaffe, who was wanted in multiple states on child pornography charges. Zendejas later pleaded guilty to charges and faces 15 years to life in prison; Yaffe was arrested in Brazil and will stand trial in April. Also on the crime scene, a postal employee was arrested for stealing gift cards from his route and possibly the post office as well.

On a more positive note, Cajon Park School held a dedication ceremony for its new classroom building and an Open House for the community to see all the work that had been done through the Proposition R programs. This included renovations on the existing buildings and the reconfiguration of their circular classroom building into a Library/Media Center. The new building has classrooms for 5th and 6th grade upstairs and 7th and 8th (junior high) downstairs. The upstairs section is connected to the main school buildings by a bridge.

In February I also wrote a new On Food Patrol about Mimi’s Cafe, a Meet Your Neighbor for the Santee Library’s speaker series, and previews for a Chamber Small Business Seminar, the Miss Santee Pageant, and the Christian Youth Theater production of Honk.

March was a busy month both in Santee and here on the blog. I did one more post on Honk and covered the PLAY (Performing Lakeside Acting Youth) production of Beauty and the Beast at Lakeside Middle School. I missed the Miss Santee Pageant, but I did post a short piece on the winners, Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Ehlke. These two young women have been very dedicated and involved representatives of the city. I also introduced the Santee Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, who were kicking off the Shop Santee and Save campaign focusing on Santee’s low sales tax rate. The month ended with a post on the preparation work that the U.S. Census was doing for the upcoming 2010 Census.

Every year March brings Santree Fest, a celebration of Earth Day and recognition of Santee as an official Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation. This year the event was held at Mast Park, located between Carlton Hills Blvd. and the Wal-Mart shopping center, along the San Diego River. The day included tree planting, trash and non-native vegetation removal, and information booths. There was also entertainment by the group Virtual Strangers, a tree climbing demonstration by West Coast Arborists, and plenty of food provided by local eateries. One of the sponsors of the event, the San Diego River Park Foundation, would be involved in other activities during the year.

April was as busy as March, if not more so. The big event in April, and very likely the year, was the grand opening of the first Sonic Drive In in San Diego County. Not only did it create huge lines all around the restaurant on Mission Gorge, it gave me my biggest single day of traffic, with nearly 600 hits. Because I write about Santee, and am part of the Chamber of Commerce, I was able to attend the special VIP event prior to the full opening on the Monday, April 6. Later on I posted some tips for cutting the hassle of waiting in line, and even a taste-off between Sonic and In-N-Out.

A second major event in April was the Spring Eggstravaganza at Santee Lakes, presented by the City of Santee and Padre Dam. The day included egg hunts, games, rides, and food. Primo DJ provided music and an army of volunteers kept everything running smoothly for the families that came to enjoy the fun. Another important event at Santee Lakes was the annual Relay for Life of Santee for the American Cancer Society. This would be the tenth year for the Relay, which raises money and awareness for the fight against cancer.

Also this month were a pair of grand openings, Frubble and SewCalCuties, the new Santee Farmers Market, the monthly After-5 Mixer, and several other small events. I covered the Omelette Factory for another Food Patrol, did some updates on Sonic traffic, took part in the RiverBlitz survey along the San Diego River, and previewed two health-related events and a new CYT production.

It’s pretty clear that 2009 was a busy year in Santee. Rather than trying to review it all in one post, I will continue my look back with two follow-up posts. Meanwhile, enjoy the end of the year and remember not to drink and drive on New Year’s Eve.


Filed under Business, Chamber Activities, Community, Crime Watch, Entertainment, On Food Patrol, Schools

Sonic vs In-N-Out – The Results Are In

All-American Burger Challenge

Yes, the official results are in on for the Pathways All-American Burger Challenge.  Remember, last Thursday about four dozen high school students and chaperones visited both Sonic and In-N-Out to compare not only the burgers but multiple elements of the experience. 

Each participant had an evaluation sheet with such categories as taste, presentation, “greasiness,” and more.  Over the last few days the numbers were totaled and each major category was given an average percent of total possible score.  So, without further ado, here are the final numbers (again, each score being a percent of the possible score).

