In places with vibrant Filipino communities, one often finds a thriving food scene. During our visit to San Diego, California, we were initially concerned that we would miss the unique barbecue stands we loved so much in Baguio City, Philippines. These are the stands that open at 4 PM and disappear as soon as they’ve sold out for the day. If you find yourself in Baguio City, we suggest seeking out the barbecue stand at Scout Barrio or the hidden gem at Aurora Hill. But that’s a tale for another time.
Experiencing Filipino Barbecue in San Diego
As it turns out, our worries were unnecessary. San Diego had its own delightful surprise in store for us: Toto’s Grill, lovingly referred to as the “Isawan sa San Diego”.
You might ask, “What’s so different about barbecue? Isn’t it available throughout the United States?” That’s true, but the magic of Filipino barbecue lies in its unique variety. It’s not just skewered marinated meat. It’s a culinary adventure featuring skewered chicken intestines, chicken feet, liver, pork skin, blood cakes, and almost every edible pork or chicken internal organ.
Discovering Toto’s Grill in National City
Our cravings for Filipino street food were thoroughly satisfied at Toto’s Grill, a Filipino-owned establishment. Despite the restaurant’s modest size, it boasts an impressive array of barbecued delicacies. Traditional Filipino barbecue takes center stage, joined by the ever-popular isaw (chicken intestines). Skewers of chicken feet, pork liver, and chicken liver also grace the menu.
Beyond the typical offerings, Toto’s Grill surprises with skewered siomai, fish balls, lobster balls, and even buchi – a dessert skewered and grilled to add a smoky touch.
Toto’s Grill Isawan sa San Diego Location
Filipino Street Food: Alive and Well in San Diego
It’s a comfort to know that Filipino street food has found a home even in San Diego. While nothing can truly replicate the original experience back in the Philippines, the presence of Filipino food in San Diego eased our longing for home. Thanks to places like Toto’s Grill, the tradition of Filipino barbecue continues to thrive, one skewer at a time.