We’re encouraging people across the country to #SpendLikeItMatters at Black-owned businesses in their communities all year long. Last year, the Intentionalist community (that’s you!) helped us grow our reach throughout Southern California, and we wanted to share our current guide to eating and drinking at Black-owned businesses in San Diego!
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage you to continue to add to our database of businesses in San Diego so we can be an ever-growing resource for the community.
Cane Patch Kitchen
Tony Smalls and Ebony Broadway, the owners of Cane Patch Kitchen, serve dishes inspired by family recipes that date back to 1912. The rich, authentic Southern dishes — from gumbo to sweet potato pie — are made with fresh ingredients daily and with locally sourced vegetables from partnerships with local farmers whenever possible. Their Po’boys, baskets, and entrees are made with Cane Patch Kitchen’s specialty blend of spices. You can also pre-order their pies or book them to cater your next event!
In 1995, June Owino and Alvin Owino started serving authentic East African food at San Diego farmer’s markets. 16 years later, the duo opened Flavors of East Africa, a popular restaurant on El Cajon Boulevard. Never tried authentic Kenyan food? We recommend ordering some sambusas, spicy jerk chicken, or the vegan combo to try a little of the variety offered at this stellar restaurant. Feeling more adventurous? Order the goat curry, slow cooked oxtail, or biriganya eggplant! Bonus: There’s tons of vegan and vegetarian meals to choose from at this local hotspot!
Fort Oak was established in San Diego’s historic Mission Hills neighborhood in 2019 by Executive Chef Brad Wise, who drew inspiration for the restaurant from the majestic oak trees in nearby Presidio Park. Wise’s eclectic menu is centered in rustic urban, wood-fired cooking and boasts a seasonal selection of small plates and entrees cooked over an open flame. Don’t miss the 40 Day Dry Aged Ribeye, which is topped with herb-infused beef fat butter and paired with a loaded coal roasted potato. Guests also praise the Charred Caullilini, a broccolini-cauliflower hybrid that’s cooked in a smoky sauce with cilantro and almonds.
When a restaurant has been around for over two decades, you know the food is good. Owner Mesk G. named GIHON Ethiopian Restaurant after the Gihon River. Much like the river, the restaurant is elegant and captivating, it takes you on a winding journey through the culinary flavors of the country. Their traditional Ethiopian dishes can suit a variety of dietary needs and incorporate authentic spices, meats, and vegetables. Be sure to try the Harar Special and the Vegetarian Combo! Fun fact: They also perform traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies at GIHON.
Chef Hanna Tesfamichael opened Hanna’s Gourmet as a full-service restaurant in 2011, three years after launching the business as a catering company. Located in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, Hanna’s cozy bistro offers a seasonal menu of world cuisines — as well as a stellar weekend brunch. Menu highlights include the light and fluffy prosciutto spinach ricotta omelette and the tortellini with sweet caramelized apples. In the dessert department, you won’t want to miss Hanna’s famous carrot cake or the three-layer cake dressed in a candied kumquat sauce. Bonus: Diners also have the the option to purchase Hanna’s Gourmet sauces, stews and sides al carte, which can be frozen for later use.
Thompson Usiyan brought authentic Jamaican cuisine to San Diego when he opened Island Spice Restaurant. Everything from their curry, jerk chicken, and Jamaican BBQ, to their Oxtail plates are made fresh daily. Fans of Jamaican food in San Diego are return customers, wanting to try everything on the menu! The authentic, fresh food is served in large portions — many of their dishes are enough for two people! Bonus: If you order online, you get express pickup and delivery and one point in their reward system per dollar spent. Once you get 50 points, you get $5 off your meal.
Founded in 2015 by Maya Madsen, Maya’s Cookies is a San Diego-based vegan cookie company committed to using the highest-quality, plant-based ingredients to make the best soft-baked gourmet cookies possible. In addition to offering classic cookie flavors like chocolate chip and snickerdoodle, Maya’s specialty varieties include the Famous Everything Cookie (with chocolate chips, pretzels, oatmeal, pecans, caramel chips, and marshmallows), Chocolate Chip S’mores and Marble Fudge. Another favorite is the sampler platter, which features an assortment of Maya’s most popular flavors in the large 3 ounce size. Maya’s Cookies also ships nationwide! Fun fact: Maya makes community engagement a priority, with a focus on youth and underserved communities.
Abel Woldemichael and Yordanos Tesfamichael wanted to provide their neighbors with a unique cultural dining experience. When you enter their restaurant, Muzita Abyssinian Bistro, you are entering their home. Their hospitality and delicious, authentic Abyssinian (Eritrean/Ethiopian) food leave customers full, happy, and excited to return again. The chic and cozy restaurant uses locally grown produce, and encourages guests to ditch their forks and use their hands, the traditional way! Bonus: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro was listed as one of San Diego’s Best Restaurants by San Diego Magazine in 2017, 2018, and 2019!
