It might be tucked into a corner of a strip mall, but just look for their big electric sign and you can’t miss it. This cozy little spot serves coffee and frozen desserts, including rolled ice cream, soft serve, OB Beans coffee, and melon bingsoo, a popular Korean shaved ice dessert. Get ready to be one of those people who takes pictures of their food, because you won’t be able to resist capturing their watermelon bingsoo, served with snow ice, condensed milk, fruity pebble cereal, mochi, and vanilla soft serve. Even their rolled ice cream is Instagram worthy; it comes in strawberry, green tea, cookies and cream, banana, black sesame, coffee, Thai tea, and cereal.
4425 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-276-9479
When Common Theory says fusion, they mean it, with a menu featuring elements of Korean, Chinese, Mexican, and American cuisines. The Convoy Pork and Shrimp Katsu burger, featured on an episode of Food Network’s Burgers, Brew & ’Que, is a must-try—a fried pork and shrimp patty with pickled onions, butter lettuce, mustard spread, and radish aioli on a brioche bun. Other favorites recently brought back to the menu include the barbecue chicken flatbread and bulgogi rice bowl. While they offer a rotating selection of over 30 craft beers on tap at one time, change things up by participating in their weekly Brew Battle, where two breweries go head-to-head to survive another week on the leaderboard. Right there on the patio, you and your friends can grab a flight consisting of two beers by each brewery in matching styles, blind-test each, and vote for your favorite, labeled A, B, C, and D.
4805 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-384-7974
Stand aside, Colonel; there’s a new “KFC” in town—the Korean fried chicken at Cross Street. You can never go wrong with the soy garlic wings, a classic Korean duo, but their seasonal garlic butter honey flavor is so popular, they’re thinking of adding it to the menu. If you’re in the mood for spicy, the Seoul Spicy is a house favorite, with a sauce inspired by the Korean home staple gochujang, a red chili paste. Stay awhile in their patio or additional outdoor seating and enjoy a full or half order of wings, boneless tenders, or drumsticks and pair it with your choice from a variety of draft beers.
4403 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-430-6001
This family-owned and operated business is known for being one of the first restaurants in San Diego to offer freshly made xiao long bao, a Chinese soup dumpling. Dumpling Inn also remains dedicated to serving classic Chinese comfort cuisine, such as ma po tofu, honey shrimp, and pork pot stickers. Their extensive parking lot patio can be enjoyed all the more with a cold beer or cocktail.
4625 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-268-9638
This restaurant serves more traditional Korean meals, like their popular soondubu, a spicy Korean tofu soup with egg and a choice of seafood, pork, beef, or kimchi. If you want it even spicier, one of their top menu items is the kimchi jjigae, a spicy kimchi soup with pork, veggies, and sliced tofu. Choose one of five different spice levels to really test how much you can handle. Cool off from your meal in the cozy outdoor patio enclosed by plants galore.
4647 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-292-0499
While you may not get to experience the joy of having your food announced in Japanese before seeing it launched to your table on a conveyor belt, Kura’s $2.80 sushi plates—spanning an assortment of salmon, beef, shrimp, eel, scallop, and tuna nigiri, as well as various rolls, hand rolls, and gunkan—are still worth dining outside for. Choose from a selection of over 140 dishes in their extended parking lot patio just out front. Each sushi dish is covered with a plastic top for safety, so the joy of eating good sushi will still be there, even if it’s brought out by a human and not a machine.
4609 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-715-4605
Manna BBQ is one of Convoy’s most popular all-you-can-eat Korean barbecues. With outdoor seating right out front, you can cook your meat on an electric grill and watch the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood go by. Choose between the pricier A1 set, which has premium meats at $29 per person, and the standard A2 set at $25 per person. Both offer classic menu items like the chadol baegi (beef brisket), bulgogi, and pork belly, as well as sides like gaeran jjim (steamed egg), corn cheese, and thick rice paper.
4428 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-278-3300
See for yourself if Olleh really is the “best Korean BBQ in San Diego.” At $21 per person for lunch and $25 per person for dinner, this all-you-can-eat restaurant offers quite a few marinated options for each type of meat—beef belly, pork belly, brisket, barbecue chicken, bulgogi, and kalbi. Leave just a little room for their popular unlimited sides, like the steamed egg, japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and kimchi fried rice. Aside from a wide variety of meats and sides and the free shaved-ice dessert, Olleh has a decent-size parking lot, which is just the cherry on top of any Convoy visit. They’ve switched almost everything to be disposable—plates, bowls, utensils, and even bottled water.
