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Incoming: Shawarma Guys

Local Yelp-famous eatery expanding with three new locations by early 2024
Shawarma Guys, Guy Fieri

Shawarma Guys, Guy Fieri

You might think Bryan Zeto is paying with Monopoly money after reading his plans for expansion. He is evolving from his pretty incredible Shawarma Guys food truck into three separate brick-and-mortar locations.

First is a 1,500-square-foot storefront in La Mesa projected to open in three months and 1,600 more square footage will land in Mira Mesa around the new year. Zeto will cement his small empire with a two-story, 1,586-square-foot build-out in South Park in early 2024.

Zeto had a career in sales, but the thought of selling phones until retirement was unsavory. He’s known amongst friends and family for being a restaurant-quality home cook, so he began leaning into that skill set. “I always liked to cook. People said I cooked good, but that was just my friends and family,” he says.

Shawarma Guys, interior, San Diego

Shawarma Guys, interior, San Diego

He was aware of the steep barrier to entry many first-time restaurateurs face and unsure how the public would respond to his food, so he decided to open his concept on wheels. He also reconsidered his original Mexican fusion menu.

“I wanted to do Mexican fusion food in South Park, but I talked to a friend who said, ‘Nobody wants that, there’s already so much Mexican food down here.’” Zeto refocused and began laying the foundations for recipes for his halal-friendly chicken shawarma and falafel pita plates.

“I had never cooked Middle Eastern food. I just come from a Middle Eastern background,” Zeto says. “I ate this food every day for a month, trying to see what tasted good. Even when we opened, I was still testing things to see what people liked.”



The Shawarma Guys’ success in South Park was swift and came with a feature on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and being named the number one place to eat in the country by Yelp in 2020. Zeto initially wanted to use the media-fueled momentum to go brick-and-mortar but resisted until he could observe any pandemic-related industry trends. “I knew the industry was changing, so I waited a year and a half before moving forward,” he says.

It was never the plan to open new locations in such rapid succession, but when permit delays on one project coincide with finding the ideal locale for another, you take the leap. The aesthetic for the three spaces will be bright, open, and not too fussy. “I want the place to be a nice, modern, and clean environment,” Zeto says.

He’s in the midst of enhancing the menu by adding items like wagyu kebabs, but is not dissolving his OG food truck completely. “Once we’re open in South Park, I’ll probably use it for catering,” he says.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Quick Bites

Verdes El Ranchero in La Jolla is expanding to take over Carino’s Pizza next door in La Jolla. The cheery, brightly painted bar has been serving regionally influenced, home-style Mexican since 1945 with dishes like machaca burritos and chile rellenos.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is hosting a grand opening party June 5 in North Park, where they will serve complimentary scoops from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The company was founded over 20 years ago by Jeni Britton (James Beard Award Winner) and has since expanded to include more than 60 stores nationwide.

Have breaking-news, exciting scoops, or great stories about San Diego’s food scene? Send your pitches to [email protected].

By Jared Cross

Jared Cross is a writer who grew up near the US-Mexico border in San Diego. He credits this experience with refining his appetite for food and culture.

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