Nomad Donuts are not ordinary donuts. They’re artisanal, globally inspired, and eclectic — so prepare to shock your tastebuds with a unique array of ingredients. At Nomad Donuts, you can sample a rotating array of flavors that have previously included flavors like charred blueberry cream cheese, ube taro coconut! They also make amazing Montreal style donuts (Never heard of Montreal style? You gotta try em!) and pastries. You can also pick up a coffee or espresso drink to pair with your breakfast of choice! Pro tip: Get your donuts early because this popular spot often sells out!
Vegan flavors from all over the world will delight your senses at this San Diego gem! Owner Lawrence Eguakun designed the menu at World Beat Cafe to reflect flavors from Louisiana, USA, Jamaica, and West Africa. You can enjoy curries, chilis, gumbos, and burgers, all bursting with immense flavor and spices. You can also get a fresh juice, kombucha, or smoothie — yum! Pro tip: Not sure what to get? Try the combo plate for the best of all worlds.
Sylvester Owino, owner and chef at catering company, Rafikiz Foodz, wanted to bring a taste of Kenya to California. To create authentic African food, Sylvester sources fresh ingredients from local farmers markets. If you choose Rafikiz Foodz to cater your next party you’ll have a selection of vegan and non-vegan sambusas and food plates full of different rice, chicken, curry cabbage, and plantains. Sylvester and the rest of the staff at Rafikiz Foodz are happy to drop-off or setup and serve your food. Bonus: Find Rafikiz Foodz’ stands at local markets and fairs!
When Shimeles Teferi Kibret moved to the United States, he brought with him the valuable knowledge of traditional cooking he learned from his mother from Ethiopia. With his treasured recipes, Shimeles and a group of other Ethiopian refugees opened Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant. In 1996, Shimeles bought the restaurant, which had been in the neighborhood for nearly 40 years, and became the sole owner. Red Sea is a no-frill eatery with traditional Ethiopian fare – tibs, kitfo, siga wot and more – that you can eat with your hands. Fun Fact: Shimeles and his wife Yetanyet keep the recipe for their sauces a secret. But we know they are full of garlic, onions, and ginger.
In 2019, San Diego local Brian Foxworth opened Rhythm’s Chicken and Waffles in the heart of Pacific Beach. The brick and mortar iteration was an exciting step, after Foxworth had spent time operating out of a food truck. Described as the oceanfront city’s first chicken and waffle restaurant, Rhythm’s is best known for its classic (and famous) Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, which consists of crispy fried chicken between Belgian waffles and topped with cheese and bacon. Pro tip: Want to try something else? Try the Chicken Sunrise sandwich, which combines a syrup-dipped chicken breast with bacon, a fried egg, and cheese.
Candido Gadaga, the owner of Sabor Piri-Piri Kitchen, wants people to taste the Southeast African experience. His restaurant showcases traditional dishes from Mozambique and neighboring countries with authentic ingredients and unique flavors. Try their exquisitely seasoned stew, curry, or, of course, their piri-piri chicken. If you can’t get enough of their piri-piri sauce, you can buy it by the bottle! You can also find Sabor Piri-Piri at the local Farmers’ Markets listed on their website. Bonus: Sabor Piri-Piri has plenty of vegan options!
Three words: soul food burrito. At this neighborhood joint, that’s what keeps so many locals coming back time and time again. Owners Ron Suel and RaVae Smith call it the ‘Soulrrito’ and it’s a highlight of the menu at Shotcaller Street Soul Food. But their extensive menu boasts a whole lotta deliciousness. Po-boys, wings, barbecue, loaded mac n cheese bowls, soul rolls (egg rolls with soul food fillings), and more await you at this mouthwatering destination of dreams. Pro tip: Try the chicken stuffed waffle. They put the chicken in the waffle!
Christian Graham and Steffany Paz are serving up authentic flavors of Guam with recipes that have been passed down through generations. The pair own SMACK’N Guamanian Grill, which is their way of continuing the legacy of Christian’s grandma who owned a small business in Guam. Their menu is full of barbeque meats and veggies, with Chebot plates (full sized) and Dikike’ plates (mini). Customers love the sides — empanadas, lumpia, and more — as well as the great customer service. Bonus: Book SMACK’N Guamanian Grill online to cater your next party!
In 2018, Amalia Young reinvented the grocery-deli experience. As you walk around Soulshine Vegan Cafe, you’ll notice their store feels familiar, like any other hometown deli/grocer, but as you look more closely, you’ll notice that everything is vegan. You can grab a sandwich (with a pickle, of course), grab a big ol’ salad, get a bite of vegan ice cream, or just shop their curated selection of vegan goods! If you’ve got time, enjoy your meal in the sunshine on their outdoor patio! Fun fact: The restaurant sources organic, non-GMO food from local farmers!
