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A knife spears two sausages on a board with potato salad and sauerkraut with a beer bottle and pint glass in the background.
Pomegranate’s recent Oktoberfest special.
Pomegranate

From Borscht to Blintzes, Here’s Where to Find Eastern European Food in San Diego

Local restaurants and delis offer specialties from Russia, Romania, and more

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Pomegranate’s recent Oktoberfest special.
| Pomegranate

If you’re looking for Eastern European food in San Diego and you don’t have a Romanian aunt, you have to get creative. This is not Bratislava or Prague. Or even Cleveland. Because restaurants from that broad region, which includes many diverse culinary traditions, are a rarity in San Diego (here’s to hoping that will change), finding satisfying fare takes more granular hunting at the dish or drink level. Use this guide to discover local restaurants, delis, and cafes that offer a taste of the old country.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tip Top Meats

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6118 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92011
(760) 438-2620
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This butcher shop and restaurant specializes in top notch meats with European flair. Even better, the dinner menu has a few items that might satisfy cravings from the old country, like beef stroganoff, stuffed cabbage rolls, sausages (bratwurst, hungarian, knackwurst, and Polish) served with red cabbage and German potato salad, plus a long list of grilled and slow-roasted meats.

A chargrilled steak on the left and a scoop of mashed potatoes, next to a glistening fork, on a white plate.
Steak and potatoes from Tip Top Meats
Tip Top Meats

2. Bohemian Alchemist

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1202 Camino Del Mar Suite B
Del Mar, CA 92014

The star attraction of this atypical coffeeshop, where the decor channels “the feminine organic flow of Art Nouveau,” is Turkish coffee heated directly on sand the old fashioned way. “Turkish” coffee drifted westward to Turkey and then picked up the Turkish label as it spread throughout Eastern Europe during the Ottoman Empire. Hopefully it will spread throughout San Diego.

The coffeeshop interior of Bohemian Alchemist, with an ornate Art Nouveau wallpaper and throw pillows around a gold colored table.
Bohemian Alchemist’s ornate interior
Bohemian Alchemist

3. Fish Delights- Smoked Fish & European grocery

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12222 Poway Rd #1
Poway, CA 92064
(760) 207-5376
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The from-scratch prepared foods at this deli and grocer include stuffed bell peppers, salad Olivier (a flurry of chopped meat, potatoes, pickles, peas and more, all bound together by a thin coating of mayonnaise) and several kinds of whole smoked fish. Along with imported cured meats and weiners, the shop also makes and sells sausage (kolbasa and kabanos) and sells German and Lithuanian style breads.

An array of foods spread out over a cutting board and countertop, with herbed rolls, garlic cloves, a bowl of borscht, a white sauce, herbs, and slices of bacon.
A sampler of delights from Fish Delights.
Fish Delights

4. Continent Deli

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4150 Regents Park Row
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 623-0099

Put together a takeout feast at this UTC-area deli that’s stuffed with hard-to-find dishes and ingredients from across Eastern Europe. Much of its square footage is dedicated to imported pantry and freezer goods, including sour cherry jam, cookies, pickled vegetables, and fizzy water. The counters in the back serve meats, cheeses, and sausages plus several kinds of caviar and homestyle foods like beet salad, potato fritters, cabbage rolls, and rice pilaf.

5. Elijah's Restaurant, Delicatessen and Catering

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7061 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 455-1461
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There’s a considerable overlap between European Jewish cuisine and that of Eastern Europe. So at Elijah’s, a Jewish and Kosher restaurant and deli, diners can feast on beef tongue, cabbage rolls, liver, and borscht. (There’s also a massive breakfast menu with American fare like pancakes and omlettes — and blintzes.) 

6. Chimney Nation

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7007 Friars Rd
San Diego, CA 92108

Chimney cakes have popped up in the U.S. in recent years. In Romania, these tube-shaped street food pastries traditionally made by the Hungarian community are sprinkled with sugar or nuts. In this American offshoot, the cakes can be covered with cheddar and jalapenos or stuffed with arugula, black forest ham, and swiss cheese — or, for a flavor explosion, both. Sweet variations include cinnamon, coconut, and sprinkles. 

7. Cafe 21 University Heights

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2736 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 640-2121
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The food at Cafe 21’s University Heights location blurs lines, in a good way. So between crepes and crumpets, one can also dine on avocado toast, sauerkraut, and ajika, a spicy Georgian dip. While the food doesn’t really overlap with that of Eastern Europe, there’s something about the vibe here that does. The whimsical covered terrace, especially, is something you could find thousands of miles away.

