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Café 21 – Gaslamp

4.2
455 reviews
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$30 and under
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International
Top Tags:
  • Fit for Foodies
  • Neighborhood Gem
  • Great for Outdoor Dining

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About

Caf� 21 is located in San Diego, California and offers a local eatery with the freshest ingredients to be found. This establishment provides brunch, dinner and a complete line of cocktails every day of the week. The food at Caf� 21includes organic options, as well as meals for those who prefer not to eat gluten. The dining experience is farm-to-table, with hormone-free meats and yeast-free bread to accommodate all diners.

For brunch, you will have options like bread pudding French toast, turkey burger, feta and vegetable skillet and more. If you stop in for dinner, a great choice is the herbed ground lamb kabob. Children are also welcome at Caf� 21 and they can sample a cheese flatbread with salad or fresh fruit on the side.

Dining Style
Casual Elegant
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Cuisines
International, Global, International
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Hours of operation
Breakfast: Monday- Sunday: 8:00am - 3:00pm; Lunch: Monday -Sunday: 8am - 3:00pm; Dinner: Sunday - Thursday: 5:00pm - 11:00pm; Friday and Saturday 5:00pm - Midnight. Happy hour daily from 3pm to 6pm.
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Phone number
(619) 795-0721
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
Chef Leyla
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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!
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
Corner of 5th and F
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Parking details
Steet parking, Stret valet and plenty of public parking available.
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Entertainment
Live music Wednesday through Sunday with some of San Diego's most eclectic acts. See our Facebook pae for a complete schedule.
Additional
Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, BYO Wine, Cafe, Corkage Fee, Counter Seating, Dancing, Entertainment, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Happy Hour, Late Night, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine
What 455 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.2based on all time ratings
4.3
food
4.1
service
4.0
ambience
3.6
value
Noise · Moderate
84% of people would recommend it to a friend
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4.0Dined on June 29, 2016

We had wonderful service, both at the bar and at the table. we sat outdoors and it was great. Overall, a great experience. One drawback is that they do not have a fully stocked bar as they were unable to provide a bombay sapphire martini.

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5.0Dined on June 15, 2016

Absolutely loved the food!! Good atmosphere

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4.0Dined on June 3, 2016

A group of five of us went early on a Friday evening and sat outdoors. It was a very nice setting and we enjoyed the pedestrian traffic on 5th Ave. The food was excellent; we all had a variety of dishes. Portions were good too. A couple of drawbacks that were uncontrollable: a number of homeless people loiter around the area and we actually had one approach us for a handout. There was also a commotion with another one and the police had to come and move him along. The establishment next door allows smoking on their outdoor veranda and the smoke blows into Café 21's outdoor dining area.

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5.0Dined on May 28, 2016

We had great service, followed by amazing food! The lamb chops were incredible! It was wonderful listening to the band while having such a fantastic dinner.

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3.0Dined on May 22, 2016

Though the 2-person entertainment was good, not great, I had no idea there would be live, loud music...ya know when the server has to lean very close to you to just to barely hear you. This was not known to me at the time of making the res. Impossible to have a conversation amongst 10 people...and people eating at other tables around us were either quiet or had to speak loudly. So we were ostensibly there subjected to the music, not dinner and conversation, not conducive to a pleasant, relaxed dinner. Service was ok, my pear salad was great and the curry scallop dish was quite good, actually. If it wasn't for the music, I'd give it higher ratings. It was kind of a fun place if you were interested in or intent on hearing the music and having a few drinks and snacks. This was a Sunday night, btw.

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5.0Dined on May 20, 2016

In a word: PERFECTION! Thank you Cafe 21 for the great service and great food!

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2.0Dined on May 15, 2016

The trip started off nice enough. The apps we got were great and the waitress was nice. While waiting on our entrees I over hear the table next to us send food back for having a human nail in it. Giving the place the benefit of the doubt I continue waiting on my food. My medium steak came out a nice well done and my girlfriends medium lamb chops were nice and raw. We promptly asked for the check where the manager replied that the lamb was cooked medium. I disagreed and the manager refunded our entrees. This was my second visit to cafe 21 and sadly have been let down both times. I will not be returning nor recommending to anyone.

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4.0Dined on May 15, 2016

We visited Cafe 21 before a show at Balboa theater and ordered tapas from the happy hour menu. Though several items we wanted were unavailable, the ones we did get were delicious. We had duck wings, some chips with proscuitto, kufta, and some chicken skewers. The sauce on the duck wings was especially delicious. Try the Sangria-it has quite an unexpected kick!

