Black-Owned Restaurants in San Diego / Gihon

Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen

We tell the stories of our city's restaurants. It's what we do. We've been asked by multiple readers for a list of black-owned restaurants people can support. This is that list. From juicy brisket to golden fried catfish to spicy stews with warm injera bread to vegetarian soul food—have it for dinner tonight. And maybe lunch tomorrow. It's a small, tangible way to support our black community while working toward larger, more significant changes. 

This is an evolving list of restaurants that are currently open, with our editors adding to it. If you have a black-owned restaurant that you'd like included in this list, please email Marie Tutko (mariet@sdmag.com). We have also added wineries, wine shops, craft breweries, and distilleries. 

Also check out this list by travel writer Gabby Beckford, which she started last year and is constantly updating. 

Ackee Tree

Named after the tree that bears the national fruit of Jamaica, this El Cerrito eatery has saltfish with ackee or callaloo for breakfast in addition to jerk chicken, curries and beef patties.

5712 El Cajon Blvd., El Cerrito

 

Addis Restaurant

The derek tibs (chunks of spiced lamb), dero wot (chicken stew served with hard-boiled egg), and kitfo sandwich (stuffed with finely chopped beef) are popular dishes at this Ethiopian restaurant. They also have a breakfast menu—start the day with injera and a cup of rich Ethiopian coffee.

3643 El Cajon Blvd., Normal Heights

  

African Caribbean Market

This small store is jam-packed with staples for West African dishes: yams, gari (cassava powder), plantains, palm oil, foufou mix, egusi (ground seeds) and dried sorrel. The frozen section has goat meat, salted fish, and okra, and there’s jerk sauce and soursop tea imported from Jamaica. Ask if they have suya (skewered beef seasoned with peanuts and peppers) available that day for a quick snack.

4811 El Cajon Blvd., City Heights

 

AJ's Creole Cuisine & West Coast Smokehouse

This food truck stops throughout San Diego County, bringing jambalaya, beignets, and the Holy Trinity Slider—pulled pork with mac n’ cheese sauce on butter bread—to communities from East County to the coast and Rancho Bernardo. They are commencing delivery service on June 19, 2020 and are taking orders online. 

 

Altipiano Vineyard and Winery

Denise Clarke is the only black female winemaker in San Diego, and she co-owns a boutique vineyard in Escondido with her husband, Peter. They founded the winery in 2008, and planted 2,600 Brunello Clone of Sangiovese Grosso vines, 640 Barberra vines, and 500 Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah vines. Their award-winning wines are available online, and they are currently offering curbside pick-up.

20365 Camino Del Aguila, Escondido

 

Awash

The beloved Ethiopian restaurant also has a small grocery store connected to it. Find berbere spice mix, seasoning for shiro (chickpea stew), clarified butter, whole bean coffee and beers from Ethiopia, and teff to make injera (Ethiopian flatbread). No time to make injera yourself? They bake it daily.

2884 El Cajon Blvd., North Park

 

Bankhead Mississippi Cooking

This small restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in Spring Valley has an expansive menu of Southern staples. Fish can be ordered fried or baked Mississippi-style, four different preparations of chicken are offered, and specials include meatloaf, gumbo, and oxtail stew. Load up on side dishes like candied yams and red beans and rice (each entrée comes with a choice of two), and there’s peach cobbler for dessert.

8300 Paradise Valley Road, Spring Valley 

 

Blendees Smoothie & Juice Bar

Build your own fruit-and-veggie smoothie or select one from the menu such as mango, pineapple and banana. There’s also acai bowls, teas (try the iced ginger) and infused water.

1297 E. Main Street, El Cajon

 

Bonnie Jean’s Soul Food Café

A San Diego institution, the no-frills restaurant is known for the honey-pecan glazed fried chicken, smothered pork chops, and sweet potato pie. Family-size meals are also available to go.

1964 54th St., Oak Park 

 

Bowlegged B.B.Q.

Owned by a family from East Texas, this barbecue joint near Mount Hope Cemetery serves brisket, brisket sandwiches, full and half racks of baby back ribs, and barbecued chicken. Brisket dinners come with a choice of sides, which include collard greens, cole slaw, barbecue beans, green beans, potato salad, and yams.

4255 Market Street, Chollas View

 

Boutique Vino 

Attorney Justus Benjamin and his wife, Michelle, own this East Village wine shop that sells bottles from small estates throughout the world. “Social distancing survival packs” are available for curbside pick-up or delivery.