8. Pomegranate

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2312 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 298-4007
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This playfully-decorated restaurant has a huge menu packed with iconic Russian dishes like beef or vegetable stroganoff and blini. There are also Georgian specialties and dishes common to neighboring countries, like borscht, stuffed cabbage rolls that are slow cooked until incredibly tender, and Olivier potato salad, which mixes bite-sized bits of eggs, green peas, and carrots. Keep an eye on the specials, too.

Stuffed red and yellow bell peppers drizzled with sauce and chopped herbs.
Stuffed bell peppers.
PomegranateSD/Facebook

9. Kaiserhof Restaurant

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2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd
San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 224-0606
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This Ocean Beach restaurant, with indoor and outdoor tables, serves German standards like pretzels, spätzle, sausages, and a long list of German (and other) beers and wines. But some of its offerings — particularly, the sauerkraut and schnitzel — are also common across Eastern Europe. Don’t miss the Hungarian goulash and chicken paprika.

10. Balboa Perk, Coffee & Tea

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3775 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 892-6038

This tiny Serbian-style coffee spot near Balboa Park is full of antiques and serves a full coffee menu along with bourek, a Serbian pastry made with fluffy dough and mild cheese that’s baked until golden.

11. Pushkin Russian Restaurant & Bar

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750 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 496-1908
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This enchantingly-adorned, artfully-named restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter offers classic Russian cuisine with modern touches. On the classic side of the menu, diners will find pelmeni and pierogi dumplings, grilled eggplant salad, a Russian-style fish soup with salmon and cod, and the delicacy coveted by oligarchs and the proletariat alike: caviar. To wash it down: wines from Georgia, Armenia, and California.

The interior of a dining room, with hunter green walls, old style portraits covering the walls and dark dining tables and chairs.
Pushkin’s dining room
Pushkin Russian Restaurant & Bar

12. Mia Sorella Chimney Cakes

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Carretera el tigre, 22780 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

This bakery in the Valle de Guadalupe delivers chimney cakes and and artisan cheese boards to San Diego. According to their website, as these Transylvanian pastries bake on a spit, “the sugar caramelizes and gives the chimney’s distinguished crispiness on the outside, while remaining fluffy and soft on the inside.” The menu has a mix of traditional (covered in walnuts or sugar glazed) and nouveau (one has cranberry, goat cheese, and strawberries and another has smoked salmon and artichoke spread) chimney cakes, as well as party boxes and custom Belgian chocolate signs.

An uncoiled chimney cake pastry with a yellow insider and brown outside, over an aqua blue colored solid background.
Uncoiled chimney cake from Mia Sorella
Mia Sorella Chimney Cakes

1. Tip Top Meats

6118 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92011
A chargrilled steak on the left and a scoop of mashed potatoes, next to a glistening fork, on a white plate.
Steak and potatoes from Tip Top Meats
Tip Top Meats

This butcher shop and restaurant specializes in top notch meats with European flair. Even better, the dinner menu has a few items that might satisfy cravings from the old country, like beef stroganoff, stuffed cabbage rolls, sausages (bratwurst, hungarian, knackwurst, and Polish) served with red cabbage and German potato salad, plus a long list of grilled and slow-roasted meats.

6118 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92011

2. Bohemian Alchemist

1202 Camino Del Mar Suite B, Del Mar, CA 92014
The coffeeshop interior of Bohemian Alchemist, with an ornate Art Nouveau wallpaper and throw pillows around a gold colored table.
Bohemian Alchemist’s ornate interior
Bohemian Alchemist

The star attraction of this atypical coffeeshop, where the decor channels “the feminine organic flow of Art Nouveau,” is Turkish coffee heated directly on sand the old fashioned way. “Turkish” coffee drifted westward to Turkey and then picked up the Turkish label as it spread throughout Eastern Europe during the Ottoman Empire. Hopefully it will spread throughout San Diego.

1202 Camino Del Mar Suite B
Del Mar, CA 92014

3. Fish Delights- Smoked Fish & European grocery

12222 Poway Rd #1, Poway, CA 92064
An array of foods spread out over a cutting board and countertop, with herbed rolls, garlic cloves, a bowl of borscht, a white sauce, herbs, and slices of bacon.
A sampler of delights from Fish Delights.
Fish Delights

The from-scratch prepared foods at this deli and grocer include stuffed bell peppers, salad Olivier (a flurry of chopped meat, potatoes, pickles, peas and more, all bound together by a thin coating of mayonnaise) and several kinds of whole smoked fish. Along with imported cured meats and weiners, the shop also makes and sells sausage (kolbasa and kabanos) and sells German and Lithuanian style breads.

