Eat Here Now: Balboa International Market
Whether it’s a newly opened restaurant or a hidden gem that’s new to us, the dishes these San Diego County restaurants are serving are too good not to share.
The restaurant inside the family-owned Balboa International Market has been offering authentic Persian fare for dine-in or take-away inside the bustling ethnic market for over a decade.
Listen to the hum of voices murmuring in Farsi, Urdu, and Russian as you weave through the aisles of pickled vegetables, dried black limes, and traditional Iranian sweets on your way to the far back corner of the Balboa Market. There you’ll find a lively counter service Persian restaurant. Some customers will be clustered around the pick-up window, waiting for their to-go orders, while others will be standing, ticket in hand, waiting for their plates of stews, sandwiches, and kebabs to enjoy in the simple dining room at the front of the shop.
What this restaurant may lack in table service ambiance, it more than makes up for with its wide array of traditional Persian foods. Koobideh ground beef and onion kebabs are the most popular dish, though the joojeh chicken breast skewers are also excellent.
The classic stews include gormeh sabzi lamb and herb stew, gheimeh lentils and lamb, fessenjoon pomegranate and walnut draped chicken, and bamieh okra and beef stew.
Their sandwich menu is harder to navigate, as they offer classic Tehrani street foods as well as non-Persian options like hamburgers and gyro, as well as newfangled Persian-American creations, like “pizzas” make using the chewy, sesame seed-studded sangak bread baked at the inhouse bakery.
Though there are many options, including some Indian curries, it is best to stick with the classic Iranian fare.
What to Order
Juicy, flavorful, hand-formed skewers of beef koobideh kabobs served on platters with either sangak bread or saffron-tinged rice along with a simple salad ($7.99 for one skewer, $9.99 for two)
Gormeh sabzi, studded with tender chunks of lamb and hearty red kidney beans with saffron rice ($9.99)
Olivieh (Persian chicken salad) sandwiches ($6.99) or Sosis Bandari, an unexpected saute of diced hot dogs and potatoes in a fiery tomato-based sauce that finds its origins in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abas ($7.99)
Mint Dough, a salty yogurt drink with a hint of mint, is the perfect compliment to an Iranian meal
The market features an amazing stone-fire oven bakery that turns out long, fluffy ovals of barbari bread and thin, chewy sangak. Stop here first to put in your order for fresh bread and by the time you finish your lunch, it will be ready for you to pick-up.
5905 Balboa Ave, San Diego (inside the grocery store)
Hours: Daily, 8am-9pm