923 E Street, East Village

 

Breakfast Bitch

Not for the humorless, this restaurant from husband and wife team Tracii and Derrell Hutsona in Hillcrest is an ode to the bitches who brunch. You’ve got your “Main Bitch” menu with dishes like The New Yorker (Philly cheese steak with grilled onion, scrambled eggs, garlic aioli on croissant) and the crowd favorite Daygo (sauteed onion, sweet peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, tomato, cheese, avocado, eggs, on a croissant). Then you got your Skinny Bitches (vegan cakes, avocado toast, hummus, smoothies, etc.) and Basic Bitches (create your own pancakes, hash browns with turkey gravy, etc.).

3825 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest

 

Cane Patch Kitchen

Located in Liberty Public Market, this is a collaboration between two Southern natives whose family recipes were hits at San Diego farmers markets. Ebony Broadway started by taking her family’s recipes and tweaking them into healthier vegan and vegetarian soul food. Tony Smalls won over people with his desserts, specifically the trademark sweet potato pie. They came together for Cane Patch Kitchen, serving jambalayas and po’ boys and gumbos.

Liberty Station, 2820 Historic Decatur Rd., Point Loma 

 

Chula Vista Brewery

The craft brewery—one of the few black-owned breweries in San Diego—recently celebrated its third anniversary. They’re currently offering limited sit-down service at the tasting room in downtown Chula Vista, and also have bottles and cans to go. Try the award-winning Papa’s Pils pilsner.

294 Third Ave., Chula Vista

 

Coop’s West Texas BBQ

Out in Lemon Grove, Brad Cooper and his family have run one of the city’s top Texas-style barbecue joints in San Diego for a decade. He was a registered nurse, selling his brisket to local shops on weekends before getting his brick and mortar and smokers and cranking out daily bounties of brisket, pulled pork, and ribs.

2625 Lemon Grove Ave., Lemon Grove

 

Da Chicken Coop

It’s the second concept from pitmaster Brad Cooper and located right across from Coop’s West Texas BBQ. It specializes in fried chicken, waffles, and wings. There’s also fried fish sandwiches, catfish nuggets and chicken chips.

2605 Lemon Grove Ave., Lemon Grove

 

Extraordinary Banana Pudding

A man so once loved pudding so much he devoted an entire shop to it. San Diego native Toran Grays is the Ben and the Jerry of small-batch pudding. It started with his great grandmother’s banana pudding recipe that got passed down generations, then expanded from there, with French vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, cheesecake, lemon, coconut, red velvet, butterscotch, chocolate banana, and white chocolate—25 flavors in all. He is the pudding king. 

8257 El Paso St., La Mesa

 

Faridas Somali Cuisine

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 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.

1754 Euclid Ave., Oak Park

 

Felix’s BBQ with Soul

Owner Felix Berry hails from Alabama, and the menu here is a mix of Cajun and Southern specialties. At lunch and dinner there’s fried okra, gumbo, and Andouille sausage, baby back ribs, and tri-tip slow cooked in a hickory-wood pit. They’re also known for the sweet potato Belgian waffles served at breakfast.

3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd., Oceanside 

 

Flavors of East Africa

Kenyan native June Owino got his start when someone in his apartment complex smelled the food coming out of his kitchen and paid him to make extra meals. From there he hit the farmers markets with his jerk chicken, “jungle fries” (hand cut fries with seasoned ground beef and African salsa), and staples like wali (yellow rice with African spices), dengu (lentils in garlic, onions, curry and coconut milk).

2322 El Cajon Blvd., University Heights

 

Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen

The owner, known simply as Mercy, was the only one of her 11 siblings to immigrate to the U.S. from Ethiopia. She and her mother opened Gihon in North Park 22 years ago (they celebrated the anniversary this week), and all of the spices used in their dishes are hand-picked and dried by her brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, and mailed to San Diego. Their signature entree is called tibs, with your choice of meat (chicken, lamb, salmon, ribeye, filet mignon), cubed and sauteed in spices with onions, jalapenos, and Ethiopian spiced butter. They also have a vegan portion to the menu, including a platter of slow-cooked chickpeas in berbere sauce (shekla shira), stewed red lentils (misir), roasted eggplant, you name it. They also do a coffee ceremony with beans from Yirga Chefe (a town in Ethopia, considered the birthplace of coffee) alongside lightly sweet popcorn. For dessert, try the vegan baklava.

2432 El Cajon Blvd., North Park

 

Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

They carry ice cream and sorbets from Tropical Dreams in Hawaii, and flavors range from light and fruity like POG (pineapple, orange, and guava) to rich Kona coffee and white chocolate ginger. Ice creams are decadently handmade with 18 percent butterfat, but there’s also vegan options. Order a flight if you want to try several different flavors. The company is under new ownership--AJ Williams, a San Diego State alum, purchased Hammond’s in the fall of 2019. 

