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18 Cuisines You Probably Didn’t Know We Have in San Diego

Eat around the world, no passport required
San Telmo | Photo: Luis Meza

By Christine Pasalo


Ariana’s Kabob House

Start off with a serving of bolani, flatbread turnovers filled with ground beef and green onions; then fill up on kofta chalow, meatballs made with top sirloin ground beef, yogurt, onions, and garlic; and an order of qabli, a national rice dish made with seasoned chicken, raisins, and carrot strips.

Mira Mesa 


San Telmo

This fast-casual haunt is a mashup of Argentine café eats and street food. Enjoy a shot of espresso with alfajorcitos, small butter cookie sandwiches filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut flakes. For takeout, opt for a choripán: a sandwich of grilled-to-order housemade Argentine chorizo set in a French baguette with chimichurri, lettuce, tomato, and onions. Savor the Entrana plate,–a grilled skirt steak topped with chimichurri and served with fries or salad.



Ly Heng

The menu has dishes from Vietnam, China, and Cambodia. Venture beyond familiar options like pho to savor Cambodian comforts like Phnom Penh noodles, a rice noodle dish named after Cambodia’s busy capital that can either be served “wet” (in beef broth) or dry (with the broth on the side; a bowl of bor bor, rice porridge served with your choice of chicken, fish, or pork and 1,000-year egg; and hearty wok-fried dishes like the beef lok lak (black pepper beef) and the Khmer ginger chicken.

City Heights, 619-280-8688


Berta’s Latin Cuisine

While this 28-year-old mainstay serves a variety of Central and South American dishes, its namesake chef makes sure to honor her Chilean roots by offering empanadas filled with either cheese or beef; pastel de choclo, a corn-pudding-like dish with chicken, beef, olives, raisins, hard-boiled egg, and onions; and her mother’s semolina pudding finished with a red wine sauce.

Old Town


Embargo Grill

Get your fill of plantain everything at this Ocean Beach eatery: tostones (twice-fried plantain slices), maduros (caramelized overripe black plantains), mariquitas de platano (crispy plantain chips), and a patacon, a grilled chicken thigh sandwich that substitutes flattened fried plantains for bread. For a red meat frenzy, opt for the vaca frita, a pile of crispy shreds of roast beef; or the bistec de palomilla, a grilled cut of marinated steak served with maduros and black beans.

Ocean Beach


Taste of Denmark

Open for lunch only, this outpost of Danish food serves a variety of open-faced sandwiches on homemade rye bread, Danish meatballs known as frikadeller served with a brown gravy and potato salad, the famous pancake spheres known as aebleskivers, a creamy rice pudding called risalamande that’s served with finely chopped almonds and a cherry sauce, and (yup!) danishes.




From the people behind Currywurst food truck comes this spot in Westfield UTC’s food court. Central to the menu are nine housemade sausages, including the popular German street food currywurst, a sausage that’s steamed, grilled, sliced, and smothered with curry ketchup.

University City


Guahan Grill

With locations in Oceanside, Point Loma, and Imperial Beach, Guahan Grill makes it easy to try food from Guam. Dishes that will have you saying “Ta fañocho!” (“Let’s eat!” in Chamorro) include kelaguen, a ceviche-like dish featuring chicken or shrimp, a spicy chicken wing stew served over steamed rice called kadun pika, and a cinnamon custard cake called latiya.


El Chapin

Try Guatemalan tamales, a masa-based dish similar to the Mexican version except larger and steamed in banana leaves rather than corn husks; rellenitos, mashed plantains shaped into an oblong egg and stuffed with either cream or refried beans, then deep-fried; or pollo de pepián, dark meat chicken cooked in a tomato sauce thickened with toasted baguette and flavored with onions, garlic, cilantro, sesame seeds, salt, and peppercorns.



Nahrain Fish & Chicken Grill

This East County find specializes in the Iraqi soul food masgoof. The whole butterflied fish is roasted-to-order in a clay wood-fire oven, served with tomatoes, onions, amba (pickled mango), lemon, parsley, and flatbread. Fresh fish choices include the traditional carp, as well as tilapia, catfish, striped bass, and red snapper.

El Cajon


Flavors of East Africa

Indulge in Kenyan-style jerk chicken, beef short ribs known as mbavu, a stew of slow-roasted goat called mbuzi, or a vegan stew called nyoyo made of hominy and kidney beans, accompanied with sukuma waki, sauteéd shreds of collard greens and cabbage, and wali, long grain yellow rice mixed with vegetables and spices.

University Heights



Start with a helping of fateyar, triangular hand pies filled with either cheese, lamb and beef, or spinach; or baked kebbeh, a national dish made of seasoned sirloin beef and bulgur wheat that’s layered with minced beef, onions, and pine nuts. For a traditional entrée, opt for the mjadara, a brown lentil porridge with bulgur wheat topped with caramelized onions; then finish with cheefe knefe—sweet mozzarella baked in a semolina crust and topped with crushed pistachios and a rosewater reduction.

University City

Puerto Rican

Andrés Restaurant

Serving San Diego since 1983, the Latin Caribbean menu includes Puerto Rican classics like pernil de puerco, a roasted pork dish served with arroz con gandules (pigeon pea rice) and yuca con mojo (slices of cooked yucca root dressed in a garlic sauce); bistec encebollado, a cut of top sirloin smothered with grilled onions; and pork-filled, deep-fried green plantain fritters known as alcapurias.




Try the chicken suucqar, a finely diced marinated chicken that’s quick-fried, topped with onions and bell peppers, and served with a side salad and a spiced rice called bariis iskukaris; kaykay, a hearty dish of sliced beef, onions, and bell peppers, served atop strips of japti, a flatbread similar to Indian chapati; or anjarro, a round fermented pan bread served alongside breakfast dishes.

City Heights / Oak Park


Mal al Sham: Taste of Damascus

Sample fool mdamas, a breakfast dish made of boiled fava beans, tomato, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil; moutabel, a dish similar to baba ganoush but made with eggplant, tahini, garlic, and yogurt; and fatteh, baked pita chips covered in ground, boiled chickpeas, then topped with lemon juice, crushed garlic, a yogurt sauce called jameed, tahini, sautéed nuts, and whole chickpeas.

El Cajon 


Tea Station

The popular boba chain offers an array of tea-infused dishes, from snacks to noodles and full-on meals. Try the pickled ground pork, pu-erh flavored beef stew noodles, or fried spicy chicken. End with a helping of thick-cut (aka brick) honey toast.

Three locations


The Village House Kalina

This rustic restaurant offers traditional and vegetarian borscht, a stew of red beets, cabbage, celery, carrots, bell pepper, onions, potatoes, and herbs; half-moon stuffed dumplings known as vareniki filled with either potato and cheese or potato and onion, then tossed in butter; and golubtzi, stuffed cabbage rolls filled with ground beef, carrots, sautéed onions, herbs, and rice with tomato sauce.

La Mesa 



Feast on either version of laghman, a dish of chewy, hand-pulled noodles topped with a sauce of meat and vegetables; seekh kebab, ground and spiced minced mutton skewered and served with onion and naan; and goosh nan, a round, deep-fried meat pie stuffed with minced beef and onion.

Clairemont Mesa

18 Cuisines You Probably Didn’t Know We Have in San Diego

San Telmo | Photo: Luis Meza

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