Café 21 - University Heights
Café 21 - University Heights

Café 21 - University Heights

  • Dining Style: Casual Elegant
  • Website: http://www.cafe-21.com/
  • Phone: 6196402121
  • Hours of Operation:
    Breakfast: Tuesday - Saturday: 8:00am - 4:00pm; Sunday 8am-3pm
    Lunch: Tuesday - Saturday: 8am - 4:00pm; Sunday 8am-3pm
    Dinner: Tuesday - Thursday: 5:00pm - 9:00pm, Friday, Saturday 5am-10pm
  • Payment Options: AMEX,Diners Club,MasterCard,Visa
  • Cuisine: Global, International, International
  • Executive Chef: Chef Leyla
  • Dress Code: Casual Dress
  • Accepts Walk-Ins: Yes
  • Additional Details: Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Cafe, Counter Seating, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access
  • Catering: We're a family-owned restaurant bringing you tasty catering for events, corporate affairs, and much more. We provide our customers with great food and fabulous service. So whether you need catering service for a family reunion or you're looking for corporate caterers, Cafe 21 is ready to serve you. Call today to learn more about our mouth-watering menu and our top-quality service!

Getting there

  • Cross Street: Idaho
  • Parking: Street Parking
A word from Café 21 - University Heights
Cafe21 is a full service eatery - try our always savory, homemade dishes created with fresh, organic produce from local farms. Or cool down after a long day with our farm-to-bar, refreshing infused drinks made with organic vodka. We provide our home made bread sandwiches, fresh organic salads, hearty breakfasts, and wide selection of organic coffees, teas, and much more. Our heart and soul is invested into creating the most satisfying dishes from the finest ingredients straight from the earth.
Stop by and taste what Mother Nature is stirring in our kitchen.
Continued
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Awards voted by OpenTable diners
  • Diners' Choice WinnerFit for Foodies
Café 21 - University Heights reviews from OpenTable diners
40 reviews since June 3, 2014
Overall Rating4.4
  • Food4.5
    Service4.4
  • Ambiance4.2
    Noise LevelModerate
95% of reviewers would recommend this restaurant to a friend.
neighborhood gem (31)fit for foodies (28)great for brunch (15)great for outdoor dining (13)romantic (11)great for lunch (11)special occasion (8)good for groups (5)hot spot (4)notable wine list (4)kid-friendly (2)late-night find (1)Show More
  • OpenTable Diner Since 2014
    Dined on 9/25/2014
    Love this place! The food is awesome. Love that it is farm to table and the atmosphere is great.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, great for lunch, great for outdoor dining, neighborhood gem, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Good food horrible location
    Disappointed
    Dined on 9/20/2014
    The food here was surprisingly good. The location left much to be desired though. The ambiance seemed forced and out of place. The outdoor seating had a charm to it with the lighting and foliage but the multi colored apartment complex almost screamed "out of place". But to me the worst part was that this could be nice romantic place was attached and shared a very small parking lot with a liquor store. That along with the giant liquor store sign glaring at you while you are eating killed it for me.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Birthday Dinner
    Goddesssita
    Dined on 9/16/2014
    Another great experience! Happy hour tapas, great entrees, exceptional service, and the flourless chocolate cake is not to be missed.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Unusual gem
    Mgkern
    Dined on 9/15/2014
    Have been to Cafe 21 and their menu continues to improve. We each ordered a salad and a flatbread dish to share, and everything was delicious. My favorite was the prosciutto flat bread, but we also ordered the stuffed flat bread--one with mushrooms and one with spinach pesto. A bit doughy-but still delish. The servers are always nice here, and tonight was no exception. She was lovely, attentive, and unobtrusive. There is outdoor seating, but this was during the heatwave, so the indoor AC was a most welcome relief. Will continue to return here.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • PLSAR
    Dined on 9/6/2014
    All the staff was very kind and friendly. The wine list was extensive and the staff was very knowledgeable about it. The food was fresh and delicious. I really enjoyed the background music and the noise level was just right. This was my first time and I had a great first impression. I will definitely be back soon.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • a gem
    secondtimetester
    Dined on 9/6/2014
    the ambience, air conditioning, service, menu and food tastes were extraordinary - it is hard to find a restaurant that satisfies like this one did.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, great for brunch, great for outdoor dining, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • OpenTable Diner Since 2007VIP
    Dined on 9/2/2014
    We accidentally booked a late afternoon snack here (instead of the Gaslamp location). What a great find! The location is much more rustic compared to the Gaslamp site. The tapas during happy hour were delicious and a great deal. Our server was extremely helpful and friendly. Would definitely return.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Neighborhood Gem
    dinner4us
    Dined on 8/29/2014
    I took a good friend to this restaurant for her birthday. The food was delicious. We had two different flatbreads. One was beef and the other was spinach. They were so yummy. They change them constantly. They had a whole grilled sea bass on the menu, which I had and it was so flaky and tasty. I had the head and tail and bones, but I loved it!! My friend had the spaghetti squash and shrimp and she said that that was the best prepared spaghetti squash she had ever had!! Fantastic experience!!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, great for lunch, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • OpenTable Diner Since 2014
    Dined on 8/24/2014
    I came in with a restaurant card hoping to try out this new spot. The card states "No expiration"..Although it was a pleasurable dining experience, when it came time to pay the bill..I intended on giving my server a huge tip and was snapped at by the blonde lady at the register..who said they don't take those cards anymore. Thank god I brought enough cash for the bill..I was embarrassed when I had to borrow money from my guest to add to the servers tip. This ruined whatever impression I had of my experience altogether.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Great happy hour!
