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Café 21 - University Heights

240 reviews
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$30 and under
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Top Tags:
  • Neighborhood Gem (421)
  • Fit for Foodies (388)
  • Great for Brunch (170)

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Caf� 21 is located in San Diego, California and has a focus on serving organic and gluten-free dishes. The restaurant has an emphasis on providing a true farm to table dining experience by utilizing locally grown, organic ingredients.

Caf� 21 offers brunch and dinner daily. Brunch at the restaurant includes such fare as eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast, crepes and omelets. Dinner at Caf� 21 features an assortment of soup and salad, cold small plates, hot small plates and entr�es. Dinner selections include albacore poke, vegetarian stuffed flatbread, chicken kabob, braised short rib, spaghetti squash and shrimp and New York steak.

Dining Style
Casual Elegant
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International, Global, International
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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
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Phone number
(619) 640-2121
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Payment options
AMEX, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
Chef Leyla
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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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Cross street
Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Cafe, Counter Seating, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access
What 240 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.4  based on all time ratings
Noise · Moderate
93% of people would recommend it to a friend
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firstdate (San Diego)
4.0  Dined on December 29, 2015

always a wonderful place to go, great food and ambience -- the service was a little slower this time

OpenTable Diner (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on December 11, 2015

My husband and I love this place. I'm vegetarian, he's not, and it's such a pleasure for both of us to have so much to choose from. The service is attentive without being cloying, and the drink options are creative. My only complaint is that the dining area is so small -- Cafe 21 is a victim of its own success, it's so crowded. But well worth it. We'll definitely go back.

OpenTable Diner (Minneapolis)
4.0  Dined on November 20, 2015

The food was excellent and though the servers were super friendly and accommodating, our food took FOREVER to arrive. We actually couldn't eat and had to take it to go because we had to make a show. We had allowed 2 hours and it wasn't enough...
Give yourself PLENTY of time and don't be in a hurry to get anywhere if you are going for dinner.

vipPhotoman (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on November 14, 2015

Everything is very good and usually excellent. I have never had complaints. It is a great neighborhood place...go there often and try new thing...some appeal to me more than others but you will not get anything less than Very good!

LivetoEat (Orange County)
4.0  Dined on November 6, 2015

The food, service and hospitality were exceptional. The staff were all attentive to our experience. They were friendly and chatty but not intrusive. The food is what brought us in and it was everything we hoped for. No leftovers to take with us but only because the servings were just the right size to stuff ourselves comfortably. The only interference with a perfect evening and dining experience was the diner next to us who spoke too loudly for such an intimate patio. we ended up moving inside. Yes, we will be back!

vipJamesMackayJMM (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on November 2, 2015

A regular restaurant for us and always top notch - brilliant in every way - we will keep going back again and again :)

vipSandiegojeff (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on October 23, 2015

Very unique and delicious menu. Place was busy but service was great and we never felt rushed to finish so our table could be turned over. We went for dinner and will definitely go back but we also want to try their brunch. Very nice find in university heights.

vipGreg (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on October 14, 2015

Perfect for a date night like it was for us. And great with friend for brunch like we did a few days before. I've only lived in San Diego 4 days and have been there twice. I see going there many more times

vipJamesMackayJMM (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on October 13, 2015

What a superb little restaurant. Friendly talented staff, excellent food and nice one list. Love it!!

vipJamesMackayJMM (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on September 27, 2015

Fantastic neighborhood gem - excellent food, wine and service.

1musiclady (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on September 23, 2015

It is thrilling to discover a new restaurant that delivers like this one does! What a great place with great service, delicious food, innovative menu, it has everything but enough space! I wouldn't be surprised to see the restaurant expand in the near future if their success continues. Congratulations on a terrific place!

vipPhotoman (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on September 12, 2015

I always enjoy Cafe 21.... Breakfast, brunch and dinner. Great service and food, an interesting ambiance in a quiet part of University/Normal Heights.

Hoolie (San Diego)
4.0  Dined on August 16, 2015

Cafe 21 has a wide selection of teas. They have unique delicious food from tapas to breakfast lunch and dinner. Their desserts are savory and the atmosphere is desirable. They have happy hour dishes and drinks until 5 PM s must try. Their eggplant and avocado fries are to die for.

earl (San Diego)
2.0  Dined on August 5, 2015

My husband and I dined here recently, as it is near another place that we normally frequent and wanted to try a new place. I have to say I cannot understand why people like this place. The service was poor throughout the meal, and I really wonder why the waiter is still employed there. The food was so so. The salad was beyond bad. It was literally a bag of lettuce dumped on a large plate with minuscule amounts of beet and avocado. The dressing (if that is what you call it) was bland and watery. The stuffed flatbreads were tasty, but quite greasy. The scallops were of good size, yet sauce was unremarkable. Atmosphere is claustrophobic and noisy. For a $100 dollar meal we felt ripped off.

MarrowBonz (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on July 29, 2015

Once upon a time, Cafe 21 captured my heart and tastebuds at their original 2100 Block of Adams Avenue location. Was it the chef 's extraordinary delicious soups? Yes. The luscious fresh strawberry salad that accompanied the hearty and artfully constructed sandwiches? Yes. Her breakthrough innovative tea diffuser? Yes. The always welcoming face of the chef's business partner/husband? Yes. Lucky for me, they moved their restaurant up Adams even closer to my home. I have eaten at every restaurant/eatery on Adams Avenue in the past two years, and Cafe 21 continues to be my Number One. This wonderful Uzbekistani couple have grown their business, with two Gaslamp locations, but I continue to nestle in at the cozy original. Just try to stop eating the scallops served with a lemon curry sauce reminiscent of bearnnaise, every mouthful a treat and punctuated with country fingerling potatoes. Which country? Why Uzbekistan, of course, served with love, as are all the best foods we ever eat.

