It’s Foodie Friday here at South Bay Compass and I’m talking about Filipino Heaven, which happens to be located in National City. Yes, La Mesa in San Diego County is colloquially known as “Little Manila,” but drive a little further South and you’ll be in heaven.
First and foremost, you’ll be able to go through the drive-through of Jollibee, a popular national chain in the Philippines. Jollibee says it spreads langhap sarape goodness. It opened its first store in Daly City, CA for Filipino-Americans in 1998 and continues to branch out, including to National City.
Across the street from Jollibee, you can enter Bay Plaza and choose from a host of excellent Asian Restaurants. This place is definitely unassuming: the plaza has a Big Lots and a Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, but look a little closer and you’ll find the excellent mom-and-pop gems as well, such as Lai Thai’s Restaurant, Porky’s Lechon BBQ with a picture of a large Cebu roasted pig in the front window, Goldilocks Bakery and Asian Cuisine that began in the Philippines in 1966 and where you can purchase Cured Pork Shoulder Butt Slices, and Ginger Pho & Grill.
At the very end of the Plaza you’ll see the pearly gates: Seafood City. Yes, it’s a chain — this supermarket was established over 20 years ago and opened its first store in San Diego. The supermarket specifically catered to Filipino-Americans and the thriving Asian ethnic enclaves of the area. Successful, it continued to grow and expand. Why, after all, not share the love?
Seafood City has been so popular, they now have three locations in the South Bay as well as many more in Northern California, Las Vegas and Seattle. Like the Mexican Markets in the South Bay, they also have hot buffets where you can sit down and enjoy a cooked meal either before or after you shop.
Drive down the street and you’ll also find Manila Seafood Oriental Market, which is owned by the same company. The plaza here hosts several more Filipino delights, including Filipino Desserts Plus and Karihan Filipino Food.
The highlight of a visit to Seafood City or Manila Seafood Oriental Market? Watching the fish mongers behind the counter. Take the photo tour and enjoy the visual meal.