Here a chick, there a chick, everywhere a chick, chick........Could be the theme song for ChickeNest in La Mesa. It's certainly the first thing you see when you walk in the door. The interior is a pleasing pink and green color scheme with comfy booths along the wall and agumented by an assortment of tables seating anywhere from 1 - 8 people. But nearly every inch of wall space is covered with chicken memorabilia, and get this, it doesn't really look kitschey.
Oh, and the other thing you notice right away when you walk in is that the average age of customers is probably around 70. I was BY FAR the youngest person in the place.
The claim to fame here is, obviously, chicken. They do it two ways, roasted or grilled. It comes in a variety of combinations. You get, whole, half or quarters, and there is no surcharge for getting the breast quarter. You can get chicken ala carte to go, you can get it as part of a dinner w/sides, or you can get it with either soup or a Greek or Ceasar salad. Sides include potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, 3-bean salad, baked beans, green beans, rice, country potatoes, french fries, baked potato, mashed potato, corn and finally gravy.
In addition to all the chicken choices, they also offer a full service breakfast menu, a vast array of deli sandwiches and other hot entrees such as charbroiled salmon, meatloaf, brisket, stuffed cabbage and BBQ ribs. Nothing on the menu is over $10.00. The ChickeNest Breakfast Special (also called the Eye Opener) is 2 slices of French Toast OR 2 pancakes with 2 eggs any style and 3 pieces of bacon or sausage for $4.99 M-Th and $5.49 on holidays and weekend. Their breakfast menu also listed Biscuits and Homemade Gravy. Someone needs to check that out and see if it's really homemade or not.
This is industrial strength food. It's solid, reliable, meat and potatoes, not terribly creative home cooking. I ordered the Chicken & Salad, listed in the menu (complete with picture) as a quarter roasted chicken and a Greek salad. It arrived quickly on 2 separate glass plates. The chicken looked rather lonely on it's large plate devoid of any garnish or accompaniment; the photo in the menu showed chicken and salad on the same plate, though in reality it would have been too hard to eat if it had all been on the same plate. The chicken also looked a lot like it been held under a heat lamp a little too long. The skin was crisp if not somewhat tacky. The meat on the leg quarter was good, and not fatty. It wasn't especially moist, nor was it dried out, but the chicken's biggest offense was that it had very little seasoning. The true chicken flavor came through, but it was rather bland and a little boring, it could have stood being kicked up a little. It's definitely not the best chicken I've ever eaten. I can roast a better chicken, I can buy a better chicken at Costco or Von's. Heck, City College has rotisserie chicken and it's even better than this chicken was.
The Greek salad on the other hand was a winner. It too, was made with industrial products, but the salad worked. The entire 9" dinner plate was piled with the usual 3-way salad mix, i.e. chopped iceberg to which shredded carrots and red cabbage have been added. It was topped with a shower of Feta cheese with a nice bite, some thinly sliced red onion rings, a few sliced canned beets, 2 or 3 Kalamata olives, pieces of zucchini and cucumber, all topped off with a few too many pepperocinis (I have no idea what pepperocinis were doing on a Greek salad but they tasted good). The greens had been dressed with a light oil and vinegar dressing that helped pull the salad together without masking all the different flavors.
The warm half baguette served with the meal was great. Crusty, chewy, yeasty and made all the better by being slathered with real butter.
The ChickeNest is located at 7200 Parkway Dr., which runs parallel to I-8. It's 2 blocks east of Lake Murray Blvd. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also provide catering. There is a small deli and they do offer deli breads and some deli meats to go, along with family dinners which are quite reasonably priced. There is also a ChickeNest in Kearny Mesa located at 8046 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
In spite of the only so-so chicken, I would go back to The ChickeNest. The ambiance is nice, the service is fast, friendly and efficient. It a decent neighborhood place serving large portions of reasonably well prepared (though somewhat uninspired) food, at a very reasonable cost. If you're a local to this particular area of San Diego it's a nice alternative to the chain restaurants on every other corner.
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