Riffeatingwell (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on July 19, 2015

On a rainy day we walked to this local neighborhood restaurant for dinner. I had only been here for brunch /lunch but now we were trying the dinner menu. We had an amazing meal ! We ordered from both the Happy Hour tapas menu and the main menu. There were choices to satisfy meat eaters and vegetarians. From short ribs on potato pancake to spinach crepes to pear and greens salad and more! Everyone kept ordering until the table was covered with wonderful tasty treats! There was a variety of beer and wine too. We had individual fruit cobblers for dessert and walked away completely satisfied discussing when we would come back to try different dishes.

LaMesaFoodie (San Diego)
3.0  Dined on July 15, 2015

This was probably our 7th or 8th visit over 2-3 years. Maybe because it was a Wednesday night, but there was only one server working. The food tasted OK but wasn't as delicious as previous visits. My $31 grass-fed steak was a thin cut (about 1 centimeter) and the blue-cheese polenta upon which it was served was a little too strong for my taste. The steak was perfectly cooked. We enjoyed the roasted brussels sprouts appetizer and we like how the menu responds to seasonal food availability. My husband ordered the kabob plate and said it was not quite as good as the last time. Our server was friendly but because of possible understaffing, we waited a little longer than expected for more wine to be poured and our check. We'll go back again but if we experience another such meal, sadly that probably will be our last visit. At $100+ for two people, yes, we are picky. Parking can be tricky on Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday brunch.

vipdinnerd8 (San Diego)
4.0  Dined on July 11, 2015

The $5 tapas (21 options) during happy hour are must. We had the curry chicken cake (like a crab cake but with curried shredded chicken) and avocado fries. Both were delicious. Service was slow (forgetting to bring over things like cups or menus after starting she would), but friendly regardless. The meat is all local and grass fed, so we love that. The cobbler for dessert was a good portion with ice cream on the side -- easily large enough to share. We'll definitely be back.

EC45 (San Diego)
2.0  Dined on July 10, 2015

The food was good, not great. the waiter was good the kitchen was slow for ordering just salads. This was my go to place for a food adventure but with so many other great places to eat here, this is off my list. I wonder if because of their downtown location has this location not been focused on?? What a shame...

Jacqueline (San Diego)
2.0  Dined on July 3, 2015

We were seated at the time of our reservation, but we we're greeted for at least 15 minutes. She took our drink order and said she would bring us glasses for our water bottle that was at the table. About 10 minutes after that, we asked again for the water glasses, which finally came after that. Then she finally took our food order. At this point we had been sitting for 35 minutes. Our drinks finally came, which we were done with by the time the food came. The food was very very good, and the drinks were good, however, the wait was painfully long. We were disappointed that they never acknowledged the extra long wait or apologized. Overall we were there about an hour and a half, but only were eating for a third of that.

21Hawaii (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on June 26, 2015

My husband and son went for dinner. we love the relaxed feel of this place. It feels like home. the waiters and waitresses are very nice and always asking if we needed anything. We sat in the back right corner, it was a booth with benches and pillows. Very comfortable. we will be back.
I had the Shrimp spaghetti squash with veggies. Very Good. My favorite dish. then we all shared the Chocolate Cake. It came in a little cast iron skillet. Very Cute. Service was well-timed and friendly, wines were affordable."

Pbean (San Diego)
3.0  Dined on June 19, 2015

We went to Cafe 21 last week. We had a reservation and did get seated within a few minutes. The food was good. The drinks were interesting in a good way. The service was really slow. My husband ordered a beer and it took a solid 15 minutes for him to get it. It took well over 1/2 an hour to get our appetizers. I'd go back, hoping the slow service was an anomaly and would be better the second time. The bacon wrapped dates were amazing!

Lucky (San Diego)
4.0  Dined on April 28, 2015

Flavors are unique, love the mixed fries, but service is always slow, so don't expect quick meal

Drew (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on February 12, 2015

We love coming here for creative flavorful sangrias and meals -- plenty of desirable options for omnivores and vegetarians alike.

vipERochelle (San Diego)
4.0  Dined on February 4, 2015

I've been trying to get to Cafe 21 for months, but it's always slammed on the weekends for brunch. Finally made it there during the week. Amazing breakfast! Probably the best omelette I've had in San Diego! I highly recommend the Chicken Pesto and the Shrimp. I would say this dish is easily sharable for two people who aren't starving. It was pretty big! The place was cute and we had no issues with parking. I wish they took reservations on the weekends. I would go back more often!

vipAndy (San Diego)
3.0  Dined on January 27, 2015

When Cafe 21 on Adams was the only restaurant they operated, the food and service was far better. Much more love and care in the food, plus the service was what you'd expect from a neighborhood spot.

After opening the location in the Gaslamp, the food/service at both have suffered. It used to be our go-to spot for taking friends for something different when they had the single location. Now, I'm not sure i f we'd go back to either one.

OpenTable Diner (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on January 23, 2015

Excellent food, excellent service, dog friendly! I always enjoy meals here.

Muscletop (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on January 19, 2015

I love this place. Every time I have gone the food has been great and the servers have been friendly and helpful. This feels like the perfect night out with my husband.

Frustrated (Sacramento)
1.0  Dined on December 31, 2014

Slow service, took 20 minutes to get an empty glass for the wine we had brought. Way over priced for horrible food, couldn't even eat my steak. Never again!

Suzieq1121 (San Diego)
5.0  Dined on December 28, 2014

Cafe 21 is a great place to dine. Food is always good. I love getting their Sangria. The atmosphere is wonderful. Adam has done a great job decorating the restaurant. The outdoor patio area is so cute as well as the inside. Presentation of the meals is always awesome. It's one of my favorite places to go.