Todd Anderson and Samantha Aaron, owners of the Spoiled Vegans Cafe, want you to spoil yourself and care for others with delicious vegan food. The menu — full of breakfast sandwiches, sweet and savory waffles, and more — is entirely vegan. However, even non-vegans leave Spoiled Vegans Cafe full and happy. One fan favorite is their apple sage “sausage” wrapped in crispy waffle on a stick, called the “Let Go of My Diego.” Check out their website for stickers, pins, and a “Spoil yourself. Care for Others” t-shirt.
There’s nothing better than discovering you have a real-deal fried chicken place right down the street. StreetCar Merchants Chicken Bar is a great place to experience chicken and waffles, and their Louisiana-inspired menu also includes traditional Southern dishes like creamy mac, collard greens, coleslaw, and more! Be sure to finish it off with a dessert, but be prepared for a hard decision between apple pie, carrot cake, cheesecake, and more. Ron Suel opened this popular spot in 2013 and continues to delight with comfort food and cool vibes. Bonus: StreetCar has a full bar and 26 beers on tap!
What do you get when a trained chef pairs up with a former NFL prospect? Amazing soul food! At Surf & Soul Spot, you’ll find a seafood-forward soul menu of shrimp and grits, fried catfish, blackened shrimp, and more. Owners Sarajevo Petty and Sergio Baily II previously operated out of a small banquet hall in a local church before they moved into their own space in 2020. Pro tip: Order the shrimp and crab roll. With fries. Enjoy.
Elinson Ventura-Foster and his family opened Tropical Savor Bar & Grill to bring fresh Latin-Caribbean cuisine to San Diego. The family takes pride in their service and product, and strives to create the best authentic flavors. Find Mofongo, Picalonga, Yuca Fries, Chivo Guisado (stewed goat) and so many more classic Caribbean dishes. Then, finish off your meal with a delicious tropical flan! The bartenders are always friendly and happy to make any classic cocktail, and the bar and grill serves natural fruit juice made fresh. Bonus: Every Tuesday Tropical Savor Bar & Grill sells $1 empanadas!
Brad Wise has been passionate about food since he was 12 years old. After he graduated from culinary school, he worked as a chef in many prestigious restaurants before opening Trust. Brad and the rest of the staff at Trust are dedicated to focusing on the customer’s whole experience. Trust’s urban rustic food and woodfire cooking is made with locally sourced ingredients that change with the season. The restaurant’s atmosphere is rich with sophistication and generosity. Whether you are visiting for dinner or brunch, expect great food, an extensive drink menu, and a great service experience. Bonus: You can book Trust to cater your event!
Justus Benjamin, the owner of Boutique Vino, wants you to drink better by drinking small. Boutique Vino is a locally famous wine ship and hangout that specializes in wine from smaller estates and unique locales. Choose from their lists of reds, whites, rose, bubbles, and boutique bargains. If you’re looking for classic or collectable wines, check out The Owner’s Vault. Boutique Vino also sells local indulgence boxes for pickup or local delivery, which are full of artfully-paired local wines or spirits and gourmet snacks.
Mother and daughter team Khea Pollard and Cynthia Ajani want to create a safe space for their community to show up — one cup of coffee at a time. They created Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary, a community coffee cooperative, to to support generational wealth building in the Black community. Their business model is a mix of operational excellence and artistic expression for social, cultural, and economic betterment of Black and minority communities. Khea and Cynthia chose the name Cafe X as an allusion to Malcom X. For them, it’s more than coffee: it’s a movement. Bonus: Cafe X regularly partners with other Black-owned businesses and Black artists.
Carlos McCray’s time as a social worker in City Heights made it apparent to him that there was a lack of safe spaces for underserved communities. With this in mind, he surveyed City Heights residents with his team about what locals needed. Those insightful answers and revelations eventually led to The Dojo Cafe! Bringing together coffee, culture, and community, The Dojo Cafe sells delicious and creative coffees and drinks at accessible prices.
Ashley “Queen” Donaldson started More Life Liquid as a response to her own physical illness. Now, she wants to help others heal in a holistic way. For Queen, More Life Liquid is more than juice, it’s a way of life. The cold-press juice bar specializes in detox packages, wellness programs, and memberships. In order to serve the freshest juice possible, More Life Liquid sources their produce from local farms less than 45 minuets away from the juice manufacturer. Bonus: More Life Liquid donates a portion of every bottle sold to non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting survivors and victims of sex exploitation and sex trafficking. Check out their website to find out which organization they are currently supporting!
Have you ever heard about the calming benefits of kava root? Historically grown in Pacific Island regions, the root is said to be a natural, medicinal cure for stress and anxiety. At Sunset Kava Lounge, you can swing by for a cup of tea and coffee or a shot of their specialty kava! They serve it in a coconut shell and people often take more than one. Owner Tysheen Mosley opened Sunset Kava Lounge in 2016 to share the benefits of kava and cultivate a comfortable space. Pro tip: Visit the cafe whenever you want some serenity to study, play games, color, or hang with friends!
Thanks for all that you do to #SpendLikeItMatters! Discover awesome brick + mortar small businesses in your community, suggest your favorites, and be sure that you’re following us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter).
Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters