A Legendary Fiesta: Casa de Pico’s 45+ Year History in San Diego

Casa de Pico has been La Mesa’s ultimate Mexican dining experience and a Grossmont Center landmark for the last 13 years. Synonymous with all things “fiesta,” this local legend is known for its award-winning recipes, giant “birdbath” margaritas, and vibrant ambiance. The restaurant also has a rich history in San Diego, dating back more than 45 years. Read on to learn more about this locally owned and operated icon. 

Opened in 1971 by Diane Powers, an accomplished entrepreneur and interior designer, Casa de Pico was originally located in San Diego’s Old Town State Park. A San Diego native and SDSU graduate, Powers opened her own design firm in the late 1960s and embarked on plans to build an attraction that would re-create the beautiful Mexican bazaars she had long admired. She leased the site of the rundown and boarded-up Casa de Pico Motel from the State, and started a legendary transformation of the space to create Bazaar del Mundo, a colorful complex of shops and restaurants—including Casa de Pico. 

In its 35-year tenure, Bazaar del Mundo evolved into the most popular and successful attraction in the California State Parks system and one of San Diego’s top three visitor destinations. 

Casa de Pico relocated to Grossmont Center in 2005—to the delight of many East County and La Mesa residents. Designed to capture the vibrant spirit of Mexico, the restaurant has maintained its original charm with hacienda-like archways, hand-crafted, wrought iron fixtures and beautiful landscaping. 

The menu features traditional Mexican dishes with an emphasis on flavor and freshness. Guests can choose from a large selection of regional entrees made from scratch, including award-winning seafood recipes that have been in the Bazaar del Mundo restaurant family for decades. Homemade dressings, salsas and sauces are made fresh daily, and guests are encouraged to stop at the tortilla kitchen to watch Casa de Pico’s famous tortillas being handmade and served hot-off-the-grill, all day long.  

In addition to authentic food and décor, Casa de Pico brings the spirit of Mexico to life with lively performances from its world-class mariachis Tuesday to Sunday evenings. For Happy Hour, visit the Cantina every Monday to Friday from 3-7 p.m. for a free appetizer buffet with any cantina drink purchase.  

Casa De Pico: Carne Asada Tampiqueña

Casa de Pico has found a great home in Grossmont Center. As General Manager Lino Rodarte explains, the La Mesa community embraced the restaurant when Casa de Pico first opened in its new location, and residents continue their support to this day. 

“Casa de Pico has been voted ‘Best Mexican Cuisine’ and ‘Best Margarita’ by the readers of the La Mesa Courier for the last three years in a row. I think that says a lot about who we are and what we do best. We love serving the La Mesa and East County communities, and really enjoy being a part of Grossmont Center,” said Rodarte.

The community has shown its love in return by making Casa de Pico a top dining destination in the area. Of course, it’s a draw every day for lunch or dinner, where guests can make selections from the wide-ranging menu, which includes seasonal, vegetarian, healthy, and gluten-free options; there’s also a kids’ menu for the younger crowd. But the restaurant has also become a go-to spot in East County for festive celebrations. There are two fiesta rooms, as well as the large dining room and patios—all of which can be a great setting for a bridal or baby shower, birthday party, wedding rehearsal dinner, or any other celebratory gathering. A banquet coordinator helps guests select table décor, party favors, and entertainment to make the event even more memorable. Special banquet menus make it easy to plan the perfect party at Casa de Pico—and those menus are also available for off-site catering, for those who want to bring the Casa de Pico experience to their homes. 

While every day is a fiesta at Casa de Pico, Cinco de Mayo is, of course, even more of a party and a terrific time for patrons to savor the restaurant’s renowned Mexican cuisine and margaritas. Guests can expect tasty food and drink specials, plus vibrant performances by the mariachis as well as folkloric dancers. It’s a day not to be missed. 

Whether it’s for a holiday like Cinco de Mayo, an afternoon lunch with friends, dinner with family, or a special get-together with relatives or coworkers, Casa de Pico has become a fixture at Grossmont Center, especially for patrons who want to buy local in San Diego. Casa de Pico is one of the 50-plus mom-and-pop shops at Grossmont Center, where customers can support the local economy and independent entrepreneurs when they shop local. These kinds of businesses are important threads in the fabric of the community. They give Grossmont Center, as well as La Mesa and the surrounding area of East County, a unique feel—and when people are shopping local, that ensures those businesses continue to operate and contribute to the community. Many of those local businesses give back by participating in special events at Grossmont Center or in promotional offers that are a way of saying “thank you” to their customers with great deals and discounts. These mom-and-pop shops make Grossmont Center, and La Mesa, special. 

So when people decide to spend their hard-earned dollars, whether it’s on necessary goods and services or on a splurge or a fun night out, it makes sense to buy local at Grossmont Center.  People can come and enjoy the center’s open-air mall setting while browsing the charming boutiques and getting some chores done at the independent service providers, then finish the day at one of Casa de Pico’s patio tables, where they can relax and treat themselves to an appetizing meal—and why not, even a margarita. It’s shopping local at its best—and at Casa de Pico, at its most delicious. 


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