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Where to Eat in National City

Get to know this South Bay city’s food scene

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National City doesn’t get enough love from the food world. The often overlooked municipality sandwiched between San Diego and Chula Vista is one of the county’s most diverse communities, boasting a major FIlipino and Mexican presence among its large immigrant population. At the same time, National City has been fertile ground for new, incoming businesses riding the wave of development in town.

This interplay between old and new, occurring in one of the most diverse communities in the county, has yielded a great mix of novel eateries looking to create their legacy next to old standards gone unappreciated for too long.

Get to know some outstanding National City restaurants, both old and new, with our guide.

NOTE: Entries are listed geographically

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Esquina Vintage and Coffee

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640 National City Blvd & 6th St, b/t, E 7th St Ste 130
National City, CA 91950

National City’s first independent coffee shop pays homage to National City’s rich history of lowriding while pouring delicious coffee drinks. Sip your cafe de olla, spiced with cinnamon, piloncillo, and orange peel, among memorabilia of car cruises long past, but still alive in local memory. 

2. Napoleone's Pizza House

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619 National City Blvd
National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-2888
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An urban legend says rock icon Tom Waits once worked at this historic eatery, which has been owned and managed by three generations of the same family. The walls of this pizza parlor are lined with local history and the pies coming out of the oven are baked the Neapolitan way, with the toppings underneath a gratuitous layer of cheese. 

3. Niederfrank's Ice Cream

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726 A Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 477-0828
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National City might be seeing a wave of developments and new businesses spouting up, but Niederfrank’s remains a familiar sight for residents young and old. In business for more than seven decades now, each batch of ice cream and sorbet made here is done the old-fashioned way and with no artificial ingredients. 

4. Naturale Deli

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310 E 8th St suite a
National City, CA 91950
(619) 512-1599

Chef Priscilla Curiel’s side project in National City is a perfect morning or midday stop for lighter and healthier fare. House sandwiches, wraps, and salads are all made with quality, fresh ingredients as an alternative to the nearby fast food options. Smoothies range from sweet berry blends to high-nutrient, deep-green power mixes. 

5. Zarlitos Family Restaurant

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505 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-1144

As the main center of of the South Bay’s FIlipino population, National City is full of great stops for FIlipino food. A local food landmark, Zarlito’s has been a local favorite for decades with its traditional dishes in a homey environment. Arrozcaldo, pork belly chicharron, kare kare, and lumpia are a few of the many dishes which keep regulars coming back for more. 

6. 664 Tj Birrieria

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505 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 292-2498

Tijuana-style birria is the house specialty at this Highland Avenue outpost. The straightforward menu offers birria in bowl servings or stuffed into crispy, red-coated tacos and quesadillas. Dip your tacos into the consome which cooked the birria for an extra splash of beefy, spicy flavor. 

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7. Royal Mandarin

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1132 E Plaza Blvd #205
National City, CA 91950
(619) 477-4151
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This old-school Chinese restaurant delivers on traditional Chinese-American dishes served family style, however its famous black pepper wings stand out above the rest. Perfectly crispy with just the right amount of salt and pepper and chopped green onion, it is no surprise these wings are considered the best in town by many. 

Royal Mandarin

8. Tacos El G

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1940 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-5033
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Once a Tacos El Gordo location, the locale was taken over by new management. Much like the world since, the adobada-stacked trompos have kept on spinning at this Highland Avenue taqueria. Like its predecessor, this is the spot in National City to get Tijuana-style tacos stuffed with carne asada, chicken, lengua, tripa, and the aforementioned adobada, always spinning by the fire.

Tacos El G

9. Gorditas Don Andres

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1903 Highland Ave #5832
National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-2244
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The taco might be the most famous Mexican corn vessel, but the marquee gordita — a nixtamal disk sliced and stuffed with stews — gets the spotlight all to herself at Gorditas Don Andres. Fillings range from modest beans and cheese all the way to dark moles and fatty chicharron with nopales. 