BURGER:  Sonic 57%,  In-N-Out 89%
BEVERAGES: Sonic 86%, In-N-Out 85%
TOTS/FRIES: Sonic 77%, In-N-Out 86%
(atmosphere; food/drink; options): Sonic 73%, In-N-Out 86%

These results seem to match the numbers on my own little poll, where In-N-Out is currently in the lead.

Now, for a little more fun, let’s see what people think of all the quickie burger places.  Check out the poll below and share your opinion of the best burger place of all.  This only pertains to fast-food (i.e., places with drive through) burger joints, so if you choose “Other” please do not list a sit-down restaurant, no matter how good their burgers are.


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All-American Burger Challenge

All-American Burger Challenge

Wednesday night, July 29, a group of some four dozen high school students and their adult chaperons/drivers gathered at Pathways Community Church to prepare for a very important assignment: to determine who has the best burgers: Sonic or In-N-Out.  It was a difficult and dirty (well, at least messy) job, but they were up to the task.


Organizers Jenna Stovall and Mike Gilson had obviously done a lot of preparation for the activity.  They had developed detailed evaluation forms which included such elements as taste, presentation, bun, “greasiness,” and facilities.  They also had trivia questions for the kids to work on while waiting for their orders.  For the stop at Sonic, the organizers had contacted the auto service station next door and gotten permission to set up tables and chairs in the lot.  This turned out to be both a problem, because there was no light in the lot, and unnecessary, because by the time all the students had their orders the regular eating area had cleared out and there was enough room for most of them to sit.

In the Dark

It was obvious that the kids were having a lot of fun, and most of them were taking the activity seriously.  You could see how some of them were concentrating on their evaluation forms.  I had a chance to chat with some of them at Sonic to get their thoughts.  Heather told me, “Sonic’s good, but I don’t think it can beat In-N-Out.”  For Mikaila, it was the “amazing” tater tots that brought a smile to her face.  Jessica put it simply – “They taste good.”  An anonymous young man felt the burger had “the perfect amount of veggies.”  Not all was smooth sailing, however.  One boy’s hamburger “turned into a salad,” and another boy talked about his hamburger’s “squishy buns” – at least I assume it was his hamburger he was talking about.

The management at Sonic was very pleasant and helpful, even sending out free samples of drinks to keep folks going while waiting for their orders.  As always, the carhops were fast and efficient, although one young man did end up having a too-close encounter of the wall kind as he was returning to the restaurant to pick up another order.

All-American Burger Challenge

Part 1 – Sonic

Burger Challenge - Sonic

Evaluations and Trivia

Sonic Evaluations

Following the Sonic experience the entire crew packed up and headed down Magnolia to In-N-Out.  The group was very careful to clean up both the dining area and the lot where they had originally set up before leaving.  At In-N-Out my wide-angle lens died, so I was unable to get any group photos.  A more pressing problem was the late arrival of Mike Gilson, who happened to have the money for the activity.  Eventually he showed up and ordering began.  Here again I managed to talk to a few kids (at least those whose mouths weren’t full of food) to get their thoughts.  Amy told me “Sonic’s doing it for me, although the milkshakes here [In-N-Out] are better.”  Blake told me that “In-N-Out wins hands down on burgers, but it’s Sonic for drinks.”  His friend Ross agreed and added, “Sonic has it for atmosphere.”

All-American Burger Challenge

Part 2 – In-N-Out


The night was not just for comparing.  One of the participants had never before had a burger!  Kristin admitted that she had always been more of a “chicken person,” although several of her friends had talked about taking her out to try the beef-and-bun combination.  So this night she finally got her introduction to the All-American Hamburger.

Kristin Meets Hamburger

The final results of the All-American Burger Challenge will be announced on Sunday, August 2.  I will post the results later in the day.  But until then, I am inviting all of my readers to vote in my totally unscientific Sonic vs In-N-Out Poll.



Filed under Community, On Food Patrol

The Ultimate Challenge

Bigger than Alien vs Predator!

More exciting than Freddie vs Jason!

This is the ultimate face off…

Sonic vs In-N-Out

The Pathways Community Church high school group will be holding this amazing challenge on Wednesday night.  The event is for members of the group, but your humble blogger has been invited to cover the activity for you.  Participants will be visiting both restaurants, tasting the burgers, and filling out evaluation forms.  Final results will not be released until Sunday, but I will share some of the thoughts of the tasters, as well as some pictures of the fun.