    OpenTable Diner Since 2014
    Dined on 8/22/2014
    Love this place. The tapas are a perfect size to share with a friend. We ordered 4 and took home a doggy bag. The fondue was delicious.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • bnafoodie
    Dined on 8/12/2014
    The food is well thought out, full of flavors, textures, and beautiful to look at. Every one should serve food this good!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Great breakfast and service
    MRiveraKC
    Dined on 7/28/2014
    The place was small and quaint. Food was fantastic. The service was great and we were seated early.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, kid-friendly, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Forever 21
    MarrowBonz
    Dined on 7/16/2014
    That Azerbaijan couple who opened a tiny restaurant @ 2121 Adams Avenue about eight years ago, when I happily stumbled on it while looking for an uptown place to live, blew me and my taste buds away. The soups! The salads! The iced tea in the cleverest dispensers! The desserts! We fell in love. Yes, the place was tiny, but art on the walls reflected the artful creativity of the food. When they moved closer to the home we found, we cheered. This week friends joined us for another dining experience at our favorite place on the Avenue, Cafe 21. I devoured every bit of the apricot embellished lamb shanks, though the serving was enormous. Everybody shared entrees to our hearts' content, tended by a SuperWaiter. I love Cafe 21.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • great for that someone special
    Drew
    Dined on 7/5/2014
    Treasured local gem for any special evening out. Plentiful menu for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Truly Great
    Camonut314
    Dined on 7/5/2014
    I don't know weather there are simply an over-abundance of nice restaurants in San Diego and this is but one of many, or if Cafe 21 shines like a gem among the plethora of fantastic restaurants situated along Adams Ave. And perhaps it is location along this neighborhood street that lends the local eatery its familial charm. There are many great places to eat in San Diego, and in California in general; from take-out windows to windowed showcases where one must be as presentable as the food served. But like I say, few convey the charm and relaxed ease with which Cafe 21 purveys its colloquial trade. Not everything on the menu has been perfected yet, but never have I ever left this place unsatisfied.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, good for groups, great for outdoor dining, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, late-night find, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Not what I expected from reviews
    LouieCV
    Dined on 6/20/2014
    Had dinner with my family after reviewing recommendations from Yelp and Opentable. I am a duck meat fan so was attracted to the fried duck wings on the menu. They were ok, however extremely greasy. The Gluten free fries were excellent, highly recomended. I had also the spinach beet salad but it was so drenched in dressing that it took away from the flavors. The braised lamb was excellent and I highly recomended. The kabobs were ok at best. The place is small nested in the heart of Normal Heights and has a certain flare of exccentricity to it. The servers are nice and polite. Overall, a good experiece.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • BEST
    Bombity
    Dined on 6/14/2014
    I love Cafe 21 and each visit is better than the last! They update their menu and presentation constantly so there is always something new to try. I usually end up getting whatever is on special because it has never let me down! Got the salmon special with potato risotto. I would call it more potatoes in a dill creme sauce though. So good!
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, good for groups, great for outdoor dining, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, hot spot, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Consistently amazing!
    Tracey13
    Dined on 6/13/2014
    Cafe 21 is my favorite restaurant in San Diego. I've eaten there at least 25 times, all meal time of the day, including happy hour and it is consistently fantastic!
