California's second largest city is known for its seafood and Mexican cuisine (it is after all just 20 minutes from the border). But increasingly it's also home to a wide menu of world cuisine - including some you might not expect! Here are five tasty examples I came across recently:
Friendly owner and chef Elizabeth Mostacero is from Peru and loves to prepare the traditional family dishes she knows best. Eli's menu is small but excellent, with fresh halibut used for her ceviche, and her star meat dish is lomo saltado (pictured above), grilled beef in a savory sauce. Try her tasty pisco sour (based on Peru's grape spirits) as well as homemade, nonalcoholic chicha morada, made with purple corn juice, pineapple, and cinnamon. The day I dined, a woman near me said she was from Peru and this was her favorite Peruvian restaurant in San Diego - and I can certainly understand why! 4979 El Cajon Blvd..
Island Spice Jamaican Restaurant
Served up with love by owner Susie for some 20 years now, the seven entrées here are bursting with lively flavors - the oxtail and jerk chicken are especially popular - and her regulars seem to agree - when I was here a stream of customers ordered their favorites, and the phone wouldn't stop ringing. Susie uses imported Jamaican spices - robust and not too hot - and you can also find a selection of Jamaican soft drinks such as ginger beer and Ting grapefruit soda. My favorites include the marinated barbecue chicken, and you can also try more exotic fare like the curried goat. 6109 University Ave.
Just a ten-minute drive south along the bay from San Diego, National City is now home to a fantastic food hall which opened less than a year ago by Filipino-American developer Joel Tubao and is contributing to a renaissance in the city's downtown. Besides Filipino, at its 14 food stalls you'll find Indonesian, Japanese (loved, loved, loved my Katsu curry chicken!), Cajun, Thai, and more. Then after a tasty meal, pop next door to Niederfrank’s Ice Cream for a sweet finish in an impressive variety of flavors. 41 East 8th St, National City.
Up in the north of the city, Graham Perkett from Durban has been in the food business for many years and is well known in Southern California for his imported grocery items; handmade sausages; freshly baked savory pies; and soon to come fish and chips. He ships all over the U.S., and its worth a stop to buy a handmade pie for lunch and boerewors sausages for grilling (unlike the other establishments on my list here, Perky's has no in-store dining).Graham loves to talk about his home country, and I learned so much while checking out all his products. I brought home hot savory pies for lunch and his homemade fudge. The pies were meaty and had just the right amount of spices in a flaky crust. Very delicious, I must say. 8280 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., No. 117.
Surf and Soul Spot
In business here for three years, Chef Sarajevo Amor reserves Monday through Wedneday for "surf" - mostly seafood (try the popcorn shrimp and smooth-as-silk grits!). Then on Friday and Saturday it's soul food, meaning fried catfish, chicken wings, and pork chops, served with collard greens, candied yams, mac and cheese, or rice with smoky turkey gravy. And don't miss the watermelon lemonade. Super satisfying for both soul and stomach, y'all! Closed Thursday and Sunday. 7229 El Cajon Blvd.