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Middle Eastern Food in SD

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Where can I find authentic Middle Eastern food? I'm looking for hummus, falafel, tahini, sliced pickles, stuffed grape leaves, gyros, etc.

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  1. Mama's Lebanese Bakery and Deli, on Alabama St. just south of El Cajon Blvd. is a good source for that particular cuisine, and their prices are great. Their Baba Ghannouj is amazing.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I second Mama's. My favorite meditteranean place with great prices, great food, and nice staff.

      1. re: MrKrispy

        I love Mama's. I have to get the falafel and sajj each time I go. Their falafels are some of the best that I've ever tasted: cruchy shell with a smooth and flavorful inside. And I also enjoy their hummus. I've yet to try their shawarma though.

        1. re: darkmob

          Shawarma is just OK, IMO. I don't think their meat dishes stack up too well against their vegetarian items.

    2. Vine Ripe Market in La Mesa (Fletcher Parkway at Jackson Dr.) specializes in Middle Eastern food and products. They have a small cafe attached to the store. It's good.

      1. El Cajon. East Main Street. More than 50 Middle Eastern (mainly Chaldean) restaurants and at least 10 markets.

        La Mesa www.vineripemarket.com

        Most of the smaller Farmers Markets/Produce stands are run by Middle Eastern Families. The Market on Santo Road at 52. (That is the name- "The Market") and there is a Produce stand you can see just south on Friars at the light, one block west of where it turns into Mission Gorge.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          Cathy, I don't recall reading any reviews of those Chaldean places in El Cajon on mmm-yoso. Could you recommend one or two in particular?

          1. re: Joseph

            Hi Joseph- I am going to put up a small post tonight of my favorite teensy tiny one but also highly recommend Ali Baba at 421 E. Main (corner of Main and Avocado/Ballantyne) (Ballantyne is north and Avocado is same street south) It is kitty corner from the whole El Cajon City Hall area... As well as Greek Town Restaurant and Buffet at 315 East Main at Sunshine.
            The teensy tiny hole in the wall is Al Salam Halal Meat and Restaurant 550 East Main. They have a small meat counter with Halal hand cut meats- lamb ($3.99/lb) Chicken ($1.69/lb whole; $1.99/lb for dark meat and $2.99/lb for breasts) beef also.

            They are very nice, have one paper menu- the prices are for here and to go (two columns)(cheaper is for to go- owner says you pay more to have service) and most of the menu is in Arabic, but enough English to get by- sandwiches, plates ,appetizers, salads, soups
            The place had a bunch of men only there tonight (most of whom spoke broken English) and I took only two photos of the Schwarma plate and not the Greek salad. Extremely healthy, fresh and plentiful No atmosphere. 8 tables. No chit chat. When you are done, they ask you how much you liked it and are very happy and ask you to come back.

            You could just get a to go kabob sandwich if you wanted to try it. Then walk next door to the El Cajon International Foods and get one of their kabobs, for $1.25, to compare...

            Oh, I love to eat at all of these places, but also want to keep them to myself.

            1. re: Joseph

              One east county Chaldean place that I have eaten at is Sahara. I thought it was very good overall, and I loved the scented rice, which reminded of Persian cuisine. Unfortunately, that was several years ago. My east country friends say the place is still very good, so maybe I will have to try it again.

              One additional note, if you are going there, I would call in advance to be sure it is open as sometimes the restaurant is used for private events like Chaldean wedding celebrations.

              ed

            2. re: Cathy

              The produce market at Friars and Riverdale is called Farmer's Outlet. It's right across Friars from Stuart Anderson Black Angus. They have a good selection of Middle Eastern packaged products, but not much in the way of ready to eat products. They also have a surprisingly large inventory of latin food products including one of the largest collection of Goya products I've seen in the East County. Plus they are one of the few outlets in this part of town where you can get Gilbert's Corn Tortillas, which are some of the best you can buy in SD. Their produce is, in general, fairly good as they are a produce distributor as well. Good prices on their specials, average pricing on the rest of the stuff. Prices are high on their staples, dairy and other non-produce items. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall someone telling me Farmer's Outlet is Greek owned which would make it more mediterranean than middle eastern.

              Vine Ripe and North Park Produce are both, from what I understand, owned by Middle Easterners.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                You are probably right, DD. More Greek than Middle Eastern.

                The selection of Goya products at The Market are also quite extensive, and they sell prepackaged hummus and various olives/pickled products.

                As an aside, there is a "Coming Soon- North Park Produce" at the corner of Avocado and Chase (next to the Walgreens).

                Vine Ripe is my favorite I suppose- can buy and then sit down and eat.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Oh yeah. If you are looking for a middle-eastern grocery, you cannot beat the selection at North Park Grocery; the prices on produce are also the lowest in the city. We're talking 3 heads of lettuce for a dollar, in season. The original location is El Cajon Blvd around 35th St.
                  I will have to try out their new location when it opens, even if it is a bit of a drive.

                  1. re: Joseph

                    There is also a NPP on Pomerado Road you know...

                    If you are coming to East County anyhow, (take the 52) then Vine Ripe is a tad closer- On Fletcher Parkway at Jackson, close to I-8.
                    www.vineripemarket.com

            3. Parsian serves some prepared food and has a nice grocery selection, too. It's at 4020 Convoy. I like Mama's too, except their chicken is often dry. I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the grocery on El Cajon Blvd. I've been to a number of times, I'll ask my brother, or just go with DD's recs. There are lots of choices there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: amyzan

                The Near East Market is the name of the other market on El Cajon Blvd.

                ed

              2. Aladdin's on Clairmont Mesa serves good Middle Eastern Food (they're supposed to have another location in Hillcrest).
                Their salads are huge.
                I'd recommend lunch there because their dinners seem very pricey to me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: toliver

                  Aladdin's in Hillcrest is in the Uptown Shopping Center next door to the Joyce Beers community center and Terra restaurant. It's not bad, and you're right their salads are enormous and they are pretty good, especially their grill shrimp salad. They will let you order a half portion at a reduced price. It's still big and comes with pita bread, all for around $5.95 + tax

                2. If you are looking for a Greek take on the above items the European Market & Deli on Park Blvd right by the Henry's. The family that runs it is super nice and super Greek. They have takeout as well as imported ingredients. Keep in mind it is a small shop and they don't have a huge selection.

                  1. http://www.sandiegofoodstuff.com/2007...

                    Same owners as Parsian, may be a more convenient location for some...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: trentyzan

                      My cousin recently recommended the Balboa International Market & Deli on Balboa Ave. She loves Persian food and said they do a fairly good job there.