3077 University Ave., North Park; 3740 Sports Arena Blvd., Suite 6, Point Loma

 

Island Spice

This Jamaican restaurant has been serving island favorites in Rolando for almost 30 years. Aside from jerk chicken, diners come for the oxtail, brown stew chicken and whole fried snapper and plantains.

6109 University Ave., Rolando

 

Le Parfait Paris/Belgian Beer & Waffle 

Guillaume Ryon, who grew up in Côte d'Ivoire and Paris, co-owns these businesses with his wife, Ludivine. The couple met in France and moved to San Diego to attend college, and they opened Le Parfait Paris, a bakery and cafe, in 2014. Belgian Beer & Waffle is their second venture, which serves Belgian street food like beer waffles, fries, and desserts.

Le Parfait Paris, 555 G Street, Gaslamp; Belgian Beer & Waffle, 2899 University Ave., North Park

 

Maya’s Cookies

Maya Madsen couldn’t find any vegan-friendly cookies that she enjoyed, so she decided to make her own. Her chocolate chip cookies became so popular that she was baking dozens of them for friends and clients, and she decided to launch her own business. Her cookies are now sold at farmer’s markets and cafes throughout San Diego, and can be ordered online.

(858) 265-9957

 

Muzita Abyssinian Bistro

One of the great Abyssinian bistros in the city, where the only utensils are the spongy-delicious flatbread known as injera. Use that to swipe up heaps of spicy stews like berbere (peppers, garlic, onions, spices) and mitmita (even spicier, with cumin). They’ve also got sambusas (savory stuffed pastries), fitfit (lentils with toasted flaxseed), kitfo (minced beef with spice), and vegan and vegetarian options.

4651 Park Blvd., University Heights 

 

Nomad Donuts

The menu of freshly made donuts changes monthly at this popular North Park shop, and the flavors are inventive: green apple sage, haupia (a Hawaiian coconut pudding), key lime and prickly pear. There’s also classic vanilla, chocolate, and custard-filled donuts, along with Montreal-style bagels. Order online in advance for pick-up.

3102 University Ave., North Park

 

One Love Island Cuisine

North County residents can get a taste of tropical cuisine at this Jamaican restaurant in Oceanside. Known for their spicy jerk chicken and coconut curry chicken, they also serve fish cooked escovitch style—in an acidic mixture with fiery peppers.

4225 Oceanside Blvd., Suite K, Oceanside

 

One World Beat Cafe

The organic eatery at the World Beat Center at Balboa Park just re-opened for delivery service on weekends. Everything on the menu is vegan, popular items include the jerk rasta burger, shiitake mushroom cheeseburger, and the Costa Chica Chili with soyrizo.

2100 Park Blvd., Balboa Park

 

Rafikiz Foodz

The farmers’ market vendor serves traditional Kenyan cuisine along with vegan dishes. They’re known for sambusas--an East African spin on samosas, the Indian fried pastry--that are stuffed with everything from chicken to beef, lentils and coconut and cream cheese. They will be at the Leucadia Farmers’ Market on Sunday, June 7.

 

Red Sea Ethiopian

This City Heights establishment is one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in San Diego. Try the zizil tibs--beef simmered in garlic, butter, and Berbere sauce--lentils in red pepper, or tej, a honey wine. Order the “rainbow platter” to try a variety of meat and vegetable dishes, along with the injera bread. They are currently offering takeout.

4717 University Ave., City Heights

 

Rhythm's Chicken and Waffles

What started as a food truck selling chicken and waffle sandwiches topped with bacon and cheese is now a brick-and-mortar spot in Pacific Beach. The original sandwich is still on the menu, along with chicken and waffle plates, chicken tenders, chili cheese fries, and hot dogs. Look for the red building with the walk-up window.  

1136 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach

 

Rock Steady Real Jamaican Restaurant

Jerk chicken and goat slow cooked in a Jamaican curry sauce are the stars here. A special beef and red kidney bean stew with Jamaican spinners (dumplings) is available only on Saturdays.

2820 Market Street, Grant Hill

 

Sabor Piri-Piri

Piri-piri is a pepper native to Mozambique, and a tangy sauce derived from it is a popular condiment and marinade throughout southern Africa. Try the piri-piri chicken to get a taste of the region or the chicken peanut curry. Vegan dishes are available, and they are taking orders for delivery on Sundays.

8630 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa

 

Shadow Ridge Spirits Company

Sean Hallman’s longtime hobby is homebrewing, which he started while working as a surface warfare officer in the Navy. His passion led to earning a professional brewing certificate and opening a small distillery with his wife, Lisa. Shadow Ridge now produces a line of six whiskeys and rums, including a single-malt whiskey distilled from peated barley. Spirits can be ordered online for pick up or delivery.