10. Mi Pana Latín American Cuisine

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2241 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 856-4106

Dive into San Diego’s only Venezuelan restaurant, which serves corn flour arepas, fried plantain sandwiches, and refreshing papelon lemonade. Mexican, Colombian, and Central American plates also appear on the menu, along with dishes fusing ingredients from across all latitudes of the Americas. 

11. Machete Beer House

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2325 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950
(619) 773-6986
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Grab a pint of local suds at National City’s first craft-only tasting room. While the exterior is very low key, inside you’ll find a wood-furnished space and 30 taps pouring everything from funky sours to deep stouts. Machete’s micheladas can be made with your beer of choice and always hit the spot. Close the door on the way in, the AC is running.

12. Porky's Lechon Barbecue

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1430 E Plaza Blvd e12
National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-0062
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Lechon reigns supreme at this restaurant specializing in the art of oven roasting soft sucking pig. Better known for catering huge Filipino parties and boodle fight banquets, you can also stop into Porky’s for a quick combo meal from their hot bar full of FIlipino favorites from Tuesday through Sunday. 

13. Tita's Kitchenette

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2720 E Plaza Blvd E
National City, CA 91950
(619) 434-3879

This beloved restaurant east of the 805 plates homestyle Filipino favorites cafeteria style every day. The hot cafeteria bar is both a feast for the eyes, with its hot stews and piles of crispy meats, and a classic FIlipino feast, with its generous portions. Love kare kare and chicken adobo? Come early, their most popular dishes regularly sell out. 

Tita’s Kitchenette

14. Project Reo Collective

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2335 Reo Dr No. 6
San Diego, CA 92139
(619) 434-8464
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While technically within the limits of the City of San Diego, this community-oriented coffee shop and art space is a favorite of many a resident of National City. Stop in for your favorite drip or espresso-based drink with a pastry from supplier Bread and Cie. PRC’s signature El Rudo cold brew is as strong as the masked luchador on its logo. 

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1. Esquina Vintage and Coffee

640 National City Blvd & 6th St, b/t, E 7th St Ste 130, National City, CA 91950

National City’s first independent coffee shop pays homage to National City’s rich history of lowriding while pouring delicious coffee drinks. Sip your cafe de olla, spiced with cinnamon, piloncillo, and orange peel, among memorabilia of car cruises long past, but still alive in local memory. 

640 National City Blvd & 6th St, b/t, E 7th St Ste 130
National City, CA 91950

2. Napoleone's Pizza House

619 National City Blvd, National City, CA 91950

An urban legend says rock icon Tom Waits once worked at this historic eatery, which has been owned and managed by three generations of the same family. The walls of this pizza parlor are lined with local history and the pies coming out of the oven are baked the Neapolitan way, with the toppings underneath a gratuitous layer of cheese. 

619 National City Blvd
National City, CA 91950

3. Niederfrank's Ice Cream

726 A Ave, National City, CA 91950

National City might be seeing a wave of developments and new businesses spouting up, but Niederfrank’s remains a familiar sight for residents young and old. In business for more than seven decades now, each batch of ice cream and sorbet made here is done the old-fashioned way and with no artificial ingredients. 

726 A Ave
National City, CA 91950

4. Naturale Deli

310 E 8th St suite a, National City, CA 91950

Chef Priscilla Curiel’s side project in National City is a perfect morning or midday stop for lighter and healthier fare. House sandwiches, wraps, and salads are all made with quality, fresh ingredients as an alternative to the nearby fast food options. Smoothies range from sweet berry blends to high-nutrient, deep-green power mixes. 

310 E 8th St suite a
National City, CA 91950

5. Zarlitos Family Restaurant

505 E 8th St, National City, CA 91950

As the main center of of the South Bay’s FIlipino population, National City is full of great stops for FIlipino food. A local food landmark, Zarlito’s has been a local favorite for decades with its traditional dishes in a homey environment. Arrozcaldo, pork belly chicharron, kare kare, and lumpia are a few of the many dishes which keep regulars coming back for more. 

