I've been going to this place in Ranch 99 since I first came to San Diego almost 7 years ago. They have a big menu ranging from cheap+mediocre to cheap+fantastic. Did I mention they were cheap and sometimes really good? And if you're like me, you enter and leave in 30-40 minutes full and satisfied. It's also usually open until midnight last I checked.
They have some dishes that me and my wife would otherwise have to get in LA - the main two being Shao Long Bao and Taiwanese Beef Stew Noodles. I like Japanese ramen, but I love Taiwanese Beef Noodles more. My wife is Japanese and agrees since I've introduced her to this. The menu has English and pictures of some dishes.
Their Shao Long Bao (juicy pork dumpling "bag") is a step below Din Tai Fun of course, but in my opinion is consistently above average and delicious. It's also a great value at $6.50. I didn't have my camera, so I included a photo of Shao Long Bao from Food GPS's review of Din Tai Fun for people who don't know the name. One difference with their SLB is they use a kind of green cabbage as a bed to give flavor, and catch the juice if you want to eat it afterwards (I usually don't). And again, it's not Din Tai Fun but it's also not a 2 hour drive and 1 hour wait. Plus they serve great Beef Stew Noodles which in my opinion goes great together for 2 people.
Their Beef Stew Noodles could be better but is solidly above average in my opinion. It's a great value at $5.75 and I have no complaints - it's cheaper and better than good ramen. The best I've ever had is now out of business and was in LA anyways. The noodle is what my wife calls Okinawa style (flat and wavy with good texture), which is my favorite. You can get this type fresh (i.e. not dry) in Mitsuwa next to the natto, but make sure to use it while its fresh. The beef and broth are the key to this dish. This is stewed for hours and the longer its cooked the better it gets - hence this dish tends to make "good fast food". I think "good fast food" summarizes typical Taiwanese restaurants like this - we entered and left in 30 minutes around 8pm! It's busier at 7pm but this place is open until about midnight and I take advantage of it. Lastly, there is also some garnishing of a leafy vegetable - my favorite is when they add bok choy but here they used another vegetable.
They also have cold seasoned seaweed and cold cooked tofu, which if you like Taiwanese food you'll like and if you don't then who knows. =) One dish that's real hard to find that they have 50% of the time is cold sliced goose meat. All three dishes you can see in the refridgerator next to the main counter - I always walk over and check out what's in stock. This is Taiwanese style where cold dishes are pre-made and displayed for you to pick. All the dishes I mentioned are fairly ethnic - for example the seaweed would be my recommendation but it's marinated in raw garlic and gets its subtle sweetness from it. That's awesome to me but bound to be unbearable to someone else. One thing about Taiwanese food is the most awesome dishes can sound awful to anyone else - for example stinky tofu. It's literally called stinky tofu because it literally stinks but is fit for an Emperor.
My first photo is of my receipt I took when I got home - $16.97 for 2 entrees and an appetizer that fed two fairly hungry people good food. Inflation has increased the cost of almost all California restaurants but I still consider this place a bargain if you know what to order and like Taiwanese food.
This place is usually open until midnight, cheap, and Taiwanese food which is a big plus in my book. It's family run and super casual - Chinese TV is always on, and it's suitable both for eating with friends or by yourself. They owners are an elderly couple who speak Chinese and Taiwanese, but they normally have someone who can speak English taking most of the orders.
I made this place sound good but that's because I mentioned the 5 things I really love here, out of a menu of about 100 things. I bet you can find a dozen or two mediocre dishes in that list. Some unhealthy pleasures I sometimes get are the pork chops which are good enough and last time I ordered pork chop soup it came on the side (so you can put it in while keeping it crisp). The sliced goose I mentioned is also unhealthy, bony, and only available 1/2 the time. But if you love it you'll really love it - I don't know any other place in SD that serves it this (best) way, and it's the sauce they use that really makes this dish.
Every now and then I experiment and get something average but then again I have no problem experimenting because of their prices. And when in doubt you can always order by looking in their glass fridge for cold dishes.
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blv
San Diego CA 92122