San Diego has one of the best food scenes in the country. Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Spanish… you name it, we’re pretty darn good at it. Caribbean food is no exception, whether it’s plates of fried cassava root or jerk chicken sandwiches. So without further ado, here are our picks for the places with the best Caribbean food in Encinitas and San Diego. BYONapkins (totally kidding, these places have napkins).
#1. Embargo Grill, 3960 W Point Loma Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110 | (619) 786-7522 | www.embargogrill.com
This fast-casual restaurant in Midway Town Center features slow-roasted meats, housemade sauces, and Cuban-style sandwiches made with a plancha grill (a flattop grill from Spain). The menu boasts everything from empanadas picadillo (deep-fried dough filled with ground beef and Caribbean BBQ sauce) to jerk chicken sandwiches. We love the lengthy dessert menu (chocolate rum cake, Caribbean-style bread pudding) and the fast and friendly service.
#2. Island Spice Jamaican, 2820 Market St, San Diego, CA 92102 | (619) 702-9309 | islandspicejamaicansandiego.com
This true-to-its-roots Jamaican eatery on Market Street slings sinus-clearing, spicy plates like beef patties (ground beef covered in a golden, flaky pastry) and its calling card, Jamaican barbecue chicken. Whether its oxtail or fish stew, these plates are huge for what you pay and the outdoor patio is primo. Pro tip: order a ginger beer (a popular Jamaican drink) to cut the heat.
#3. Mozy’s Cafe, 698 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024 | (760) 944-9168
Beloved by both surfers and vegetarians, this spot on the 101 blends Mexican staples like burritos with Caribbean ingredients like plantains. We love Mozy’s for its laid-back, “no worries” vibe and the Caribbean plate made with black beans, brown rice, grilled plantains, avocado, salsa, and the option to add turkey machaca or soy chorizo for $1. The acai bowl is another best bet. Come here for brunch on a weekend and meander down to the beach afterwards.
#4. Laylah’s Patties & Jerk, 5712 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92115 | (619) 241-2948 | www.laylahsjamaicanfood.com
Named for the owner’s daughter, this tiny spot delights patrons with huge portions of the most authentic Jamaican food in the city, including beef patties that will make you go (fried) bananas. The vibe inside (think rasta colors, a mural of Bob Marley) is as authentic as the eats. Pro tip: try the breakfast dish called the Ackee, made with Jamaica’s national saltwater fish and served with green banana and yam dumplings.
#5. Tropical Star Restaurant & Specialty Market, 6163 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111 | (858) 874-7827 | tropicalstarrestaurant.com
Offering authentic recipes from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Central and South America, this market-slash-dine-in-and-take-out joint is delicious and so (so) inexpensive. From arepa con queso (cornmeal griddle cake filled with cheese) to boiled yucca, the menu makes great not-to-be-missed versions of classics. Their specialty market is packed with items like sauces, candles, crackers, teas, ice creams, coffees, Colombian chorizos, and other hard-to-find foods from the Caribbean and Central and South America.
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