Cueva Bar happy hour tapas - San Diego, CA

I'm so appreciative to have a great food community here in San Diego. As soon as I asked where to go celebrate, I received several suggestions. Cueva Bar was on my to-do list but with renewed recommendations from two friends, I knew this was the time to finally stop in for a bite!

entrance to Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

Cueva Bar is almost hidden away on a quiet street in University Heights. The entrance is under the stairway but you can already spot the artsy appeal of this tapas bar from the outside.

inside the restaurant Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

A long bar inside allows visitors to order drinks and mingle with others. The opposite wall has tables with cozy cushions or arched chairs for a more private affair.

big cheers at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

We sat outsite on the small patio though there was a brief chill that evening. Since it was a celebration meal (my first raise in two years), we ordered a round of drinks. My white wine was peachy, crisp dry and appropriate for an afternoon sip. The hibiscus sparkler seemed to have a tea / wine mix feel with a more tart base but Dennis detected a slight metallic taste to it as well. Since we were here during happy hour (5-6:30pm), both of our drinks were only $5! Cheers to that!

D' Adobada tacos at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

D' Adobada tacos ($5 hh, $8.50) - Braised chicken, simmered in a spicy tomatillo sauce, garnished with avocado, cilantro, cotija cheese and pickled onions.

There were plenty of options for happy hour foods too so multiple items were ordered. These chicken tacos were winners with a lovely char atop moist chicken chunks. The pineapples added just a touch of sweet while the pickled onions gave a nice contrast against the creamy guacamole.

Norteno Flatbread at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San DiegoNorteno Flatbread at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

Norteno Flatbread ($5 hh, $13.50) - House pork chorizo, garlic oil, mozzarella, cilantro garnish

It's surprising that these are reduced to a third of the price before 6:30pm! Deal hunter in me said yes to this bread. Once again the pickled onions were well received plus we delighted in the addition of savory chorizo toppings. The oval flatbread had a thin crispy crust with more prominent toppings. Two of these could be enough for a light meal!

Guacamole Tower at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

Guacamole Tower ($5 hh, $8.50) - Avocado, cilantro, jalapeños, red onions, lime juice,tortilla chips

The guacamole seemed more like a chunky avocado tower with very light lime zest and salted well. It carried a light flavor (but not heat) from the jalapenos. Chips were perfect with that soft crisp that doesn't hurt the roof of your mouth but still keeps it crunchy (similar to La Puerta).

D' Andouille Sausage at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

D' Andouille Sausage ($5) - Grilled Andouille sausage, caramelized onion jam, warm focaccia

This sausage skewer gave off a peppery heat. Underneath each end was a dense but soft foccacia that paired well. The corners of carmelized onions were very sweet, almost as if they were soaked in sugar instead of vinegar like the rest! The temperature was surprisingly chilled as well. Carmelized onions did help cool off the minor heat of sausage like a palate cleanser.

Portobello Mushroom at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

Portobello Mushroom ($5 hh, $8) - Portobello cubes, brushed with a spicy and tangy soy sauce, garnished with a piquillo/gorgonzola relish

I'm always interested in portobello mushrooms so this was next on our list to try. The cubes had a char flavor with a spicy tang on the outside and were juicy and squashy in your mouth. The cheese really gave it that unique oomph of salted creaminess for each bite. I also found myself scraping off tasty balsamic glaze from every plate we ordered. All the flavors were unique but still unified somehow.

D' Camaron tacos at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

D' Camaron Tacos ($9) - Sautéed shrimp with diced onions and jalapeño, melted crispy cheese,avo-slices pickled onions, and cilantro cream

Despite being regular priced, this highly recommended shrimp taco made it to our table as well. This one seemed more packed with ingredients than the other set of tacos. The citrus zest was so playful against the pickled onions. The shrimps had a seared touch that happily pow-wow'ed with the rest of the taco. Dennis thought the shrimp was slightly alkaline but I didn't notice anything in mine. We were quite happy to have added yet another "winner" to our meal.

Beef Brisket Empanada at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San DiegoBeef Brisket Empanada at Cueva Bar in University Heights of San Diego

Beef Brisket Empanada ($7) - Braised brisket, sautéed onions and  mozzarella cheese

Our second non-happy hour item was the beef brisket empanada. That golden toasted crust had us drooling ASAP and it tasted like a sweet layer was brushed on before being baked. Star anise or some kind of cinnamon seasoning was on the meat which we enjoyed. The underlying meat was that fatty kind of delish you want to soak through into the doughy pocket. More please! On the side was an herby chimichurri sauce with a strong parsley taste. Dennis was dipping everything into this!

