From any of the freeways that border it, Kearny Mesa looks like your typical concrete jungle flecked with smog shops, strip clubs and big box retailers. But locals will tell you that it's the place to explore San Diego's most robust array of ethnic cuisines, from sit down restaurants to buzzing marketplaces. Kearny Mesa is a melting pot not to be missed - whether you're looking for traditional Japanese ingredients, South African grocery staples, restaurant-grade home kitchen supplies or progressive dining options, you'll find it and more in this delicious part of town.
In the meantime, get down with these top picks for Convoy Street eats:
Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ: With built-in tabletop grills, bond with your pals over sizzling Kobe beef morsels, in between gulps of icy cold beer. 3904 Convoy St., tsuruhashibbq.com.
Phuong Trang Restaurant: If you love Vietnamese food, then look no further than this Convoy institution and industry favorite where you must start off with an order of fried chicken wings, either doused in butter and garlic or a sweet fish sauce glaze. 4170 Convoy St., phuongtrangrestaurant.com.
Dumpling Inn-Shanghai Saloon: Slurp on traditional Chinese soup dumplings at this new incarnation of a longtime Convoy St. favorite. Though the Saloon is a far cry from the hole-in-the-wall original, its modern touches like a full bar and big screens appeal to the masses; plus, the food is still amazing. 4625 Convoy St., (858) 268-9638 or dumplinginn.com.
Common Theory Public House: Kick it at this progressive pub leading the craft beer and food charge on Convoy Street with expansive seating and devilish menu items that are perfect for sharing. 4805 Convoy St., commontheorysd.com.
The best dessert bang for your buck
Café Hue: Check out this popular hangout for its yeasty Belgian waffles-served hot-off-the-iron-topped with Italian gelato for under $6, and yummy tea drinks to boot. 3860 Convoy St., Suite 106, (858) 571-7947.
Creole classics up in the Asian food fray?
Bud's Louisiana Café: This almost-hidden restaurant, off the Convoy Street drag, is a destination among Creole and Cajun cuisine lovers for its divine shrimp and grits, proper fried catfish, assortment of po' boys, and authentic jambalaya, to name a few dishes that would make NOLA proud. Whatever you do, save room for dessert, particularly the boozy bananas foster crème brulee. 4320 Viewridge Ave, Suite A., budscafe.com.
Shop for food products and ingredients from around the world
Don't miss out on these great ethnic markets, where you can find everything from your favorite beverages served at your favorite Asian restaurants. Eat freshly fried croissant donuts (akin to the real cronuts of NYC) or stock up on South African-classics, like pepper-steak meat pies.
Mitsuwa Marketplace: This immersive Japanese market with its plethora of imports is a treat to explore and also home to the beloved Santouka Ramen (858-974-1101). The market is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with restaurant hours from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 4240 Kearny Mesa Road. (858) 569-6699.
Zion Market: Popular Korean grocery store with an in-house food court and Paris Baguette outpost, AKA where you can score cronuts - a donut croissant hybrid-hot out of the fryer. 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., zionmarket.com.
Perky's South African Foods: Tucked away in a business park, this unsuspecting location features South African grocery staples besides doling out delicious meat pies for lunch, in bulk for takeaway, or catering services for your next event. 8360 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 112, Perkysfoods.com.
While you're there
Make a pit-stop at the neighboring Societe Brewing Company's tasting room, where you can fill a growler, buy shirts, glassware and more from these touted local beer makers. Check out their website for upcoming events. 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., societebrewing.com.
Don't stop shopping yet!
Chef City: This restaurant equipment and supply store is open to the public, boasting everything from chinaware to cooking devices, kitchen tools, clothing and more. This one-stop-shop and hidden gem will make your culinary voyage to Kearny Mesa complete. 9150 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., chefcityusa.com.