12222 Poway Rd #1
Poway, CA 92064

4. Continent Deli

4150 Regents Park Row, La Jolla, CA 92037

Put together a takeout feast at this UTC-area deli that’s stuffed with hard-to-find dishes and ingredients from across Eastern Europe. Much of its square footage is dedicated to imported pantry and freezer goods, including sour cherry jam, cookies, pickled vegetables, and fizzy water. The counters in the back serve meats, cheeses, and sausages plus several kinds of caviar and homestyle foods like beet salad, potato fritters, cabbage rolls, and rice pilaf.

4150 Regents Park Row
La Jolla, CA 92037

5. Elijah's Restaurant, Delicatessen and Catering

7061 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111

There’s a considerable overlap between European Jewish cuisine and that of Eastern Europe. So at Elijah’s, a Jewish and Kosher restaurant and deli, diners can feast on beef tongue, cabbage rolls, liver, and borscht. (There’s also a massive breakfast menu with American fare like pancakes and omlettes — and blintzes.) 

7061 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111

6. Chimney Nation

7007 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92108

Chimney cakes have popped up in the U.S. in recent years. In Romania, these tube-shaped street food pastries traditionally made by the Hungarian community are sprinkled with sugar or nuts. In this American offshoot, the cakes can be covered with cheddar and jalapenos or stuffed with arugula, black forest ham, and swiss cheese — or, for a flavor explosion, both. Sweet variations include cinnamon, coconut, and sprinkles. 

7007 Friars Rd
San Diego, CA 92108

7. Cafe 21 University Heights

2736 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

The food at Cafe 21’s University Heights location blurs lines, in a good way. So between crepes and crumpets, one can also dine on avocado toast, sauerkraut, and ajika, a spicy Georgian dip. While the food doesn’t really overlap with that of Eastern Europe, there’s something about the vibe here that does. The whimsical covered terrace, especially, is something you could find thousands of miles away.

2736 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

8. Pomegranate

2312 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
Stuffed red and yellow bell peppers drizzled with sauce and chopped herbs.
Stuffed bell peppers.
PomegranateSD/Facebook

This playfully-decorated restaurant has a huge menu packed with iconic Russian dishes like beef or vegetable stroganoff and blini. There are also Georgian specialties and dishes common to neighboring countries, like borscht, stuffed cabbage rolls that are slow cooked until incredibly tender, and Olivier potato salad, which mixes bite-sized bits of eggs, green peas, and carrots. Keep an eye on the specials, too.

2312 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104

9. Kaiserhof Restaurant

2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107

This Ocean Beach restaurant, with indoor and outdoor tables, serves German standards like pretzels, spätzle, sausages, and a long list of German (and other) beers and wines. But some of its offerings — particularly, the sauerkraut and schnitzel — are also common across Eastern Europe. Don’t miss the Hungarian goulash and chicken paprika.

2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd
San Diego, CA 92107

10. Balboa Perk, Coffee & Tea

3775 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103

This tiny Serbian-style coffee spot near Balboa Park is full of antiques and serves a full coffee menu along with bourek, a Serbian pastry made with fluffy dough and mild cheese that’s baked until golden.

3775 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103

11. Pushkin Russian Restaurant & Bar

750 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
The interior of a dining room, with hunter green walls, old style portraits covering the walls and dark dining tables and chairs.
Pushkin’s dining room
Pushkin Russian Restaurant & Bar

This enchantingly-adorned, artfully-named restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter offers classic Russian cuisine with modern touches. On the classic side of the menu, diners will find pelmeni and pierogi dumplings, grilled eggplant salad, a Russian-style fish soup with salmon and cod, and the delicacy coveted by oligarchs and the proletariat alike: caviar. To wash it down: wines from Georgia, Armenia, and California.

750 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

12. Mia Sorella Chimney Cakes

Carretera el tigre, 22780 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
An uncoiled chimney cake pastry with a yellow insider and brown outside, over an aqua blue colored solid background.
Uncoiled chimney cake from Mia Sorella
Mia Sorella Chimney Cakes

This bakery in the Valle de Guadalupe delivers chimney cakes and and artisan cheese boards to San Diego. According to their website, as these Transylvanian pastries bake on a spit, “the sugar caramelizes and gives the chimney’s distinguished crispiness on the outside, while remaining fluffy and soft on the inside.” The menu has a mix of traditional (covered in walnuts or sugar glazed) and nouveau (one has cranberry, goat cheese, and strawberries and another has smoked salmon and artichoke spread) chimney cakes, as well as party boxes and custom Belgian chocolate signs.

Carretera el tigre, 22780 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

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