505 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950

6. 664 Tj Birrieria

505 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950
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Tijuana-style birria is the house specialty at this Highland Avenue outpost. The straightforward menu offers birria in bowl servings or stuffed into crispy, red-coated tacos and quesadillas. Dip your tacos into the consome which cooked the birria for an extra splash of beefy, spicy flavor. 

505 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950

7. Royal Mandarin

1132 E Plaza Blvd #205, National City, CA 91950
Royal Mandarin

This old-school Chinese restaurant delivers on traditional Chinese-American dishes served family style, however its famous black pepper wings stand out above the rest. Perfectly crispy with just the right amount of salt and pepper and chopped green onion, it is no surprise these wings are considered the best in town by many. 

1132 E Plaza Blvd #205
National City, CA 91950

8. Tacos El G

1940 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950
Tacos El G

Once a Tacos El Gordo location, the locale was taken over by new management. Much like the world since, the adobada-stacked trompos have kept on spinning at this Highland Avenue taqueria. Like its predecessor, this is the spot in National City to get Tijuana-style tacos stuffed with carne asada, chicken, lengua, tripa, and the aforementioned adobada, always spinning by the fire.

1940 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950

9. Gorditas Don Andres

1903 Highland Ave #5832, National City, CA 91950

The taco might be the most famous Mexican corn vessel, but the marquee gordita — a nixtamal disk sliced and stuffed with stews — gets the spotlight all to herself at Gorditas Don Andres. Fillings range from modest beans and cheese all the way to dark moles and fatty chicharron with nopales. 

1903 Highland Ave #5832
National City, CA 91950

10. Mi Pana Latín American Cuisine

2241 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950

Dive into San Diego’s only Venezuelan restaurant, which serves corn flour arepas, fried plantain sandwiches, and refreshing papelon lemonade. Mexican, Colombian, and Central American plates also appear on the menu, along with dishes fusing ingredients from across all latitudes of the Americas. 

2241 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950

11. Machete Beer House

2325 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950

Grab a pint of local suds at National City’s first craft-only tasting room. While the exterior is very low key, inside you’ll find a wood-furnished space and 30 taps pouring everything from funky sours to deep stouts. Machete’s micheladas can be made with your beer of choice and always hit the spot. Close the door on the way in, the AC is running.

2325 Highland Ave
National City, CA 91950

12. Porky's Lechon Barbecue

1430 E Plaza Blvd e12, National City, CA 91950

Lechon reigns supreme at this restaurant specializing in the art of oven roasting soft sucking pig. Better known for catering huge Filipino parties and boodle fight banquets, you can also stop into Porky’s for a quick combo meal from their hot bar full of FIlipino favorites from Tuesday through Sunday. 

1430 E Plaza Blvd e12
National City, CA 91950

13. Tita's Kitchenette

2720 E Plaza Blvd E, National City, CA 91950
Tita’s Kitchenette

This beloved restaurant east of the 805 plates homestyle Filipino favorites cafeteria style every day. The hot cafeteria bar is both a feast for the eyes, with its hot stews and piles of crispy meats, and a classic FIlipino feast, with its generous portions. Love kare kare and chicken adobo? Come early, their most popular dishes regularly sell out. 

2720 E Plaza Blvd E
National City, CA 91950

14. Project Reo Collective

2335 Reo Dr No. 6, San Diego, CA 92139

While technically within the limits of the City of San Diego, this community-oriented coffee shop and art space is a favorite of many a resident of National City. Stop in for your favorite drip or espresso-based drink with a pastry from supplier Bread and Cie. PRC’s signature El Rudo cold brew is as strong as the masked luchador on its logo. 

2335 Reo Dr No. 6
San Diego, CA 92139

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