And if you're vegan, take a bite out of these local Black-owned eateries.
Let the creamy, rich textures of Extraordinary Banana Pudding's decadent desserts melt in your mouth with its various flavors. Owner Toran Grays opened up shop in La Mesa just two days before the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down in California in March of 2020 but thanks to the community’s support, his small business has been thriving.
“It’s different,” Grays said. “There’s nothing around San Diego like us so it gives the San Diego area and La Mesa a different flavor, so it offers variety.”
This eatery offers pudding in more than a dozen flavors that vary from the classic banana pudding, to pistachio, lemon and more.
Popular dish: The pudding-filled cupcake is a popular choice at Extraordinary Banana Pudding.
Toran’s favorite dish: Grays said his current favorite new flavors are Oreo and banana cheesecake.
Fun fact: Extraordinary Banana Pudding is a family-run effort that all began with Grays’ great-grandmother, Agnus White. His great-grandma created the beloved banana pudding recipe to share during family reunions and special occasions and it has since been passed down generations.
“She inspired me to do everything – to open a business and sell the banana pudding,” Grays said of his great-grandmother, Agnus. “It’s her heart, her dedication, her recipe.”
A word from the owner: “I hope (customers) feel that it’s kind of a small business owner, a family recipe that’s been passed down generations and made with love,” Grays said.
Where to order: Those who are hankering for a sweet treat can visit Extraordinary Banana Pudding’s location at 8257 El Paso St., La Mesa, CA 91942. The desserts can also be ordered via DoorDash. To learn more about the eatery, click here.
Cool off from the San Diego heat with a refreshing and healthy drink from The Write Juice truck. Southeast San Diego native Joshlyn Turner wanted to bring healthy options to communities that don’t have access to such meals and snacks so she began her juice truck in April 0f 2019.
“I feel like because my target market was blending health to give back to the community, I wanted to keep their taste palettes in mind,” Turner said. “I wanted to have great-tasting smoothies.”
With her truck, she’s done just that and offers various smoothie flavors that come in vibrant colors and delicious acai bowls.
Popular drink: The brilliantly blue Ride Your Own Wave is a fan favorite. It’s made of peaches, bananas, pineapple juice, mango and a dash of blue spirulina gives it its attractive color.
Joshlyn's favorite drink: Turner said her favorite drink is the Not With the S—t beverage, which is the truck’s second most popular.
Fun fact: In addition to the juice truck, Turner has two other business ventures – The Write Expression, in which she offers greeting cards and a coloring book, and The Write Fit – a lifestyle streetwear brand that promotes creative expression through fashion.
She says all three companies embody creative expression through health and wellness. Turner, who has had a lifelong love for writing, named all three brands after one of her passions.
A word from the owner: “I really want to help people rewrite their health stories and by doing that, we’re doing that together,” she said. “If you have the simplest decisions, you might make healthy choices. I don’t want people to think their whole life is going to change but over time, you can improve your health and wellness.”
Where to order: You can catch the truck at community events around the county and book it for your own private event. To follow The Write Juice’s schedule or book the truck, click here.
Indulge in the perfect sweet potato pie that has a rich texture and savory taste with Boo Boo’s Sweet Potato Pies. Husband-wife duo Thomas and Cynthia Crain co-own the popular eatery and have been a staple at local farmer’s markets since 2017.
“When I’m in the markets, I holler “I got the boo-ba-licious pie” and people say it like lightens up your life,” Thomas Crain said.
Thomas is the brains behind the operation while Cynthia is the brains behind the delicious recipe and together, they make an unforgettable family-run sweet stop at farmer’s markets.
“Freedom is how I’d describe it,” Cynthia Crain said. “I like baking and I’m free to bake and I get to see and like the results.”
Pie variety: It’s in the name and Boo Boo’s Sweet Potato Pies focuses on sweet potato pies. Cynthia has perfected her recipe to make it available as vegan pies as well as gluten-free/vegan.
The pies come in two sizes – big, which is similar to that of a standard pie, and mini, which are handheld pies that are fun for kids to eat.
Fun fact: The charming name behind this dessert stand comes from the Crain’s oldest grandson. When he was a toddler learning how to speak, he decided to call Cynthia “Boo Boo” and the name stuck. Now, the Crain’s grandchildren affectionately call her Boo Boo and hence, the name Boo Boo’s Sweet Potato Pies.
A word from the owners: “We are making this pie for people to enjoy because it’s that good,” Thomas Crain said. “I want people to taste and enjoy this pie because it’s so enjoyable to eat. I call this a little taste of heaven.”
“At first, I thought since me and my husband were retired, that I was spending enough time with him and I thought I would never get rid of him,” Cynthia Crain said, jokingly. “But actually, it’s been fun. Our relationship has grown and we’ve learned to laugh through disagreements and move on.”