Arriving right at 5pm on a Sunday gave us a little peace and quiet on the patio as people slowly drifted in. Our initial rounds of food came out quickly and kept us wanting more. It only slowed down a little once the dinner folks filled up the place. I can't believe we missed out on this cozy nook for so long but now it's easily a top pick! Cueva Bar is open Tuesday - Sunday from 5pm to 9 (or 10pm on weekends). This restaurant is sure to please for happy hour, an evening with friends or even a mini-celebration like ours. Do you have a go-to spot for tapas? 

Cueva Bar
2123 Adams Ave
San Diego CA 92116
(619) 269-6612

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Mary 's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Mon, 04/09/2018 - 6:35pm

I haven't been back here in awhile so perhaps it's time for a revisit! That empanada is calling out to me! I'd also like the tacos more without pickled onions, haha. Great meal and congrats on your well deserved raise!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 04/10/2018 - 10:19am

omg if this were closer, i'd be here every week! hopefully we get something cool like this in our neighborhood one day. and mary, sometimes pickled things DO work (though we both generally dislike it haha).

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table's picture
Submitted by Laura @ Sprint ... (not verified) on Mon, 04/09/2018 - 6:59pm

That was our go-to in San Diego! I would eat literally anything on that menu and Chef Oz is such a great guy. It's one of those places that just feels like a hug.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 04/10/2018 - 10:19am

i love that description... a "hug" ! might steal it for my IG post haha! i hope you have a similar tapas spot in Atlanta!

Becca's picture
Submitted by Becca (not verified) on Tue, 04/10/2018 - 1:11pm

That flatbread...and the sausage...AND the portobello (I'm kind of obsessed with portobello anything and all mushrooms, really!) This has been added to my list!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 2:16pm

let me know if you want company! i'd be down to go again! ;)

Faye's picture
Submitted by Faye (not verified) on Wed, 04/11/2018 - 1:46pm

Oh gosh that's a short happy hour :( The empanada looks AMAZING. I would come here just to try that. Great pics!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 2:17pm

it's short but the restaurant hours are short too (5pm to 9 or 10pm). so officially, the restaurant is on happy hour at least 30% of the time! haha. you should totally try it though!

MrsSbf's picture
Submitted by MrsSbf (not verified) on Fri, 04/13/2018 - 9:28pm

Everything looks delicious, as usual! Now I'm hungry AND I want to go to San Diego! :)

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 2:18pm

san diego is a great spot! i'd love to go travel around to your city one of these days too!

Ina's picture
Submitted by Ina (not verified) on Fri, 04/13/2018 - 10:52pm

That looks yummy, I wish it close by our place here..

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 2:19pm

i wish it were walking distance from home haha! i'd be here all the time if that were the case!

Autumn's picture
Submitted by Autumn (not verified) on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 4:13am

Wow! This place looks amazing. I wanna try every single thing you did - I'd probably need several towers of that guacamole, though! 

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 05/01/2018 - 11:01pm

we missed out on this one cheese dish that was really recommended so i already know there's even more stuff to try on our next visit! mmm, getting hungry!

mandy's picture
Submitted by mandy (not verified) on Sat, 04/14/2018 - 3:20pm

That all looks SO good! If I ever make it to SD, will try to stop by! Guacamole tower- are you serious? Awesome! And the chicken tacos look great too!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 05/01/2018 - 11:00pm

we were so pleased with how delicious everything was! you should definiltely bookmark if you drop into town!

Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness's picture
Submitted by Nicole @ Foodie... (not verified) on Mon, 04/23/2018 - 7:27pm

That portobello dish and guac tower look right up my alley! I enjoy a good happy hour & wish I could make it out to happy hour more often - I always seem to be working on working out at that time. Congrats on your raise!!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:59pm

all the good happy hours require a little more driving for me, else i'd have more posts! if you're visiting SD, this is a great choice!

HollysBirdnest's picture
Submitted by HollysBirdnest (not verified) on Fri, 03/08/2019 - 7:17pm

Wow another great place to eat!! I will be in San Diego soon and I am bringing my appetite!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 11:45am

it really is a great spot to stop in! hope you add this to the priority list! :)

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