Underrepresented national cuisines in the SFBA

A few years ago I got curious about which nationalities are represented by restaurants in the Bay Area, and I’ve built up a list whenever I’ve come across a post or article.

Roughly speaking, I’ve including below nations associated with fewer than five restaurants in the Bay Area. I don’t see the need to make this list exhaustive, but if an outstanding restaurant isn’t listed, please let me know its nation and I’ll edit the original post. Also, if an additional national cuisine appears in the SFBA, let us know! Finally, I’ve included some restaurants that I think are poor portrayals of their country, but better to list the bad restaurant from Pottsylvania than none at all.

The list is admittedly silly. There is often an iffy correspondence between cuisines and geographic borders. Countries like Mexico, China, India, and Italy have several subcuisines, some of which have more in common with neighboring countries than the foods these countries are most known for. And certain cuisines span national borders. Still, if the list introduces us to restaurants that are doing something different, it serves its purpose.

Numbers correspond to population rank.

And some ethnic groups whose population spans across a few national borders and regional guides:

There are restaurants with dishes associated with Saudia Arabia, Romania, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, and Armenia, but I haven’t identified restaurants which have owners originating from these countries, that focus on that country’s cuisine, or whose dishes deviate in an obvious style from their pan-national versions (e.g., hummus). With that in mind, please help me identify restaurants associated with the following nations:

Croatia, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Mozambique, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Angola, Romania, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Niger, Netherlands, Malawi, Mali, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Hungary, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Dominican Republic, Burundi, United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea, Bulgaria, Serbia, Paraguay, Libya, Togo, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Turkmenistan, Norway, Costa Rica, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Oman, Moldova, Mauritania, Panama, Uruguay, Armenia, Albania, Qatar , Namibia , Lesotho , Macedonia , Slovenia, Botswana, Latvia , Gambia , Kosovo , Guinea-Bissau , Gabon , Equatorial Guinea, , Estonia, Mauritius , Swaziland , Bahrain , Timor-Leste, Djibouti, Cyprus, Fiji, Réunion (France), Guyana, Bhutan , Comoros, Montenegro, Solomon Islands, Western Sahara], Luxembourg, Suriname, Cape Verde, Malta, Guadeloupe (France), Brunei, Martinique (France), Bahamas, Belize, Maldives, French Polynesia (France), Vanuatu, New Caledonia (France), French Guiana (France), Mayotte (France), São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Lucia, Curaçao (Netherlands), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kiribati, United States Virgin Islands (USA), Grenada, Aruba (Netherlands), Federated States of Micronesia, Jersey (UK), Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Isle of Man (UK), Andorra, Dominica, Bermuda (UK), Guernsey (UK), Greenland (Denmark), Marshall Islands, American Samoa (USA), Cayman Islands (UK), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Northern Mariana Islands (USA), Faroe Islands (Denmark), Saint Maarten (Netherlands), Liechtenstein, Saint Martin (France), Monaco, San Marino, Turks and Caicos Islands (UK), Gibraltar (UK), British Virgin Islands (UK), Åland Islands (Finland), Caribbean Netherlands (Netherlands), Palau, Cook Islands (NZ), Anguilla (UK), Wallis and Futuna (France), Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City.

These countries are represented by more than 6 restaurants, so aren’t listed above:

China, India, America, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Ethiopia, Germany, Iran, Turkey, Thailand, France, UK, Italy, Burma, South Korea, Spain, Argentina, Morocco, Peru, Malaysia, Nepal, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Chile, Guatemala, Cambodia, Cuba, Greece, Honduras, Hong Kong, Laos, El Salvador, Eritrea, Singapore, Ireland, Lebanon


Not on your list: Kurdish at Rojbas in Berkeley.

I think there are only two or three Turkish places, one in Berkeley, one (or two?) in the city.

Greece just misses the list. Kokkari and Souvla in the city, Simply Greek and Ikaros in Oakland, Evvia in Palo Alto. Are there others?

Laos? Lao-Thai Kitchen in Albany, and I can’t think of others.

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Tycoon Thai is Thai and Lao.

There is also a Swiss-Italian restaurant in Foster City, Chalet Ticino.


Zosia Cafe in Graton is Polish (and very good!)


Lao Table in SF, Champa Garden, and Maneelap Srimangkoun are all at least half Lao. (Not to mention all the Lao food masquerading as “Isan” Thai. Et tu, James Syabout?

