Café Sevilla delivers the warmth and culture of Southern Spain locally, with a casually elegant atmosphere and authentic cuisine. Café Sevilla offers traditional Spanish items like pitchers of sangria, a wide selection of tapas, and large paella platters which make it an excellent location for small groups. Theatrical Flamenco dinner shows are offered weekly and lively guitarists play Gypsy Rhumba and Latin music each night in the tapas bar. The restaurant has been a San Diego favorite for more than 20 years and a recent move has put their new location in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. The décor, atmosphere, and focus on tradition make this an exceptional dining experience and culinary adventure.Read More ...
Just beyond the corner of 4th and Market, there is a portal. Enter it any evening, and it will transport you halfway across the world to the heart of southern Spain. All you have to do is step inside. Travelers do it for all sorts of reasons. Some go for a romantic meal in a casual courtyard underneath the stars, others grab a drink and a snack at a tapas bar, and still others go to enjoy a flamenco dinner show, take salsa dancing lessons, or dance the night away. You don't need a plane ticket or a passport, just a few hours, some spending money, and an appetite for adventure.
You'll find the entrance to Spain at 555 4th Avenue, under a large sign that reads: Cafe Sevilla. It's been there since 1987, thanks to Rogelio Huidobro, who wanted to bring a bit of Spain's culture and tapas traditions to San Diego. Depending on what you're in the mood for, you can enter through one of three doors. The entrance proper, where a hostess will eagerly greet you, takes you to the charming restaurant's courtyard setting; a second door takes you to a connected tapas bar; and a third, which opens later in the evening and is located down a flight of stairs, takes you to an underground dance club.
We opt for the restaurant proper. Stepping through the main doors, it appears we are in a small courtyard, with clay tiles beneath our feet and stucco walls around us. Low lighting, both from tabletop candles and wall sconces, cast a flickering glow across the space. A mural stretched across one wall depicts happy couples lingering and dancing—it's as if they can hear the Spanish guitar that plays softly from hidden speakers. A painted ceiling reveals stars just beginning to emerge in the evening's sky. Between the stuccoed walls, an interior entrance to the tapas bar affords a glimpse of the lively scene next door. Behind us, an open kitchen sits behind a six-seat bar and glowing red lanterns. Chef Christian Vignes’s team is already in a whirlwind of action.
It's all we can to do sit back, relax, and sigh. We haven't even glanced at the menus when we are greeted by Adam, an amicable, quintessentially professional server who will be our guide on this trip. "Have you been to Cafe Sevilla before?" he inquires, launching with a smile into an explanation of the menu when we reply we have not.
Tapas—the general term for small plates or appetizers—originated in Spanish taverns centuries ago. Small portions of breads, olives, and cheeses launched a tradition that today allows diners the luxury of sampling a broad array of dishes in a single meal. At Cafe Sevilla, the selection includes both traditional tapas plates as well as more modern, fusion creations. Larger, entrée-sized dishes, including enormous portions of paella, are also offered. Café Sevilla’s tapas are both hot and cold, portioned in two sizes. About four small plates or two to three larger plates are recommended per person. Sharing is encouraged.
The most difficult moment of the evening comes when we must narrow down our tapas selection. Anticipating the process, Adam brings drinks while we begin the debate. I'm enamored with the selection of Spanish wines, and opt for a glass of Torres Muscat from the Penedes region. My date scans the list of sangria and specialty drinks and opts for a combination of the two—the Sangritini, an Absolut martini with a splash of red sangria.
We start with the simplest of dishes—bread. Warm from the oven, a small loaf arrives on a simple wood cutting board, accompanied by two dipping sauces. I look to my right for a knife and fork and smile when I realize even the table is set to encourage sharing. Small plates are stacked in the center of the table, next to a large jar holding knives, forks, and spoons. Reaching for plates and utensils from a communal stash offers a symbolic beginning to the meal.
Two dips accompanying the bread suggest the flavors that await us. Andalucian tomato sauce resonates with depth and complexity, showcasing tomato and garlic. Garlic aioli is bright and piquant, offering a sharp, acidic tang that awakens our taste buds. As we settle in for a meal rich in flavor, we switch to Manzanilla Sherry. The traditional aperitif also proves excellent paired with food.
A trio of plates arrive stacked on a iron tower, a presentation that helps save surface space on our soon-to-be crowded table. A second iron sculpture quickly follows: a two-foot tall hook rising from a plate, which allows a steaming skewer of meat—a brocheta—to dangle vertically. It’s hard to exhibit restraint as Adam spreads the remaining small plates over the dark wood table.
