[San Diego, CA] Cafe 21

802 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

between E St & F St in Gaslamp

(619) 795-0721




My friends and I were in San Diego recently, and wanted to find a relaxing but good place for dinner near downtown / Gaslamp district, as we needed to catch the Amtrak back to LA.  So we turned to Yelp for some guidance.  There are two Cafe 21 locations in San Diego, one in Gaslamp and one in University Heights.  Both are highly rated, so we decided to give the one in Gaslamp a try.  We cabbed there so not sure about the parking situation in Gaslamp.  As always, read all of the street signs!

There wasn’t much of a wait on a Sunday evening, but the restaurant was busy.  They also take reservations.  It’s a pretty chill place and there’s even a tapas happy hour — will have to try that next time.


It’s a fairly large restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.


First time seeing fresh herbs grown by the bar.  Awesome!


There are 6 different sangrias made daily.  On the day that we went, 3 were white/light sangrias and 3 were the red/dark sangrias.  Some of the combinations sounded very interesting and creative, such as the kumquat mint, and the grapefruit/red pepper/ cilantro.


We decided to try the Flight so that we can sample all 6 of the daily sangrias, which came in a tower of shot glasses.  Since there was 3 of us, the server brought us 3 larger glasses with ice, so that we can add the sangrias to the iced glasses.  The best one was probably the tropical one as that was the sweetest of the 6, and it was meh.  The rest was just too dry/bitter for me.  I’m a little spoiled though – nothing beats the sangria in Spain for me!  $21 for a Flight.


Grilled Pear Salad – mixed Greens, butter grilled fresh pear, almond slivers, dehydrated cranberries, feta cheese, house Honey balsamic dressing.  This was light on the dressing but really good.  The pears were grilled perfectly to be caramelized on the outside, and naturally sweet.  $12


Cristo Crepe – free range house roasted chicken breast, handmade crepes, mozzarella cheese, house made white wine apricot puree, powdered sugar.  We thought the apricot puree would be an odd accompaniment for the crepes, but it actually was a good pairing.  The crepes are a little denser than what I’m used to, but it was an excellent side dish.  $8


Mixed Fries – gluten free rice flour breaded portobello mushroom slices, eggplant and avocado fries served with goat cheese aioli, chipotle aioli and avocado pesto.  Almost all of our dishes were served on the huge wooden boards… and portions are more than generous, as pictured here.  I didn’t really care for the sauces and thought that the fries stood well by themselves, as they are already lightly dusted with salt and pepper.  So good… could not stop eating them…  $12


Duck Wings – slow cooked braised duck wings slathered in spicy apple cider glaze.   We don’t usually see duck wings on a non-Asian or French menu so decided to give this one a try.  It was spicy indeed, but really tender.  Would be really good with some beer / Coke!  There were more wings than we expected, but we managed to finish them all  : )  $12


Azerbaijani Kabob Platter – Zhatar Seasoned Steak Kabob, Lamb Sausage Kufta, and House Marinated Chicken Skewers, served with Avocado Pesto Sauce, Beet Hummus, Black Eyed Pea Hummus and cous cous.  The meats were juicy and lightly seasoned.  The cous cous is the Mediterranean one, so it’s softer and has more of a rice consistency.  The beet hummus didn’t have much beet flavor, but overall the dish was solid. $27


This is definitely a place I’d come back again!  I’d avoid the sangrias next time and just stick with the food.

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