Another fun fact to add – the Crain’s are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this year. Congratulations to them!
Where to order: You can visit Boo Boo’s Sweet Potato Pies at various farmer’s markets in San Diego County and even Temecula. Deliveries of the pies are also available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
To learn more about Boo Boo’s Sweet Potato Pies, click here.
What started off as a pop-up recently grew into a full-fledged restaurant that opened just this month and it offers Atlanta-style barbecue that truly puts “the south in your mouth.” Tyrone Hopkins is the proud owner of new La Mesa restaurant I Que BBQ, which offers everything you’d expect from a classic cookout from ribs, pork belly tips to chicken wings and more.
“Me as a young kid, remembering barbecuing with my dad is what most inspired me,” Hopkins said. “My mom was a chef, so it’s in our blood.”
Slathered in delectable sauce and seasonings, I Que BBQ offers a variety of barbecue meats that make for a mouthwatering meal.
Popular dish: I Que BBQ’s grilled cheese brisket is all the buzz right now, Hopkins said. It’s made with smoked brisket that’s been cooked for hours to get its signature flavor.
Tyrone's favorite dish: Right now it’s his Blinky Brisket, which is made of Panamanian fried bread, his signature brisket and slaw.
Fun fact: Hopkins is a retired basketball player who played professionally overseas. He was the Dean of Students for Horizons Christian Academy and taught the basketball team.
A word from the owner: “We’re different in the way of our customer service,” Hopkins said. “Our food represents our customer service. We’re not just serving food, we love to speak and talk to the community to know what they really like.”
Where to order: I Que BBQ is open Thursday through Sunday and is located at 8733 Broadway La Mesa, CA 91941. To learn more about the restaurant, click here.
Melt your mouth into savory chicken stew or take a hearty spoonful of plantain stew with Rafikiz Foodz. The pop-up, owned by Sylvester Owino, brings traditional Kenyan food to America’s Finest City with scrumptious vegan and non-vegan dishes for all to enjoy.
“It’s something I grew up eating, it’s very traditional,” Owino said. “If you go to the village, that’s what you’re going to find. It’s not something you’ll really find in the city. In some places, you can’t get plantains or black eyed peas so you’ll get them in the village. Those are unique things I brought.”
From curry cabbage to collared greens to beef stew and more, Rafikiz Foodz surely has something delicious to offer for anyone regardless of any dietary restrictions.
Popular dish: Owino said his customers are especially fond of the coconut rice and plantains he offers.
Sylvester’s favorite dish: His favorite are the black-eyed peas. His personal touch includes coconut milk and a special blend of seasonings that really give it its kick.
More info: Rafikiz Foodz participates in various farmer’s markets and its schedule is as followed:
- Tuesday – Otay Ranch and San Marcos
- (Every other) Wednesday – Carlsbad
- Thursday – Oceanside
- Saturday – Clairemont
- Sunday – Encinitas
A word from the owner: “I want (customers) to feel welcomed like they’re at home and that we guarantee that the flavors are going to be delicious since they’re made with magic and love,” Owino said. “We want them to experience Kenya in San Diego at our booth.”
“We have good customer base who has supported us during the pandemic and we really appreciate it. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here where we are right now,” he said. “We really want to thank them for everything.”
Where to order: Rafikiz Foodz can be found at various farmer’s markets in San Diego County. To keep up with the booth, click here.
Earthy and rich tastes await you at Flavors of East Africa, where each dish is beautifully crafted. Owner Alvin “June” Owino’s eatery has been a longtime staple of the San Diego community by participating in farmer’s markets since the mid-90s. Now, his devoted fanbase and new customers can dive into a world of spices with its restaurant in North Park.
The owner was motivated to create an eatery after his neighbors would smell his home cooking and ask what he was making – and even ask for plates at times.
Popular dish: The jerk chicken is a crowd pleaser and non-meat eaters tend to enjoy many of the eatery’s side dishes, according to General Manager David Buelna.
Alvin's favorite dish: As someone who enjoys to eat a lot of fish, Owino is fond of his dishes from the sea. He also likes the ugali, which is a Kenyan staple.
Buelna, meanwhile, is fond of the beef stew.
Fun fact: Owino grew up in Kenya and moved to America’s Finest City in the early ‘2000s.
The inspiration behind his menu is the family meals he’s had growing up. Owino’s mother and grandmother taught him how to cook and he has since added his own flair to the dishes to what we now know and love as Flavors of East Africa.
Where to order: Flavors of East Africa has two locations – its flagship in North Park at 2322 El Cajon Blvd. and another on College Avenue called Flavors Express. Due to the pandemic, Flavors Express has been closed.
You can also order their food via UberEats. Click here to learn more about the restaurant and to see its menu.