I start with Pisto Manchego, a bewitchingly complex vegetable ragout of tomato, eggplant, zucchini, onion, and garlic, topped with a layer of melted Manchego cheese. The vegetables are a mix of textures—the eggplant is a light and airy puree, while the zucchini is diced into thick, hearty pieces. The flavors are complex and elusive—each bite resonates with underlying spice, freshness, and the salty-sweet distinctness of the cheese. We are smitten.
At Adam's recommendation, we simultaneously sample two tapas that are meant to be eaten together—Filet Mignon Chilindron and Manchego Cheese Mashed Potatoes. Bite-sized pieces of tender filet mignon mingle with tiny button mushrooms in a rich stew. While the meat slowly dissolves on the tongue, the mushrooms explode with moistness and flavor. Saffron's unmistakable flavor reveals itself in the creamy sauce, adding a lingering depth to each savory bite. The potatoes are rich and creamy, the salty sweet Manchego cheese lending a clever twist to the ubiquitous dish. The sauce seeps into the potatoes on my plate, and a bite that contains the two is absolutely sublime.
It's a tough call, but we decide the Beef Brocheta wins out over the Filet Mignon. From the large, dangling skewer, we pull large pieces of flat iron steak, portobello mushrooms, and red onions, getting to feel the meat's tenderness before it reaches our plate. Perfectly charred from the grill, the steak is coated with a flavorful Moorish spice rub, adding a salty, addictive flavor to each succulent bite.
The Shrimp Ajillo is full of flavor, thanks to a rich white wine garlic sauce. For every shrimp there is a thick sliver of garlic, which surprisingly lends flavor without being overbearing. The sauce is light but deliciously complex, full of tomato, acidity, and tang. It pairs amazingly with our lingering Sherry.
And then: Paella. The Paella Valencia arrives in a steaming metal pan, a wonderland of tastes and textures. Firm saffron rice is peppered with land and sea—thick rings of stark white calamari, pale pink shrimp, vibrant slices of chorizo, jet black mussles, pale clams, and roasted chicken. A plate of paella offers the same opportunity as a table full of tapas—ripe with potential, it’s an endless array of flavor combinations. Each bite affords a new experience—tender, sweet shrimp, rice bursting with saffron and spice, sausage exploding with bold, unrivaled flavor. Paella and tapas—those Spaniards do it right.
While tapas alone will comprise an amazing meal, Café Sevilla’s entrees are equally stunning. The Grilled Salmon a la Parrilla, one of several fusion-inspired dishes on the menu, has many a devoted fan. A generous portion of bright pink salmon sits atop a bed of diced tomatoes, kalamata olives, and verdant pesto sauce, accompanied by a wedge of a potato pie of sorts. The potato accompaniment is a flavorful surprise—layers of sliced potatoes, spinach, and cheese combine in a Spanish-tortilla-like dish. The salmon, however, steals the show, the moist, flaky meat mingling with lively pesto, tart tomatoes, and savory olives. It is so flavorful, so enjoyable, that I am tempted to eat the entire dish, even after an entire tapas course.
The same holds true for dessert. The Andaulcuan Apple Tart is evidently fresh, a flaky puff pastry delicately supporting a layer of slivered, roasted apples. A lush maple brandy syrup covers both the tart and the rest of the plate, and the aroma of maple and apples that wafts up makes us think it is morning. Each bite is outstanding—buttery, flaky pastry mingling with cooked apples and a sweet, complex sauce. An accompanying scoop of caramel gelato pushes the dish over the top. It is comforting, like French toast, and invigorating, rather than weighty.
Perhaps the lightness of dessert is intentional, as a Cafe Sevilla experience isn't over when the meal ends. Beneath the restaurant, the night club offers live shows, dancing, and music seven days a week. Flamenco guitarists start strolling through the tapas bar around 8:30, and the nightclub has a packed lineup: Sundays plus Tuesday through Thursdays offer free salsa-dancing lessons, Fridays and Saturdays offer Flamenco performance dinner shows, and Mondays feature local Spanish rock bands. After 10:00, the nightclub turns dance club, with live salsa bands during the week, and DJs on the weekends.
Café Sevilla is a tour through the best of Spanish culture. It is the only place in San Diego you’ll find Spain’s outstanding cuisine, alluring music, and captivating dancing under one roof. So what are you waiting for? A Spanish vacation is at your fingertips.
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What a great place. The service was excellent and the food was so good we could talk for the first five minutes, ever one kept saying "this is so so good!" I would highly recommend this place.
The food was excellent and very reasonable for the location, quality, ambience, etc. Awesome flamenco downstairs too!
Best food since Valencia, Spain!
Waiter had great ideas and choices. Service was quick and organized. Food was delivered straight from the kitchen staff. Although we ordered throughout, nothing seemed to take an unusually long time to arrive, even the paella, which was great.