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On Food Patrol – Cool Summer Treats

What could be better on a hot summer day than a nice cold frozen yogurt?  Over the next couple weeks I’m going to be posting a series of reviews on the four yogurt shops here in Santee: Penguin Yogurt Factory, DIY, Golden Spoon, and Go Get Yogurt.  The series will be topped off (wink, wink) with a little comparison taste test on samples from the four shops, plus a chance for you, the reader, to vote on your own favorite shop.  I hope you’ll enjoy the series, and take some time and check out the four shops:

Penguin Yogurt Factory – 9621 Mission Gorge Rd. (in the Vons center)

DIY Yogurt – 9292 Carlton Hills Blvd. (corner of Carlton Hills Blvd. and Carlton Oaks Blvd.)

Golden Spoon Yogurt – 9640 Mission Gorge Rd. (in the Best Buy center)

Go Get Yogurt – 9802 N Magnolia Ave. (in the Albertson’s center)

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Café 67 VIP Party


Café 67, located at Highway 67 and Mapleview St. in Lakeside, bills itself as “East County’s Best Kept Secret.”  The café, which has recently opened a deli as well, serves breakfast and lunch from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm daily – for sit down dining and take-out as well.  Well, after attending a special VIP party last Monday, June 29, I doubt if it will remain a “secret” for long.  This was a rollicking party for special friends and supporters of this big little restaurant located just off the big intersection, and if the food they serve regularly is half as good as what they had that night, you should be seeing long lines waiting for a table.

The Café 67 Team: (L-R) Galin, Lavonne, Brenda, Robi

The Café 67 Team

The food included an wonderful prime rib that really did melt in your mouth.  I have had some very sub-standard prime rib at other restaurants and parties, but this blew them all away.  They also had a fantastic pulled-pork sandwich, delicious deviled eggs, sumptuous shrimp, and a glorious green bean and tomato offering.  There was also some apparently tasty cheesecake, but I was too late to get to try any of it.  I also missed out on ham and their signature potato salad, but I can tell you from previous experience that the salad alone is worth a drive out there.

The Fabulous Food Line

Fabulous Food Line

The entertainment was quite eclectic – in keeping with the overall feeling of this unique little café.  In addition to a DJ playing some classic Rock and Roll, they had invited Larry Cisewski, self-proclaimed “Worlds Greatest Knife Thrower” and arrow catcher.  Because of the limited space, Larry didn’t attempt any arrow catching, but he and assistant Ariana Cowen thrilled the audience with their act.  Rather than traditional knives, this evening they used something that looked like a little double-bladed hatchet.  Cisewski started out simply tossing his “knives” at balloons, but quickly upped the ante by bracketing his assistant with blades.  Then came the audience participation portion of their show, with Larry picking out people to hold balloons for him to break.  The “height” of this was breaking a balloon held between the legs of a very trusting male volunteer.  The climax of the show came with Larry tossing at Ariana as she stood behind a sheet of paper that completely covered her.

Larry Cisewski and Ariana Cowen – Thrilling Knife Show

Knife Thrower Montage

Brave Volunteers

Knife Volunteer Montage

The Hidden Target

The Hidden Assistant

Following the knife show, the floor was cleared for a decidedly different entertainment – belly dancer Leilainia.  This extremely talented woman, trained in modern and theatrical dance as well as traditional Middle Eastern styles, thrilled the audience in a much different way.  From dancing with a sword balanced on her head to performing with veils and streamers, this beautiful dancer had the watchers in the palms of her lovely hands.  Even some of the youngest guests tried their hands – well, hips – at dancing with her.  Several gentlemen were also “persuaded” to join Leilainia on the dance floor, as were a few of Café 67’s own.

Middle Eastern Dancing with Leilainia

Leilainia Montage

Leilainia and the Veil Dance


The Café 67 VIP party was a great success, and showed just how popular this restaurant is among its regulars.  It may not be located in Santee, but the short drive up Highway 67 is a small price to pay for a great time and great food.  Do yourself a favor and stop by for breakfast or lunch.

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