While official records record Nathaniel Harrison as the city’s first Black resident in 1848, the origins of San Diego’s Black community can be traced back more than 500 years to the city’s early Spanish and Mexican periods. Over generations, the Black community has helped shape the city’s culinary, artistic and entrepreneurial spirit, and continues to do so today. You can support San Diego’s Black residents while visiting the region by heading to these Black-owned restaurants, businesses and cultural centers.
Where: 294 Third Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91910
This award-winning, veteran-owned brewery in San Diego’s South Bay crafts a variety of beers, including IPAs and amber lagers. Try the 2019 GABF Bronze Winner “Browner Than Ivan” American brown ale.
Where: 4651 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
This cozy Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant in the University Heights neighborhood uses family recipes for its traditional East African cuisine. The shareable dishes come with injera, a large, spongy, crepe-like flatbread that serves as the main utensil.
Where: 2625 Lemon Grove Ave, Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Located in the city of Lemon Grove, Coop’s is an area favorite for slow-smoked barbecue. The menu includes brisket, pulled pork and ribs with homemade sauces and traditional sides such as cornbread and mac ‘n’ cheese.
Where: North Park - 3077 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Point Loma - 3740 Sports Arena Blvd, Suite 6, San Diego, CA 92110
This locally owned ice cream shop offers a rotating selection of 32 ice creams and sorbets. Flavors include chocolate coconut macadamia nut, peanut butter and guava jelly, and Kona coffee with fresh ground coffee. Hammond’s has locations in North Park and Point Loma.
Where: 3102 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
This North Park spot offers an eclectic selection of artisanal donuts, including an assortment of vegan options, plus wood-fired bagels. Using local ingredients, the creations are inspired by international flavors such as Ube and Mexican chocolate.
Where: 2100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
This vegan-friendly eatery inside the WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park serves Caribbean-inspired dishes made with ingredients from their garden. The affordable menu includes entrees, soups and salads, desserts and smoothies. Currently open for delivery and takeout only.
Where: 4670 Mission Gorge Pl, San Diego, CA 92120
Founded in 2015 by Maya Madsen, Maya’s specializes in soft-baked gourmet vegan cookies. Using quality plant-based ingredients, Maya bakes classic to unique cookies inspired by her travels, memories and experiences. Crowd-pleasers include chocolate chip s’more and marble fudge. Cookies can be purchased online or at her Mission Valley storefront.
Classic Louisiana and Southern dishes can be enjoyed at these three sister locations. StreetCar Merchants in North Park is popular for its fried chicken, Nashville hot chicken, waffles, pastries and pies. SuckerFree in the Gaslamp Quarter serves hearty Southern plates in a fun bar atmosphere, while Shotcaller in Southeastern San Diego offers such street soul favorites as loaded tots, soul rolls and tacos.
With four restaurants under its belt, Trust Restaurant Group operates some of the most popular eateries in San Diego. Enjoy wood-fired dishes in a casual atmosphere at Trust or classic American steaks at Rare Society. Cardellino features Italian-American fare for weekend brunch and Tuesday-Sunday dinner (plus a happy hour), while Fort Oak serves creative gourmet fare.
Three San Diego sisters’ search for nontoxic personal care and cleaning products for their families led to the creation of Dirt Don’t Hurt. The online business specializes in making products like charcoal tooth powder, facial and body oils, soaps, scrubs and facial masks with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.
Where: 4274 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92105
This small, woman- and Black-owned business based in the City Heights neighborhood serves San Diego’s African community by creating modern and easy to wear fashions using traditional African fabrics and designs. Designs are available for purchase online and on Etsy.
Where: 2305 University Ave, Unit 101, San Diego, CA 92104
Selling vinyl, cassettes and vintage clothing, this family-owned and operated record shop in North Park is a haven for hip-hop aficionados.
Where: 2850 El Cajon Blvd, Unit 1, San Diego, CA 92104
Located in the heart of North Park, this barbershop and retail store specializes in hot towel and razor shaves, fades, tapers and mohawks. The shop also sells pins, t-shirts and vintage magazines reflecting Black culture, while also serving as a space for the Black community through events.
With a unique style, this online boutique crafts everything from handmade accessories to natural skin care products.
Where: 2540 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
For more than 10 years, this all-reggae store has been selling music, clothing, accessories, jewelry, oils and incense out of its small North Park shop.
Where: 4343 Ocean View Blvd, San Diego, CA 92113
One of Common Ground Theatre’s main goals is to educate children and youth in the performing, fine, and visual arts. Past productions have included classic and new works by and about African descent for audiences of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.
Held every year during the last week of January, the San Diego Black Film Festival screens more than 100 films ranging from comedy and drama to animation and music videos. In past years, the five-day event has featured panel discussions, filmmaker mixers and an awards dinner and gala.
The goal of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts (SDAAMFA) is to educate residents and visitors in San Diego through presenting and preserving the art of African-Americans. Throughout the year, the SDAAMFA collaborates with other San Diego museums for special exhibitions and interpretive programs.
Where: 2471 Congress St, San Diego, CA 92110
Located in Old Town San Diego, the African Museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient, colonial and contemporary periods of African history throughout the world. The museum also features a research center, a traveling exhibit program and international tours to African and Latin American countries.
Where: 2100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Formerly a water tower, the WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park is a non-profit arts organization that celebrates African diaspora and Indigenous world cultures through art exhibits, concerts, dances, outdoor festivals and educational virtual events.
The award-winning artist Manuelita Brown is a San Diego resident known for her bronze figurative and portrait sculptures reflecting the strength and beauty of African survivors in the Americas. Some of her public work can be enjoyed throughout San Diego, including eight life-sized dolphin figures gracing a fountain at the Westfield UTC shopping center in La Jolla.
Along San Diego’s Harbor Boulevard, from the Gaslamp Quarter down to Seaport Village, the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade is a 12-acre linear park commemorating Dr. King’s life. Sculptures and plaques tell of his legacy and inspiring words. One of the most notable sculptures is Melvin Edwards’ Breaking the Chains, a tall metal monument dedicated to the fight for civil rights. Every year in January, the promenade is the setting for the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration.
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