Given his Persian roots, naturally one of the first questions Eaman asked upon arriving in San Diego was, “Where can we get a decent kabob around here?” It’s a tough one to answer because despite a fairly large Iranian population, San Diego can’t lay claim to as many great Persian food options as you’d think. Iranians give most of the restaurants lukewarm reviews, and the food is regarded as average at best. (One that gets a lot of recognition is Bandar. We haven’t been yet, but if we asked where to find the most expensive kabob, Bandar would surely be the answer.)
That said, if you don’t have a Persian mother who serves up some of the best asheh reshteh and fesenjoon you’ve ever tasted, I’m sure you’ll be as happy as I was at Balboa International Market. Last week for Persian New Year, we checked out the part-Middle Eastern/Indian grocery store, part-fast-food joint, where we ordered the lamb koobideh (a ground lamb kabob) and boneless chicken kabob plates, both of which came with a roasted tomato, mound of rice, lavash bread and side salad. (The salad is a nod to Western customers because it’s definitely not traditional.) The quality of meat was great — tender, juicy and well-marinated — and I definitely went to town on the sumac, a spice gingerly sprinkled on the rice. In my case, it was shoveled on top. I really can’t get enough.
Despite what my lace top might imply, it’s certainly not a fancy place, but for the price, taste and quality, Balboa Market is your best bet for Persian food, even according to an native son like Eaman. (Oh, and they make fresh noon barbari, a traditional oven-baked flatbread, too!)
Balboa International Market | 5907 Balboa Ave, San Diego | 858.277.3600