By Kelley Carlson
Cafe Sevilla is a dining and entertainment venue seemingly straight out of Spain in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp District. The tri-level establishment showcases architecture with a Moorish influence, with arches and texture variations ranging from stone to wood to marble.
On the dimly lit main level that is bathed in a red glow, guests casually socialize around tables while being scrutinized by the statue of a bull standing guard over the bar. Dangling from the immense ceiling is possibly the largest chandelier in Southern California, according to Michael Miller, restaurant manager. Meanwhile, the sounds of live music enhance the vibrant atmosphere — gypsy fusion, traditional flamenco and Latin pop — can be heard nightly, starting at 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. weekends.
Patrons can watch the action below from the mezzanine, where chairs and tables line the edge. Tables draped in white linen are set slightly farther back, providing a more traditional restaurant setting. Sculptures of flamenco dancers and ships encased in glass accent the room, and a large wine rack decorates the back wall.
Below the main floor, in Sevilla Nightclub, the focus is on dancing. Cafe Sevilla’s flamenco dinner shows are strong and rhythmic, powerful yet graceful. Friday nights feature gypsy fusion, while Saturdays are more traditional flamenco. The area is dramatically lit in colors like red, green and blue, while a mirror ball in the center adds a playful touch. Guests enjoy a prix-fixe menu, including the famous Spanish dish of Paella Valenciana, with mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, chicken and grilled Spanish sausages in saffron bomba rice.
“An extravagant menu” with “flavors that are explosive” is served all evening long at Cafe Sevilla, according to Miller. The signature tapas bar includes items such as Tortilla Espanola, with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and goat cheese; Warm Aged Goat Cheese with grilled bread; and Grilled Chicken Skewer.
There are about a half-dozen choices of empanadas, including Cheese & Chorizo, Beef and Wild Mushroom. Among the entrees are Black Paella Tapa, with black bomba rice and seafood; Filet Mignon Chilindron, with mustard paprika sauce and mushrooms; and Lobster & Seafood Bisque.
Children’s menus are not offered at Cafe Sevilla, but kids are accommodated, Miller noted. Brunch is available on Sundays, with an array of items from fresh waffles to Seared Ahi Tuna Bites to Herb Marinated Salmon with Lemon Caper Sauce, along with salads, tapas and a chocolate fountain.
Perhaps the most popular item at Cafe Sevilla is the pitcher of sangria. Miller said that during the restaurant’s recent closure (as it was preparing for a move from Fourth to Fifth Avenue) most of the venue’s Facebook posts asked, “When will you open so I can have some sangria?”
For a fun night on the town, Miller recommends coming late, enjoying dinner and listening to three hours of “amazing artists,” or perhaps taking a salsa lesson at the downstairs nightclub, where patrons “dress to impress.”
For a more intimate experience, he suggests making reservations in the mezzanine. Out-of-town visitors may appreciate the flamenco dinner show. “Most diners are going out to have dinner,” Miller said. “We provide so many other options.”
While Cafe Sevilla tends to be consistently busy, he said that early dining is more relaxed. But by 9 p.m., “it’s an amazing, lively atmosphere,” Miller said. “At times, it rivals the club.”
Address: 353 Fifth Ave., San Diego
The Vibe: Lively, casual
Signature Dishes: Wild Mushroom Empanada, Brocheta Mar y Tierra, Tortilla Espanola, Warm Aged Goat Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms al Ajillo
Open Since: 1987
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday; 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Patio Seating: No
Take Out: No
Happy Hour: Yes; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday; 4-7 p.m. and 11 p.m. to close Monday-Saturday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story. This week: Café Sevilla’s Brunch Paella