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, romantic, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Ratings-Only Reviews
    Based on 22 ratings-only reviews submitted since June 3, 2014
    • Overall Rating4.3
    • Food4.5
    • Ambiance4.1
    • Service4.1
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • The following 168 reviews are from the Café 21 - University Heights reviews archive.
  • Fabulous meal with fabulous service
    Foodie
    Dined on 5/30/2014
    We had dinner for 8 (which sometimes can be a challenge) but the restaurant handled our crowd and numerous requests seamlessly. The food was fantastic and the service impeccable--probably the best service I've experienced in ages.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Nice neighborhood haunt
    JDSAN
    Dined on 5/22/2014
    There is a nice buzz about this place, local grown produce, neighborhood spot, etc. While the menu was very interesting, the food was so-so, and the service was slow. I would probably go back for a second visit because there is enough about this place to be intriguing, and maybe I was there on an off day.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Absolutely fantastic restaurant
    JamesMackayJMMVIP
    Dined on 5/17/2014
    Delicious food and top notch service - I would highly recommend it.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, great for lunch, late-night find, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • fresh food
    localVIP
    Dined on 4/23/2014
    We had not been here in quite a while so we thought we would try it again - nice changes in decor, music and the menu changes from our previous visit - the TAPAS are worth checking out if you have not been to happy hour - try the avocado and the portobello fries, they are very tasty! And ask to try the beet humus it's refreshing! If you try the cobbler, be sure to share with a couple of friends, its way too big for 1 person. Overall a nice dinner and will return again.
    Special Features:
    special occasion, Neighborhood Gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Accommodating staff
    Lawrence
    Dined on 4/21/2014
    Eager to please, we have zero complaints. In fact, everything was exceptional.
    Special Features:
    Great for Brunch, Great for Outdoor Dining, Great for Lunch, Neighborhood Gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Fatty and greasy items this time
    8outagainVIP
    Dined on 4/18/2014
    OK duck wings are greasy at heart, but they could have been crisped up more. They were tasty but fatty. On the half rack of lamb it was difficult to discern the fat from the meat in the soft lighting. It was all one soft fatty mess..... seemed like too many hours in moist heat and way to little time over the grill to color and crisp up the meat by roasting. Was like eating blubber ot boiled mutton.... very dissatisfying and a big departure from other good meals there. We'll go back but be much more cautious in ordering.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Cafe 21 never disappoints
    Twobirds
    Dined on 3/28/2014
    The Food at Cafe 21 is always superb. Was there on Friday night for Happy Hour. The eggplant fries, chicken crepes and pear salad were delicious, not to mention the Strawberry Apple Sangria. I would always recommend this place to anyone who loves good reasonably priced food and drink. It never disappoints, no matter how many times I go there.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, neighborhood gem, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Wonderful dining experience
    Casey
    Dined on 3/23/2014
    Cafe 21 is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in San Diego. We have enjoyed this wonderful cafe for years--when it was first by Trolley Barn Park and now on Adams Avenue. Excellent foot, great service and a truly enjoyable place to spend an afternoon or evening. We have also greatly enjoyed their art afternoons where we create a painting while munching on great tapas and sipping wine.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, great for brunch, notable wine list, kid-friendly, romantic, neighborhood gem, great for lunch, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • I'd recommend this restaurant
    OpenTable Diner Since 2011
    Dined on 3/18/2014
    I'd recommend this restaurant to a friend but would warn them off the very slow service (even when the restaurant is not crowded).
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Breakfast that lingered.......
