A new restaurant promising “authentically spicy” Laotian cuisine is headed for Kearny Mesa. Spicy Lao Kitchen is coming to the Spectrum Village Shopping Mall, which is already home to several standout area restaurants including Golden City and Pho Duyen Mai. Owners Joe and Linda Lou also run a beef jerky company, JL Jerkys, which launched its first storefront earlier this year in the same mall.
Founded four years ago out of the Lou’s home kitchen, JL Jerkys’ businesses boomed during the pandemic. Made by hand in small batches, the jerky comes in flavors like lemongrass, mango-habanero, Thai chili, and lemon-pepper. The couple also imports Laotian products, from clothing and kitchen items to specialty ingredients including jeow, a Lao chili paste, and a fermented sour sausage called som moo.
Restaurants specifically dedicated to Lao food are few and far-between in San Diego, although some local Thai restaurants do serve select Laotian dishes since there are some similarities between the Isaan cuisine of northeastern Thailand and the cuisine of Laos; the much-missed Thai Papaya in Linda Vista was one such spot that offered both Thai and Lao versions of papaya salad.
Linda Lou tells Eater that Spicy Lao Kitchen’s menu will include papaya salad, laab, Lao jerky, and other specialties. The restaurant will feature steam table-style service at lunch and full service at dinner.