4344 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-492-2121
It may be a little difficult to choose from the more than 100 appetizers, soups, noodle dishes, and main courses on Phuong Trang’s astonishingly large menu. But don’t be put off: Whatever you order, you will still get an authentic Vietnamese dish. The vermicelli noodle bowls—thin rice noodles served cool with shredded lettuce, cucumber, mint, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, and fish sauce—are one of the most popular orders, and you can add various meats and seafood. You can never go wrong with classics like fried egg rolls and fresh spring rolls filled with pork and shrimp, and both the garlic and glazed wings are popular favorites.
4170 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-565-6750
In a new parking-lot setup, RakiRaki has an ample amount of outdoor seating to enjoy your favorite ramen dish in, along with a drink from their selection of local craft beer and sake. If you want a ramen that packs a punch, try their Rikimaru spicy miso tonkotsu ramen, a premium miso tonkotsu broth with noodles, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, a five-spice soy sauce pickled egg, and your choice of organic chicken, chashu (grilled pork), or flame-blistered underbelly. In addition to a wide variety of ramen, RakiRaki serves other authentic Japanese dishes, including tsukemen (dipping noodles), charcoal-fired yakitori, curry, ramen burgers, and specialty sushi rolls.
4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-573-2400
This little shop offers ah-boong, a Korean-inspired dessert with soft serve in a baked, goldfish-shaped waffle cone. They’re not the crunchy cones you get at other ice cream shops. While still crispy, this goldfish cone is softer and chewier, a perfect complement to the creamy goodness of soft serve. Mix and match your soft-serve flavor (milk, ube, black sesame, matcha, or a swirl of two flavors) with your filling (red bean, taro, custard, or Nutella), and top it off with your choice of fruity pebble cereal, Oreo crumbs, rainbow sprinkles, graham crackers, and more. There are a couple of small tables outside, but if you can’t get a table there’s plenty of sidewalk space to spread out on too.
4620 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-939-0388
As you make your way down Convoy Street, it’s pretty hard to miss Steamy Piggy’s large wooden signage, with their signature neon pig acting as a beacon for the whole strip. Everything about this place is meant to look good as well as taste good. The modern atmosphere is great for a trendy lunch date, and the vertical garden backdrop on the patio is the perfect photo op. They serve classic dishes from China, Korea, and Japan, including dumplings, bao, rolls, ramen, fried rice, and meat bowls. Their popular dumplings are served fresh every day, but all of their dishes are made for family-style sharing, so don’t stress too much about choosing one thing. And you can’t leave without trying their Kawaii Buns, custard-filled steamed buns in the shape of a little pig. They’re almost too cute to eat. (Almost.)
4681 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-492-0401
Before diving into a steaming bowl of ramen, start your meal off with their most popular appetizer, the pork gyoza. Then give their house favorite a try, the curry ramen, which comes with an original tonkotsu chicken and pork broth mixed with special spiced curry, egg noodles, half a ramen egg, and your choice of pork or chicken chashu. If you’re thinking of bringing a date, plan for the Tajima Tuesday special: buy one ramen, get one 50 percent off.
4681 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-576-7244
Eui Jong Kim
Their iconic stone-pot-scorched tables have moved outdoors so you can enjoy a nice, piping-hot bowl of tofu soup in the fresh air. Established 1998, what was created to make Korean immigrants feel at home in San Diego with warm and comforting food has grown to become a Convoy staple loved by the community as well as customers from different backgrounds. Be sure to try their iconic tofu soup, like their chef’s special, which comes out hot and bubbling with shrimp, pollack roe, clams, oysters, scallops, and mushrooms in addition to soft tofu. They’re also known for their hot stone crispy rice bowls, which also comes out in a piping-hot stone pot. Pro tip: Don’t ignore that basket of eggs on your table—use the unlimited supply they provide anywhere in the soups, on the hot rice, or as hot meat dip.
4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa | 858-576-6433
The menus at these three Japanese restaurants vary, but all are known for their variety of yakitori—bite-sized grilled chicken skewers made from different parts of the bird, such as the breasts, thighs, skin, liver, and other innards, like chicken heart and gizzard. They also offer other grilled skewers like beef tongue, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and quail egg. If you’re not in the mood for yakitori, Yakyudori and Hinotez offer a variety of ramen and donburi (rice bowl) dishes, while Taisho has some deep-fried options to choose from. Although its yakitori selection is smaller than the other two, Hinotez also features sashimi, sushi rolls, and yakisoba.
4898 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa | 858-268-2888
5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa | 858-752-0468
7947 Balboa Ave., Kearny Mesa | 858-565-4244