    LocalFoodie
    Dined on 2/27/2014
    I was to meet 2 long time friends that I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I made reservations for the 3 of us, 9:00am, last Thursday and send them the link. Given that it was rainy, I waited. After 30 minutes and leaving messages on home and cell phone, I decided to order. They called right after I had ordered! Somehow, they got it into their brain that it was for Friday, even though they had picked the date! The kitchen held my order while I waited for them to arrive. We had a wonderful visit over crepes and stuffed french toast! The food is always great. The staff was very kind; the tables were full but because of the rain there was no wait line. I would have given up my table if necessary, but I never felt pushed or hurried.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, great for brunch, neighborhood gem, great for lunch, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • You can't go wrong with Cafe 21
    Twobirds
    Dined on 2/22/2014
    I started going to Cafe 21 in its first year which was 6 or 7 years ago. At that time, they only had the one restaurant on Adams Avenue. Now they have 2 and will be expanding the Gaslamp restaurant into a new location. The food there has been outstanding each and every time I have been there. Everything they make is tasty and delicious and it becomes hard to decide what to have. The Sangrias are my favorite, always tasty. The pear salad is always delicious and 2 or 4 people can easily share it as a starter. My favorite entrees for dinner are the lamb shank and the hangar steak, but everything is good It is wonderful to see that they are doing so well with a great formula of nice staff, great food and reasonable prices.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, neighborhood gem, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • The signature platter is really
    samm
    Dined on 2/20/2014
    The signature platter is really good and a chance to try different foods at the same time. Nicely seasoned, good variety and prepared perfectly. The only downer was a very loud group making it very difficult to talk to each other or to hear.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Service was great but it all went d
    Bobsez
    Dined on 2/15/2014
    Service was great but it all went down hill from there...It was 8pm on a cool night. Everyone in the place was cold but the air conditioner kept on humming. The food took forever and was marginal at best. What ambiance? There was none We would not go back.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • absolutely superb!
    Drew
    Dined on 2/14/2014
    We thoroughly enjoyed Valentine's dinner here. Excellent service staff! Tasty, creative menu! Perfect for a social occasion, as well as just a nice night out.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, romantic, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Always Good!
    rochsaysVIP
    Dined on 2/4/2014
    I have been to Cafe 21 several times, both this location and the other in Gaslamp. I'm always satisfied with the service, but even more so I've been impressed! The food is delicious, I'm still trying to work my way through the menu because I've enjoyed everything I've tried. The omelettes are great and the salads are satisfying and hearty. Its a great place to have a leisurely meal and great coffee or tea.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, great for brunch, neighborhood gem, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Cafe 21 is a true gem
    CCAB
    Dined on 1/25/2014
    A few months ago my wife and I had dinner at Cafe 21 in the Gaslamp and we enjoyed it very much. This time we decided to try a different SD neighborhood for our date night. The University Heights version of Cafe 21 has a similar, middle eastern themed interior decor but it is smaller in size and a bit quieter than it's downtown counterpart. More importantly, both restaurants share the same menu. On this night, my wife and I shared the Beet Tartare as an appetizer, very tasty. For entrees, she had the grilled Cauliflower 'steak' special, and I had the braised short rib. Both were excellent. We enjoyed our meal with a glass of the pommegranate/blood orange sangria. For dessert we shared the flourless chocolate cake. Yum!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Surprised
    OpenTable Diner Since 2008
    Dined on 1/25/2014
    Previous reviews on several forums suggested Cafe 21 would be a great choice- even with high expectations, we were very delightfully surprised. In our 3 day San Diego stay, we dined there 3 times! Loved the "cooked to perfection" skirt steak salad with just the right level of chipotle spice in the dressing, roasted pear salad with the addition of a chicken with preserved lemon skewer, and sizzling breakfast omelettes. Well done Cafe 21!!!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Delicious neighborhood spot
    ChicaVIP
    Dined on 1/25/2014
    We just discovered Cafe 21 after driving past it for two years. We live in Normal Heights and this is now our go-to spot for quality food. So many interesting dishes and flavors. Super fresh and tons of gluten-free options. We love the eggplant, mushroom and avocado fries. The lamb is fantastic and shrimp w spaghetti squash also v good (and low carb/gluten-free). Breakfast is also the best in the neighborhood, just have to get there early.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Meat fest
    OpenTable Diner Since 2012
    Dined on 1/7/2014
    Between three of us, we ordered the Kebabs, lamb shank and braised short ribs. All were excellent!!! The interior wasn't quite as beautiful as the Gaslamp location, but parking and getting there was much easier. I love this restaurant!!!!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Amazing place to dine with friends
    Tessa
    Dined on 1/2/2014
    I love the neighborhood feel of Café 21 and it unique, freshly prepared and delicious food! The ambiance and vibrant energy of placed is also inviting.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, romantic, neighborhood gem, great for lunch, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Small Treasure
    wineNdineVIP
    Dined on 1/1/2014
    This little café was a hit at every level. The food, service and friendliness were as good as the finest out there.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • AMAZING!
    Sarah
    Dined on 1/1/2014
    We were greeted by the owner who was very accommodating! Make sure to reserve a table so you can dine inside! We dined from the tapas menu and had so many amazing things: the beef skewers and sangrias was fabulous. However the star of the evening was the creme brûlée cheesecake! You HAVE to try it if you are a lover if cheesecake or brûlée!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.