Features Restaurants

Cafe 21: A restaurant review

I’ve had a lot of really bad brunch in my day. I’ll never forget the Mother’s Day Disgrace of 2012––let’s just say it involved dine-and-dashing.

For my lovely roommate’s 21st birthday brunch, her mother planned to take us to Cafe 21, a hot spot in the Gaslamp district known as one of the best brunch stops in San Diego.

The huge crowd outside Cafe 21 can be seen from blocks away. As we joined the mass to put our name in, we were greeted by an eccentric, pink-shirt-wearing man who took our name, told us it’ll be about 30 minutes, and somehow managed to compliment us in nearly every sentence he said.

Once we were finally the lucky chosen group, we were taken to our seats. Cafe 21 is beautifully decorated with mixed style of industrial and Little House on the Prairie: enormous windows framed in thick, black metal, cherry wood floors and walls, giant copper and silver plate chargers, glass bottles of water, chalk board signs hanging from ropes, and warm, ambient lighting.

Picking what to eat is the biggest challenge of going to Cafe 21. I’ve never faced a more difficult decision than having to choose between strawberry-rhubarb pancakes or strawberry-rhubarb stuffed toast. For a one-page menu, it’s quite diverse, listing choices from crepes to omelets, and sandwiches to “Caf 21 Cakes,” their creative take on eggs benedict.

While we were making our decisions on what to order, I was served some of the best coffee I’ve ever had at a restaurant. It’s really difficult finding a cup of coffee that is strong, but not bitter, smooth, and not burnt.

My roommate and I decided to share our two choices to balance out savory and sweet: strawberry-rhubarb pancakes and the feta cheese omelet. The pancakes were delectable; light, chewy, and the extra darkness on one side complimented the really sweet strawberry and rhubarb compote on top. The omelet (served in an iron skillet) was bliss for the lover of savory breakfast: fluffy eggs, marinated artichokes, creamy feta cheese and an herby pesto to round it all out. Sharing these two items was more than enough food for the both of us.

The service here is wonderful. We were brought a standing hook for our purses, a group song of Happy Birthday for my roommate (complete with the creative lyrics, “Happy birthday, dear stranger!”), and a complimentary birthday dessert of créme brûlée cheesecake, which was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life.

The prices are definitely fair for what you get. I got five, decent sized pancakes for $11 and the generous sized omelette was $12 with a free side included. The coffee is only $3 and includes free refills as well!

My favorite part of Cafe 21, however, was the fact that it’s farm-to-table. Their slogan is “Nature’s Kitchen” and I absolutely love that. The ingredients are local and organic, which means that they’re quality, and that’s what’s important.

Cafe 21

750 Fifth Ave

Sun-Thu 8 am – 10 pm

Fri-Sat 8 am – 11 pm