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4.0Dined on May 14, 2016

This was our third trip to this restaurant. Menu is interesting. I had the curried scallops. They were delicious--perfectly cooked. My date had the lamb chops, they were a tad rare, but presentation was beautiful. In the past we have had the flat bread (very good) and the crepes (nice). Some nice wines on the by the glass list. Lots of different Sangrias. Wait staff is very pleasant, helpful. We will be back.

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1.0Dined on May 14, 2016

This restaurant wasn't ready for the reservations is took. We waited almost 45 minutes for drinks that we ordered when we sat down (sangria that was premade - they didn't have pitchers to serve it to us). Waitress was pleasant but overwhelmed. Food came out poorly. Desert with appetizers, salad last. Restaurant was admittedly swamped, but not ready for prime time. Food is average at best.

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1.0Dined on May 14, 2016

The service was terrible. The waiter brought one glass of water, slammed it on the table and said "I'm busy". It took 50 minutes for our appetizer. My martini was ready at the bar and sat there for 15 minutes until my husband got it and gave it to me. The waiter forgot about it. Also, the dinner took an hour and 50 min to reach our table. At that point we walked out and left because we had tickets to a concert. We ended up with no dinner and ate a hot dog on our walk to the venue. The manager was very nice and apolegetic, but will never dine there again.

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4.0Dined on May 9, 2016

Music was so loud it was hard to talk

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2.0Dined on May 7, 2016

Meh.
Ok. Food wasn't great.

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5.0Dined on May 7, 2016

We went in a group of nine and the noise level was high so conversations were limited. The food was delicious, the service slow. We all thought the martinis were not good. The music was wonderful!

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5.0Dined on April 22, 2016

Great wines, cocktails and food. Particularly good for those with gluten allergies.

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3.0Dined on April 9, 2016

We really thought Cafe 21 would have a nicer patio but in looking back at the photos on the web site, I guess we should have been prepared. It's right on a very busy street and sidewalk which makes it noisy and uncomfortable. However, the food was excellent - one of us had the cheese fondue which was yummy, and I had the shrimp, spinach and spaghetti squash. It was good but I could not identify the squash in the dish (I usually make it as a substitute for pasta so it looks like spaghetti....). The wine choices were great. But the poor setting really made this a less than good experience for us.

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5.0Dined on April 7, 2016

We chose this restaurant for its location to the Balboa Theater, but I was hesitant because most of the Gaslamp restaurants are overpriced average food meant to please the boring tourist palate. This restaurant was a really nice surprise - the menu was eclectic, full of things I've never tried or prepared in a way I hadn't seen before. There were different sized plates so you could either get a bunch to share or just graze on a few or even get a complete meal (starter and main). The service was excellent and friendly. There was a live band playing (on a Thursday night) but not too loudly that you couldn't carry a conversation. All in all, it was a great experience, and we will definitely be back!

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3.0Dined on April 3, 2016

We ate at Cafe 21 when it first opened several years ago in University Heights, and the food was outstanding and beautifully presented. Our recent experience at the Gaslamp location was disappointing by comparison, although the service was excellent. I don't think we will be going again.

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4.0Dined on April 1, 2016

I picked Cafe 21 because we were going to a show at the Balboa Theatre and this was just a couple blocks away. I also picked it because they had a very interesting and somewhat eclectic menu. Everything was very good, including the cocktails and wine.

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5.0Dined on March 23, 2016

We enjoyed Cafe 21. Dining outside was fun. The food was good and the service was attentive if a little slow. High quality ingredients.

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5.0Dined on March 21, 2016

Found this restaurant on yelp.
The food was outstanding. Ordered the whole Seabass and it was cooked to perfection.
It was my birthday so we also got the crème brûlée cheesecake for dessert and it was out of this world!
They also have live music on a Monday night. We chose to sit outside on the patio which was wonderful as we can still hear the music but have a conversation with each other as well
I will be returning!

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3.0Dined on March 11, 2016

Menu was all over the map in terms of tendency. With the exception of the doughy stuffed flatbread, the food was good.

Complaints: slow, very casual service. Weak wine list unless you love only California wine. Way too dark.

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2.0Dined on March 11, 2016

It seemed like it would be a good place, but the food sounded better that it actually tasted. Some flavor combinations, though creative, just didn't work very well. Service started out pretty good, but as the tables filled up the service went way down. Took forever to get the check and then the 21% discount was not included. Took even longer to correct that.

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4.0Dined on March 9, 2016

Food was great, service was slow. There was 6 of us and none of our meals came at same time. Bill had to be redone Several times.

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4.0Dined on February 27, 2016

The pistachio grilled lamp chops are amazing. The pear salad very good. Overall, however, we found the place a little too noisy for our taste with service that was only so-so. Don't think we'll be back.

