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“If you're in the Gaslamp, eat here--then come back and eat here again!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Cafe 21

Cafe 21
750 5th Ave, Gaslamp District, San Diego, CA 92101-6918
619-795-0721
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Ranked #36 of 4,366 Restaurants in San Diego
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $30 - $30
Cuisines: American, Spanish
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Families with children
Dining options: Dinner, Late Night, Breakfast, Outdoor Seating, Reservations, Seating, Takeout, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: 5th Avenue between G and F
Tumon, Mariana Islands
Level Contributor
24 reviews
18 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
“If you're in the Gaslamp, eat here--then come back and eat here again!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 24, 2013

Cafe 21 is a restaurant that somehow manages to succeed in being almost all things to all people--and serves up excellent food in the process. I was in San Diego for a conference and ended up having dinner here twice in three nights, with different groups of people.

My experiences were on a Monday and Wednesday night. The service was attentive, friendly, and the staff all seemed to work together at getting food out to the customers in the restaurant. It was not busy when I was there (6-8pm both nights) so my guidance on Cafe 21's service on busy weekend evenings would be speculative at best.

As others have stated, the menu is eclectic and varied. The restaurant claims it is nominally Azerbaijani--if this means that they serve up fantastic specials in Azerbaijan like 1/2 a rabbit on black-eyed peas with a sweet pepper glaze, or one of the best mahi-mahi entrees I've ever seen (and tasted), then I'll eat Cafe 21's Azerbaijani food at any opportunity.

They have some really nice menu items you don't often see--the tapas/small plates menu has a standard happy hour before 6pm (plates are in the $5-8 range); they have six kinds of sangria; and their wine menu covers all the bases. They also claim to be famous for their avocado and portabello mushroom fries. I've tried both, and they are excellent. The avocado fries are a bit rich and decadent, while the portabellos are just about perfect--not greasy or heavy at all.

Cafe 21 also has outdoor and indoor seating; a very nice, relaxed atmosphere; and best of all, the high quality food will not break your wallet. Both evenings, a meal for two people, including an appetizer and several drinks (once including dessert), were right around $100. If you keep the drinks to a minimum you could easily slip out with a bill of $25-30 per person, pre-tip.

One last warning (and it is a good one): the Pear Salad is absolutely the largest single-peson salad i have ever seen in my life. Our server told us that it was OK for one person and "could be shared"--unless you are going to make an entree out of it, one person will be hard-pressed to eat the entire salad. Two or even three people could easily share it and be satisfied. And, yes, like most everything on the menu, that salad was delicious.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Food
Helpful?
Thank Richard S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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491 reviews from our community

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Vancouver
Level Contributor
13 reviews
9 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Good Choice for Health-Conscious Travellers”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 23, 2013

This restaurant was a pleasant surprise to us, since some in our group had particular dietary needs/restrictions. We were there for lunch and we all opted for one of their signature salads. We enjoyed it so much that we went back for supper. The food was very good & the staff were personable & friendly.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
Thank artekoba
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
33 reviews
19 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Great food, long wait”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 15, 2013 via mobile

Great food, artisan and homemade taste. Be prepared to wait--no crowd and 40 minutes from time we ordered to first food served. Six of us. We would go back, however, nice atmosphere to relax in.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Service
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Food
Helpful?
Thank Grasshopp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Level Contributor
374 reviews
201 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 139 helpful votes
“Fantastic Breakfast Options”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 9, 2013

My family so enjoyed our time at Cafe 21. The food is EXCELLENT-- no kidding. So good, that we came back twice, two days in a row. And there is something for everyone-- my family can be picky eaters, but we each came away enjoying every bite (and cleaning some plates). Even the coffee/tea was quality. And the service was amazing. I would be so happy to return.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Food
Helpful?
Thank thetravelingjen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Level Contributor
18 reviews
6 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Wow”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 7, 2013 via mobile

The menu was so diverse - good vegetarian options too
Even more exciting were the unique alcoholic drinks - recommend the sangrias-you can try them all w a 'sampling' option
Food was incredible-recommend the avocado fries.
Service was friendly, prompt, and the server made great suggestions
I would go again next time I am in SD.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Food
Helpful?
Thank JenK77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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