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I’m not sure I understand the premise, but I like it!!

Organizing in this way, it is quite obvious how under-represented Indonesian cuisine is. Of course, the Bay Area populations with histories from these countries likely don’t match the rankings by inhabitants, but working in the Academic world, I know plenty of Indonesians.

Jayakarta (Berkeley) , Indonesian/Singaporean
Other things show up on yelp, like
Indo Cafe (Saratoga)
INDO Restaurant & Lounge (Palo Alto)
Budiman Food (San Jose)
Ori Deli (San Jose)
and Lime Tree Southeast Asian Kitchen (SF) for Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean

The lack of Nigerian and Bangladeshi restaurants is also quite surprising

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Lao is not on the list because there are more than five restaurants in the area.

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Also for Belgium, would add Bel (Bernal Heights, SF), La Trappe (Russian Hill, SF) - haven’t been but it looks Belgian, and maybe Frjtz (Mission, SF)

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Perhaps I should make a transnational ethnicity subsection of this thread, which would include ethnic groups divided among several modern countries. I’ll toss Kurdish/Rojbas on there.

I was surprised to find more than ten Turkish (yay, homemade breads), and fifteen or so Lao restaurants in the SFBA ! Just a few years back there was nothing in SF, now even the Osha Thai people have a Lao place. We need to do a Lao round thread at some point.

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If we count partial menus, Indonesia doesn’t belong either: Borobodur, Jayakarta, Penang Garden, and Two Lime Trees all have some Indonesian dishes.

Hmm… there are about 3000 Bangladeshi Americans living in the Bay Area source. An interview with a restauranteur from years ago was linked on chowhound and discussed how he started serving speciality foods, but then submitted to consumer demands for tandoori chicken and naan.

Sub-saharan Africa is poorly represented in Bay Area restaurants other than Ethiopian and Eritrean. Population may have something to do with that. According to census figures there are 23,000 African born immigrants in the Bay Area, which makes up only 1.8% of our immigrant population (that’s below the national average). The two biggest identified groups in that source are of Ethiopian and Nigerian origin.

An earlier source states,
The nine-county Bay Area has an estimated 38,000 African immigrants, according to census figures. Nearly half live in the East Bay. The largest group, about 40 percent, hails from Eastern Africa, a 19-country region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
Places of birth of Bay Area African immigrants:
7,500 from Ethiopia
5,130 from other parts of Eastern Africa (not Ethiopia or Kenya)
3,850 from Egypt
3,770 from Nigeria
3,700 from other parts of Northern Africa (not Egypt)
2,940 from South Africa
2,480 from Kenya
1,200 from Ghana
Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2005-2007”

Miliki, the Bay Area’s only Nigerian restaurant, was pretty empty when I enjoyed a meal there in 2014. Same emptiness at any other sub-Saharan african restaurant I’ve been to besides Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants, or the Baobab chain which has entertainment as well. I wonder if not having a “backup cuisine” is part of the problem for getting a mom and pop African restaurant to succeed. Burmese restaurants started off supplementing with “Mandarin” Chinese, Lao restaurants serve familiar Thai dishes, etc.

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You missed “Kingston 11 Cuisine” in Oakland for Jamaican


I would give Oren’s Hummus to Israel. It is specifically the Israli style.



Copenhagen Crown Bakery and Deli

Curry Corner Takeaway- I called a couple of weeks ago. The VM said she’s on vacation, but I think they are still open.

Curryous Catering

Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto has some Venezuelan stuff.

There is a new truck in downtown San Jose that serves Somalian cuisine:

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The newly opened Duna, identified by Eater as “Central European” could be classified as Hungarian by its name, its menu and a co-owner’s connection to Budapest.

Duna, the Latest From Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, Debuts Tonight on Valencia Street

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Has anyone eaten at Prubechu yet, and if so, what did you think?

Guam food? I must say I know little about it. Is it a little bit like Filipino, Malay plus some Island food?

Speaking of underrepresented, I must say I am surprised by the presence of Greek food on this list. I’d have thought Greek food is a lot more prevalent. I was looking at Greek food because I was wondering where to get better Greek food other than the Kokkari / Evvia group of restaurants.

Funny…my search for Albanian food in the Bay Area is what first led me to Chowhound back in 1998 or 99–Google (or probably Alta Vista back then) led me to the founder’s lengthy and hilarious account of his search for Albanian restaurants in NYC. Sad to see there still aren’t any Albanian restaurants here.

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