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Market on 8th dishes a world of cuisines in National City

Indonesian, Filipino, Mexican, Hawaiian, Creole, and Japanese food just the beginning

Beef rendang with nasi goreng rice and a Novo Brazil IPA
Beef rendang with nasi goreng rice and a Novo Brazil IPA
Place

Market on 8th

41 East 8th Street, San Diego

The vibe is feeling real along 8th Street, National City, as we circle the block to find parking. I’ve been hearing for nearly two years now about this aspirational project coming together: a public market, with a taproom and culinary book shop to go with a diverse food hall to reflect the city’s demographics. It would be a boon for the county’s second oldest city. When Covid delayed Market on 8th for well over a year, it became too easy to imagine its opening as taking place in some far out, sunnier future that might never arrive.

The new Market on 8th public market in National City

Except here we are, in the here and now, sipping a Novo Brazil IPA beside a plate of Indonesian food. And we’re surrounded by a crowd of other curious folk, some in masks, who’ve made the outing to National City. Maybe for coffee, maybe for kombucha, for donburi bowls or ramen. There’s Filipino food, poke, Mexican food, mango desserts — and if they’re not feeling those, Niederfrank's Ice Cream is always right next door.

A Saturday crowd fills tables within the market.

Just getting people to be here was always the point. One might liken a food hall like Market on 8th to food court, without the hassle of mall built up around it. But as with the similar Public Market at Liberty Station, a well done food hall can itself become a destination that draws people to the neighborhood, making the businesses around it more viable, thus giving National City’s 8th Street main drag a kick in the pants the entire community could use right about now.

The Serbesa food stall serves Filipino dishes, in what may preview the menu of a someday Filipino brewpub.

And to judge by the bustling scene I found last Saturday, people are showing up, ready and eager to enjoy the cornucopia of treats. History tells us the lineup in food halls are far from permanent, and many that we find here at the opening will likely shuffle in the months and years to come. Heck, Weapon Ramen wasn’t originally going to be part of this project, any more than it was going to find success taking over a stall at Liberty Public Market, but now it brings terrific Japanese cuisine to both places. Its chef, Phillip Esteban, also operates Wordsmith, a sort of hallway bookshop that offers a curated selection of culinary titles, along with the occasional houseplant.

Cafe Indonesia revives a restaurant concept dating back to 1950s Manila.

Esteban is a National City native, who lives a few blocks away. He points out to me that one of the early successes of this particular food hall is the makeup of businesses and business owners. Most of its proprietors are people of color, finding opportunity in this neighborhood on the rise. There are stories like that of Pacific Poke Co., a Poway small business coming back in a new location after owner Anthony Nguyen had to close shop early in the pandemic. There are a handful of first time restaurateurs, such as former teacher Khris Astudillo, who now operates the Filipino food counter Serbesa, a brand he apparently hopes to build into a bewpub.

We were initially attracted to Café Indonesia, primarily for the novelty of finding Indonesian food anywhere. But its story bears repeating: proprietor Bobby Alfonso models the business after the original Cafe Indonesia, founded by his grandfather Pete in 1950s Manila. The counter thus offers Indonesian recipes by way of Phillipines, as passed down through Alfonso’s mother. So, guests may expect adobo fried chicken and several flavors of calamansi lemonade, in addition to the likes of a very tender and delicious beef rendang with a delectably spicy nasi goreng fried rice.

Point is, it’s not very hard at all to find a tasty meal within Market on 8th, best enjoyed in the enclosed beer garden out back. Which means this one new cluster of restaurants effectively6 doubles the number of attractive dining options in National City.

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Beef rendang with nasi goreng rice and a Novo Brazil IPA
Beef rendang with nasi goreng rice and a Novo Brazil IPA
Place

Market on 8th

41 East 8th Street, San Diego

The vibe is feeling real along 8th Street, National City, as we circle the block to find parking. I’ve been hearing for nearly two years now about this aspirational project coming together: a public market, with a taproom and culinary book shop to go with a diverse food hall to reflect the city’s demographics. It would be a boon for the county’s second oldest city. When Covid delayed Market on 8th for well over a year, it became too easy to imagine its opening as taking place in some far out, sunnier future that might never arrive.

The new Market on 8th public market in National City

Except here we are, in the here and now, sipping a Novo Brazil IPA beside a plate of Indonesian food. And we’re surrounded by a crowd of other curious folk, some in masks, who’ve made the outing to National City. Maybe for coffee, maybe for kombucha, for donburi bowls or ramen. There’s Filipino food, poke, Mexican food, mango desserts — and if they’re not feeling those, Niederfrank's Ice Cream is always right next door.

A Saturday crowd fills tables within the market.

Just getting people to be here was always the point. One might liken a food hall like Market on 8th to food court, without the hassle of mall built up around it. But as with the similar Public Market at Liberty Station, a well done food hall can itself become a destination that draws people to the neighborhood, making the businesses around it more viable, thus giving National City’s 8th Street main drag a kick in the pants the entire community could use right about now.

The Serbesa food stall serves Filipino dishes, in what may preview the menu of a someday Filipino brewpub.

And to judge by the bustling scene I found last Saturday, people are showing up, ready and eager to enjoy the cornucopia of treats. History tells us the lineup in food halls are far from permanent, and many that we find here at the opening will likely shuffle in the months and years to come. Heck, Weapon Ramen wasn’t originally going to be part of this project, any more than it was going to find success taking over a stall at Liberty Public Market, but now it brings terrific Japanese cuisine to both places. Its chef, Phillip Esteban, also operates Wordsmith, a sort of hallway bookshop that offers a curated selection of culinary titles, along with the occasional houseplant.

Cafe Indonesia revives a restaurant concept dating back to 1950s Manila.

Esteban is a National City native, who lives a few blocks away. He points out to me that one of the early successes of this particular food hall is the makeup of businesses and business owners. Most of its proprietors are people of color, finding opportunity in this neighborhood on the rise. There are stories like that of Pacific Poke Co., a Poway small business coming back in a new location after owner Anthony Nguyen had to close shop early in the pandemic. There are a handful of first time restaurateurs, such as former teacher Khris Astudillo, who now operates the Filipino food counter Serbesa, a brand he apparently hopes to build into a bewpub.

We were initially attracted to Café Indonesia, primarily for the novelty of finding Indonesian food anywhere. But its story bears repeating: proprietor Bobby Alfonso models the business after the original Cafe Indonesia, founded by his grandfather Pete in 1950s Manila. The counter thus offers Indonesian recipes by way of Phillipines, as passed down through Alfonso’s mother. So, guests may expect adobo fried chicken and several flavors of calamansi lemonade, in addition to the likes of a very tender and delicious beef rendang with a delectably spicy nasi goreng fried rice.

Point is, it’s not very hard at all to find a tasty meal within Market on 8th, best enjoyed in the enclosed beer garden out back. Which means this one new cluster of restaurants effectively6 doubles the number of attractive dining options in National City.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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