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3.0Dined on February 19, 2016

The potatoes under our friends scallops were charred. The crust on my wife's mushroom tart was not flavorful. My cabbage wrap was served at a temperature somewhere between cool and warm - anything but hot. We were pressed for time so nothing went back and, by the way, our server never asked how the food was.

The reviews generally are good for Cafe 21. Maybe this was an off night, but we wouldn't recommend it based on our experience.

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5.0Dined on February 18, 2016

Food was excellent and Tyler provided top rate service. My dinner companions had a good time though the noise level did make conversations somewhat challenging.

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1.0Dined on February 17, 2016

Asked for sea bass - We're out! Cubano Sandwich - uh, we're out! Asked for bottle of wine - have to check, yes we have the Mountain Curve - uh that's Cuvee dude! Ordered Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert and waited over 30 minutes. I wanted to buy a friend who had come to our table a cocktail but the server never checked in all that time. Finally got the lava cake - uh where's the ice cream? Let me check, uh we're out but we can go the liquor store for some! No thanks, sent the dessert back. Next time I go to hear music we'll just sit at the bar and order a Gin n Tonic! Can't mess that up can they??

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5.0Dined on February 16, 2016

Love this place! The bloody marys are amazing! Great place for brunch

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5.0Dined on February 11, 2016

Picked this restaurant from a tripadvisor review and we were not disappointed. Super cool bar with yummy cocktails--I loved the mule but had mine made with vodka instead of gin--so tasty and refreshing!
I ordered the stuffed cabbage rolls and they were just how I wanted them to taste--fresh, flavorful and made me think my mom was in the back kitchen making dinner. Not many places offer cabbage rolls and it was such a nice change from the ordinary offerings of many restaurants. The service was excellent--very friendly and knowledgeable. The server told me the owners work with 2 farmers who supply them with their veggies.
I would def go back and highly recommend Cafe 21!!

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5.0Dined on January 30, 2016

Very cool place in the heart of downtown San Diego. Six of us dined & we were all very happy with our dinners. The restaurant had a live band that night that was playing some fun music! We took a chance on this place & we were all quite pleased with the experience. We would all definitely go back!!!

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3.0Dined on January 30, 2016

Had the curry seared scallops plus an order of shrimp. Was fine, but nothing special. The restaurant is very casual and prices not cheap, but perhaps that's expected so close to the convention center. I wouldn't go back here, but it made for a convenient dinner while attending a conference.

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5.0Dined on January 25, 2016

The service was amazing!!! And the food was good. It was hard to find parking which was a bummer but definitely worth it once I got there

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5.0Dined on January 22, 2016

We wanted to find a place to have a nice dinner downtown before a show, requiring that we eat early. I made a 6 pm reservation and we arrived early at 5:45pm. That was serendipitous ad it was Happy Hour until 6pm, allowing us to get Sangria and a delicious spinach crepe at half price. My wife got the special shortbread with sun dried tomatoes, brie, and prosciutto and I had beef short ribs. Both dishes were excellent. With the benefit of Happy Hour, we escaped after a fabulous meal for $50 for the two of us. We will definitely go back to Cafe 21.

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5.0Dined on January 17, 2016

We went for dinner and have ended up having breakfast 3 days in a row! Breakfast is yummy! Banana Bread Bread Pudding is the best thing I have ever eaten!

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4.0Dined on January 13, 2016

The music playlist was awesome. Food was good, though I wondered why the syrup on my tiramisu pancakes was cold...

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4.0Dined on January 8, 2016

Great vibes at this restaurant. Good food and atmosphere. Waiter was very absent minded, but had good recommendations and was very nice.

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5.0Dined on January 4, 2016

The food was fantastic! We liked it so much we went for brunch 2 days in a row. We had a mimosa tree and the heirloom tomato Bloody Mary. The mimosas were good but it's bartenders choice so there were a good number that my sister didn't care for. The heirloom tomato bloody was very good and full of flavor. We tried an array of omelets and the stuffed French toast. The short rib might have been the best. All in all everything was great and I would definitely come back again!

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5.0Dined on December 28, 2015

Our waitress was fantastic and extremely helpful when ordering gluten free food. The flourless chocolate was devine

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4.0Dined on December 7, 2015

Went with a group of 4 and sat on the outdoor patio. Everyone was really friendly, especially the hostess. Our waiter was busy with a large group and she checked on us multiple times to make sure things were going well. The cheese fondue starter was really good and not as expected; more of a whipped cheese, not hot and served with crudite and bread. Everyone enjoyed their food : braised short rib, flat bread and turkey burger. I got the house soup and thought it was overly salty ( I always over salt and for me, it was overwhelming). Tried 2 sangrias and the classic red was my favorite! My least favorite part was multiple homeless men came up to our table over the little fence and disrupted dinner, but that's what you sign up for dinning on 5th!

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