Courtesy of Steamy Piggy
There are few places on earth as gastronomically endowed as the Convoy District. Recognized by the city in 2020 as San Diego’s official “Pan Asian Cultural District,” it has it all: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, and other cultural cuisine from the continent. On weekends, it feels like the Las Vegas strip, with queues snaking out of noisy restaurants, frustrated drivers circling for limited parking, and Gen-Zers filming TikToks in cute boba cafes.There are around 100 eateries in Convoy, but it’s not just a hub for grub. One also finds bars, massage parlors, karaoke caverns, dentists, optometrists, accountants, and car dealerships— so many car dealerships—all squeezed, beautifully, into ugly strip malls. A few generations of first-gen moms and pops turned a former manufacturing zone into a cultural destination.The bonanza began in 1979, with the opening of a Chinese grocery store called Woo Chee Chong. Soon other Asian grocers followed. Then Asian eateries. Then Asian-owned businesses. You get the picture. And the expansion continues, with “Coming Soon” placards decorating storefronts in spades. Evidently, San Diego’s demand for excellent Asian food—relatively scarce beyond Convoy’s hallowed lots—is insatiable. Here are five things to order in Convoy right now:
Courtesy of Spicy City
Hot Pot Frog
For your Sichuan Scoville fix, look no further than Spicy City, a loud, unassuming little diamond, that’s been around for 14 years. The perfectly salty, oily, spicy dishes transport diners to the frigid streets of Chengdu. Even the soundtrack is similar: boisterous, happy Mandarin. The twice-cooked pork, served with scallions, ginger, and pepper in fatty slices, is divine. But do not shy away from the hot pot frog.
Courtesy of Steamy Piggy
Newer to Convoy, circa 2017, is Steamy Piggy (and its even younger offshoot, Formoosa). The stylish, teen-chic spot—all hanging planters and flat screens airing Chinese cooking shows—serves casual Taiwanese small plates with playful twists. The bulgogi roll is scrumptious. So, too, is each of the five homemade dumpling options (six if you include the delicate chili wontons).
Courtesy of Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Cumin Lamb Biang-Biang
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Noodle obsessives will find plenty to slurp on at this sit-down gem. The northern Chinese province Shanxi (山西) is cold coal country. The cuisine at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen is heavy, warming, and meant to be enjoyed in groups. Magic Kitchen honors that tradition particularly well with its hand-pulled noodles, wonderfully thick and chewy ropes perfect for soaking up the flavorful sauces. The cumin lamb biang-biang are of another, godlier realm.
Courtesy of RakiRaki Ramen
Speaking of chewy noodles, RakiRaki, which infuses its dough with mochi, boasts some of the finest ramen in town. The shop was launched in 2012 by Junya Watanabe, a Tokyo native with impeccable taste. The steamy bowls are served aburi- style, with toppings blow-torched for smoky complexity. The beautiful-people vibe feels more Cabo than Convoy, but it is always bustling. Get the kimchee ramen.
Photo Credit: James Tran
Realm Of The 52 Remedies
The fantastical Realm of the 52 Remedies is a speakeasy prettily obscured behind a faux Chinese apothecary that is itself nestled within a bustling brewery. The stunning lounge-slash-bar was perfected by the talented interior designer Michael Soriano. The libations are as surprising as they are sippable.