We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“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
Website
Improve this listing
Reserve with OpenTable
Cafe 21 is not available for your requested time. Choose another time, or search restaurants with availability.
The time you selected has already passed.
Ranked #107 of 4,057 Restaurants in San Diego
Price range: $30 - $30
Cuisines: American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Reservations, Late Night
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: 5th Avenue between G and F
Tumon, Mariana Islands
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
17 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“If you're in the Gaslamp, eat here--then come back and eat here again!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 25, 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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

242 reviews from our community

83% Recommend
    144
    57
    33
    5
    3
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Vancouver
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
6 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
3 helpful votes 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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“Great food, long wait”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 16, 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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Top Contributor
318 reviews 318 reviews
165 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 67 cities Reviews in 67 cities
113 helpful votes 113 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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
5 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
“Wow”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 7, 2013

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
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Cafe 21 also viewed

 

Been to Cafe 21? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

If you own or manage Cafe 21, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.