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The Boston Globe

Food & dining

In Southern California, Filipino restaurants crowd the strip malls

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Last summer, Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern predicted Filipino food would be the “next big thing” and that the Filipino food revolution would come from San Diego. But he got at least one detail wrong. Although thousands of Filipinos have come to this country through Naval Base San Diego, they have since settled in the suburbs.

Filipino restaurants and markets crowd low-lying strip malls on both sides of Plaza Boulevard in National City, a few miles south of downtown San Diego. They have names like Villa Manila, Jolibee, and Pinoy Ranch. Tita’s Kitchenette is one of the most popular. On weekdays at lunch time, the line files out the door and down the sidewalk, as no-nonsense servers pile food high on Styrofoam take-out dishes and deftly encase side orders in plastic wrap. While some patrons find space in Tita’s humble dining room, most are ordering to go.

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