Go to any shopping center, lifestyle mall or retail hub in the county, or the country for that matter, and you’ll find what seems like the same 15 chain restaurants, fast-casual outlets and grab-and-go eateries.

To me, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, but it rarely inspires the most meaningful of meals.

Perhaps that’s why a recent eating adventure to the Mercado del Barrio tasted so different. Every stop we made at this 47,000-square-foot mixed-use development project in Barrio Logan was to a small, locally run, family business. We met the owners — among them immigrants from the Philippines, Vietnam and Mexico — and devoured dishes based on recipes from their moms’ kitchens, their native culinary cultures and their ingenious imaginations in how they mash them up and tailor them to how San Diego eats today.