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.

The Vibe

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.

The Food

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

So, why does she do it? “As cliche as it sounds, I love my community. I love when people come in and have birthdays here, I love that my grandparents’ clients come and give us gifts and eat. I love cooking food. Sometimes, when you have nothing going on in your day, and you have a good meal, you just had something happen in your day.” It’s as simple as that.

Pro Tip

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.

Balboa International Market

5905 Balboa Ave, San Diego (inside the grocery store)


Hours: Daily, 8am-9pm

No items found.
About the Contributor
No items found.