Prawn Star, Ol' Yello' Mary, and California Greenin' at Cafe 21
Cafe 21, Downtown and University Heights
I've searched high and low, from the east coast to west coast and everywhere in between on my quest to find the best bloody mary. Day drinking debauchery, some not-so-tasty bloodys, and even a two day, eight brunch Bloody Mary tour of San Diego, have all been a part of my quest to find the best. I may not have tried all the bloodys in the land, but some of the better bloody marys I’ve ever had are from Cafe 21.
Cafe 21 has not one, but three incredible bloody marys, all made from the freshest ingredients and completely from scratch! That's right, even the juice itself is made #farmtobar; fresh and sourced from local and sustainable produce. Fresh, to death.
Red, yellow, or green? It’s hard to choose where to start when I love them all equally! Okay, I lied, Ol’ Yello’ Mary is my favorite, so I’ll start there! The Ol’ Yello’ Mary was my first introduction to Café 21, and what an introduction! It was a gloomy day in San Diego, and this shining yellow bloody mary brightened my day in an instant. With the first sip, my taste buds came alive and the brightness invigorated my soul. You see, the Ol’ Yello’ Mary is made from fresh yellow heirloom tomatoes. That’s why it tastes so pure and refreshing. The minimal spices add just enough contrast and balance, and the salt brings out the natural flavors of the tomatoes. It is beyond tasty!
The California Greenin’ was my second experience with Cafe21. I hosted my monthly bloody mary brunch meetup at their University Heights location on Adams Ave. It was my first time trying a green bloody and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it! California Greenin’ is made from fresh tomatillos. FYI: Tomatillos are not tomatoes at all (even though some mistake them for green tomatoes). The California Greenin’ bloody mary is also incredibly refreshing, light, and you can see the seeds floating in the glass. There is a slightly bitter and acidic taste that is balanced by the sweetness of tomatillos. Fresh garlic and salt added to the mix really elevates this bloody to the next level. At the University Heights location, the bartender uses spiralized veggies for the garnish. I could see the bar back using the spiralizer to create the garnish in front of me, it doesn’t get much fresher than that!
The Prawn Star Bloody Mary was a part of my latest visit to Cafe 21’s downtown location, on my bloody mary tour with The Drunken Tomato. It is as over the top as the name, but the juice is made from red tomatoes found in traditional bloody marys. The juice is vibrant and bold and puts any canned or jarred tomato juice from the store to shame. I thought to myself while drinking it, if red had a taste, the Prawn Star would be it! There is a slight tang and acidity to the bloody, and like its counterparts is salty and fresh. The most outrageous part of the bloody mary is the garnish! The bloody gets its name, “Prawn Star,” from the entire prawn that is on top! Luckily, our amazing server gave us a three-minute tutorial on how to take it apart and get to the part you eat! It is definitely the star of the show. I could see people at the other tables pulling out their phones and taking pictures!
I can’t say enough about Cafe21 and how much I appreciate and love their from-scratch bloody marys. Each is unique in their own way. However, the bloodys are minimally seasoned. In this case, less is more. The manager explained to me, “they let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves”, and oh boy they do! All are topped with an garden of vegetables and a multi-cheese grilled cheese mini-sandwich. The food is equally as fresh and tasty and is locally sourced (I highly recommend the Meze Board.) The bloody marys are available daily! #winning. The bloodys are also 21% off daily during happy hour! If you haven’t been to Cafe 21 yet, I’m telling you, you need to go immediately!