Our Story


It was on September 16, 1981, in a small space in Spring Valley, when the late Don Arnulfo Contreras and his wife María Inés Curiel opened the first of many Karina’s restaurants, named in honor of their daughter. A visionary and hard-working Don Arnulfo recognized the desire by many of his fellow immigrants for an authentic establishment offering traditional Mexican cuisine.

Don Arnulfo, his wife and six children began 35 years ago what is now a collection of 5 popular restaurants located in Chula Vista, Bonita, National City, Encinitas and San Diego. Day after day legions of loyal customers partake in Karina’s famous Mexican seafood specialties including traditional Shrimp & Tuna Ceviches, Aguachile from Sinaloa, Shrimp Cocktails, Campechanas and Tostadas from the best and freshest seafood available, Huachinango Sarandeado, Siete Mares or their Tia Nacha Taquitos, all prepared with superior quality in mind.

Simply entering a Karina’s establishment can be a sensory overload. Images, color, music, exquisite aromas and warm hospitality are surrounded by traditional Mexican figures, art and culture. Specially commissioned portraits of Maria Felix, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Sara Garcia and many of the superstars of classic Mexican cinema grace the walls of Karina’s. The sounds of Mexico with our engaging Mariachi, especially when singing of lost love, are a portrait of Mexico that our Mexican and American clientele alike delight in. Their music serves as memory of Mexico left behind by Don Arnulfo and his family in pursuit of the American dream. Karina’s was founded on the idea of offering traditional Mexican style family cuisine made with the passion of the founding family to make everyone feel like familia.

For three generations, each member of the Contreras Curiel Family has passionately and diligently worked year round for over three decades to offer a personalized services that make each guest feel at home.

Wherever a Karina’s establishment is found, there will always be a piece of Mexico.