3044 Industry Street., Suite 107; Oceanside

 

SIP Wine & Beer

Cassandra Schaeg grew up in Temecula, and her shop and tasting room in downtown Escondido was set up as a fun place to learn all about wine. Schaeg promotes wines and spirits produced by women and minorities, and she’s currently offering pick-ups for wine to go by appointment.

131 S. Orange Street, Escondido

 

Smack’n Guamanian Grill

The founder’s grandson, Christian, now runs this eatery devoted to Chamorro cuisine from Guam. There’s island-style barbecue chicken and pork ribs, lumpia and chicken kelaguen, which is similar to ceviche. Order a combo plate if you can’t decide.

9506 Miramar Road, Miramar

 

Spacebar Café & Wine Bistro

This café has been a neighborhood spot in La Mesa for over ten years, hosting open mic and comedy nights. Aside from coffee, teas and kombucha on tap, there’s grilled paninis, breakfast bagels, smoothies, a tapas menu, and wine.

7454 University Ave., La Mesa

 

Spoiled Vegans Café

The decadent waffles and plant-based breakfast sandwiches will surprise even the most ardent carnivore. They are currently taking orders for curbside pick-up on Saturdays, and are working to fully re-open the cafe.

440 16th Street, East Village

 

Streetcar Merchants/Suckerfree/Shotcaller

Owners Ron Suel and RaVae Smith did it right, a big hit right out of the gate in North Park with creative riffs on Southern classics like fried chicken (all free-range, available in Nashville hot, buttery maple, honey-dipped), grit fritters (with pickled peppadews), chicken skin chicharrones (with strawberry jam), salted watermelon (with toasted peanuts, basil, fennel salad), sweet tea and organic cucumber-mint lemonade, and then a ton of cakes (pomegranate cheesecake, salted-caramel cheesecake, Oreo cookie “bash,” banana swirl bread, molten chocolate cake, etc.). It’s Southern food for the food obsessed. They also own SuckerFree in the Gaslamp with mac ‘n’ cheese flights, fried green tomatoes, brisket melts, fried chicken, low-country boils, you name it. Their third concept, Shotcaller Street Soul Food, has a fun and eclectic menu with items like the Soulritto--a burrito stuffed with mac n’ cheese, collard greens, tater tots and either pulled pork, chicken, shrimp, or catfish.

Streetcar Merchants, 4002 30th St., North Park; Suckerfree, 751 Fourth Ave., Downtown; Shotcaller, 220 Euclid Ave., Suite 180, Lincoln Park

 

Sunnie’s Ocean Beach

Breakfast tacos, breakfast burritos, and tortas are served all day at this Mexican café located just a couple of blocks from Sunset Cliffs. There’s also waffles, breakfast plates, espresso, and gluten-free options.

4723 Point Loma Ave., Ocean Beach

 

Surf & Soul Spot

After working 13 years as a chef for Hyatt, Sarajevo Petty started her own pop-up in a local church with fried catfish and shrimp and grits and cornbread. The food floored San Diego native Sergio Bailey, who partnered with her to open Surf & Soul Spot in La Mesa in 2019. Now they change the menu every week. The first half of the week is mostly “surf,” with that catfish and shrimp and grits, south east dirty smothered fries (smoked turkey gravy, white cheddar, red pepper ranch, scallions, sour cream, spicy tomato relish). On Friday and Saturday they switch to “soul,” where you can choose your meat (fried pork chops, catfish, or pork chops), sides (bay rice and smoked turkey gravy, baked mac n cheese, sweet candied yams), and desserts (sweet potato cupcakes, cookie crunch banana pudding).

7229 El Cajon Blvd., La Mesa

 

Tropical Savor Bar & Grill

This colorful restaurant in the Gaslamp serves Latin-Caribbean cuisine. Try mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish of pickled and fried plantains, coconut red snapper, and majarete, a Dominican corn pudding.

729 4th Ave., Gaslamp

 

Trust/Fort Oak/Cardellino/Rare Society

Chef-owner Brad Wise is no longer a rising star of the city’s food scene, he’s completely arrived. First with his wood-fired restaurant, Trust, then his wood-fired restaurant Fort Oak, his steakhouse Rare Society, and now with his all-day Italian-ish eatery, Cardellino. Simply one of the great restaurant groups in San Diego. 

Trust, 3752 Park Blvd., Hillcrest; Fort Oak, 1011 Fort Stockton St., Mission Hills; Rare Society, 4130 Park Blvd., Hillcrest; Cardellino, 4033 Goldfinch St., Mission Hills

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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