So many places to choose from in the Gaslamp... So we're very glad we chose Sevilla. Wonderful ambience, very attentive service from both the waiter and host who sat us. Can't wait to go back. Have been recommending it to all!!!!
Brought back memories of Barcelona ! Food was outstanding, good service and loved the music!
Loved everything definitely coming back to see the late night show
It's a great place to take a date. Nice atmosphere, good music and fantastic food. Had a great time can't wait to go back.
Entertaining as always. Fun place, great atmosphere, good dancing.
We live downtown and eat out often, this was our first time at Cafe Sevilla. Staff was excellent, food was very good. Dinner was expensive. $134 for dinner for two with one drink each......
I've never been disappointed by Cafe Sevilla--the food, service, and ambiance is stellar!
Food and sangria were outstanding! Too many people piling up at the bar and still had to wait even though we had reservations. Service was good, tapas were very tasty. I would definitely come back. I just wish they would control the numerous obnoxious drunk people gathering at the bar. It seems out of control especially while people ate eating and waiter ate serving.
Overall this restaurant was an enjoyable experience. The menu is wonderful, drink selection is solid, atmosphere is unique. Caters to tourism, wait staff could be a little friendlier. Overall enjoyed, would most likely return.
We went to Cafe Sevilla for my birthday. Their happy hour is a great deal with lots of choices for tapas. We loved their white sangria. Wonderful service and atmosphere. Would definetely cone back again!
It was a great night. Enjoyed the music and food. Just horrible parking... couldn't find one nearby.
Enjoyed a few appetizers during happy hour which were good..the French fries are DELICIOUS, the quesadilla with Filet Mignon was alright, I don't usually eat red meat and could have saved the guilty pleasure for something more enjoyable. My date had the Salmon with Penne pasta, another delicious treat! The server was a little slow but the General Manager coming to the table, introducing himself totally made up for the hiccup in the service. Great spot when you don't want to over the top, good food and a relaxed environment!
The music was awesome but way overpriced!
It's just alright. You can skip it and you wont miss anything.
It was overpriced for what we received.
If you like poor service topped with lots of attitude, then please go this restaurant. The only good experience I had at Cafe Sevilla in San Diego was the food was good. But don't order a soda, they will only serve you carbonized colored water. Apparently, soda/fountain drinks are not their forte either.
Not good. Dont waste your time!
This establishment is commiting fraud everytime they sell a plate of supposed "Jamon Iberico"!!! I am a foodie and a connoisseur of fine charcuterie. I made the mistake of entering this distasteful and unquestionably corporate eatery and ordering their $27 "Jamon Iberico" plate. When the food arrived I was appalled by what was presented to me as authentic Jamon Iberico; IT WAS JAMON SERRANO! I could instantly tell that it wasn't the real deal by the marblization(or lack thereof), aroma, color, taste and salt content.
I immediately brought this to the waiters attention and he insisted that it was the real thing. He even offered to put me at ease by bringing me a slice of their "Jamon Serrano". Upon sampling the ham I was even more disgusted by the sheer audacity of this place! He served me a cold slice of Italian Prosicutto ham! THEY ARE SELLING COMMON PROSICUTTO AS SERRANO! When I called him on this and demanded to be shown the so called Jamon Iberico, the producers label and the Denomination of Origin seal he quickly offered to remove the offending item from my bill in exchange for me not asking anymore questions! I demanded that he remove the Jamon from my bill, quickly paid and proceeded to the back of the house to have a discussion with the young man tasked with cutting the Jamones. He agreed with me that It was not Jamon Iberico de Bellota but was indeed Iberian jamon. He would not tell me the exact name or brand of jamon they were serving and appeared to be uncomfortable with being put on the spot. Serrano ham is a product of Spain and therefore qualifies as a product of the Iberian peninsula.
Cafe Sevilla is obviously capitolizing on the whole "Tapas" trend and the unsophisticated palates of countless tourists, service members and locals who lack options in authentic Spanish cuisine or much experience. Jamon Serrano sells for around $25 per pound while Jamon Iberico de Bellota sells for around $100 per pound. It doesnt take a genius to figure out what's going on at this unscrupulous and disreputable establishment. To add insult to injury they slice the Jamon on a common coldcut slicer, the slices are far to thick to be enjoyable and the temperature is to low to allow for the fat to soften and the bouquet of the meat to peak. If you do feel compelled to order the Jamon plate please insist that it be cut tableside and by hand. Look for the black hoof and ask to be shown the Denomination of Origin seal which should be branded into the side of the Jamon and hanging just beneath the hoof.