Perfect! Delicious food, great service... a good time

Categories: Cozy, Good for Anniversaries, Neighborhood Gem, Gluten Free Options, Notable Wine List, Good Vegetarian Options, Spicy, Bar Seating, Romantic, Good for a Date, Tapas, Vegan, Fit for Foodies


Reviewed 10/20/2019·Visited 10/18/2019·would recommend

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Categories: Romantic, Cozy, Casual, Good for a Date, Gluten Free Options, Neighborhood Gem

How have I never reviewed this place as I frequent Cueva Bar at least two times a month.  First off, to address one of those low star ratings:  

@Abe, sounds like you didn't have a good experience, which is unfortunate but to attack the owner of the restaurant as being ageist and calling him a caveman are way out of line.  Not to mention the fact that you obviously have 2 accounts on yelp and copied and pasted your review from 4 months after your first one, but I digress.

As far as parking, depending on the day it could get a bit busy around the area, but have always been able to find parking in the neighborhoods down Alabama or Mississippi, which is just about a block away.  Just think about it as getting a little extra exercise for the day and a couple minutes of enjoying the beautiful San Diego weather!

As for the restaurant itself, it is very cozy and cave like (re: dim lighting and pueblo-style interior) and yes there are only about 10 tables inside and 2 outside, which makes this place very intimate and perfect for date nights and small group meet-ups as mentioned in other reviews.  Since there isn't much real estate, I would highly recommend you calling ahead to reserve a table, even if you are to believe it to be a slow night.

I have seen in some of the other reviews that sometimes the items they are looking for on the menu are no longer there and I run into that scenario sometimes, but there are a core group of dishes that are always on the menu such as the empanadas, tacos, and guacamole tower.  I learned that the reason this is is because of the experimental nature of the head chef and owner, Oz.  He always has moments of inspiration, creates a recipe, then attends farmers markets to insure he is getting the freshest ingredients to cook for his customers.

That being said, yes sometimes the food takes a bit longer than you would like sometimes, but that is because your food is made to order.  You are paying for quality after all.  So if you are hangry before entering Cueva Bar, I would suggest eating a quick snack before arriving, order some sangria or one of the rotating bottles of wine or beer and relax and enjoy the ambiance.

The people behind the bar are super sweet and will do everything they can to accommodate you.  Yes, sometimes it can be busy and there may be just one or two people running the restaurant but if you can be patient and enjoy the company you are with, you will have an amazing time.

I'll end this review with a fun fact:  I found that Chef Oz (owner/manager/person you see behind the bar most nights) was a contestant on The Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen twice!  No joke, look it up!

Be advised: Reservations might get you a seat at the bar. We made a reservation for 4 ppl about 45 min. before we arrived. Even though there was a 4-seat table open, we were forced to sit at the corner of the bar. Why? "There was a 4-seat reservation for 30 minutes later that had been made a couple days in advance". The bartender claimed that the other reservation had specifically requested a table - perhaps they had made the same mistake we did, not specifying they wanted a table their first go around. But how? There isn't an option on Open Table when making a reservation? Isn't that the whole point of making a reservation? To be sat at a table? There were two gentleman working the bar/dining area that evening. One of them was wearing sweat pants or pajama bottoms. The other gentleman, who took our order, sat on the customer side of the bar after our drinks were made, and returned to service when the bill was presented. My dads beer had blotches of tiny bubbles on the inside of the glass, well below the head, or "froth" a normal beer has, which indicates soap residue. The food was fine and we escaped for about $45/person. Overall it wasn't a good experience. I wont be going back, or recommending this to a friend.

I came here with my friend off a whim and we were so pleasantly surprised with 1. How great the food was and 2. How homey this place felt. I can’t remember his name but the gentleman was so friendly, from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out. This establishment prides itself on giving everyone who walks in the neighbor feel. My friend actually lives two blocks away and he yelled out “neighbor” but didn’t exclude me. He took care of my dairy allergy, he was attentive and we loved listening to all the conversations he had with all the other guests. This place was great, get the empanada! We’ll be back!

Categories: Fit for Foodies, Hot Spot, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List

Maldonado Jaime

Jul 29, 2017

Was really impressed with the great quality of food but too bad for the poor customer service ruined my experience for the evening. Place was not packed at all in the restaurant and yet could not get the waitress or waiter to ask if we needed more food or more wine or have my glass of water refilled. I had to ask each time for the waitres each time we needed assistance. I left restaurant thirsty and not happy at all how poorly we were treated, but food was great but will not returning again. Happy returning customers need good customer service, good food and fair prices for them to come back! Too bad you guys struck out in good customer service.


Jul 31, 2017

Mr. Maldonado,
It sucks that you feel this way. It is our daily goal at Cueva Bar to offer a good enjoyable experience with both the food and the service. We believe both food and service go hand in hand. As such, all of us at the front of the house feel confused by your feedback. During your visit at Cueva we visited your table not just one, or twice, but a few times checking in to make sure you were having a good time. Every time we visited your table we asked and/or offered if there was anything else we could get for you or your wife. Even almost at the end, when Salam check on you again is when you both asked for the bread pudding as your last dish.

In regards to drinks (not water) we don't like asking directly to our customers if they want wine or beer as we feel it might be too pushy, and we believe our guests will request additional drinks when we ask them if there's anything else we can get for them. (which we did, at least two times each of us in the front of the house).

In regards to water, it is the law in California that water is only served when the guest asks for it. This law passed a couple of years ago due to our recent drought. We even exchanged a good laughs about having to change my language from English to Spanish with between tables.

We hope you and your wife will give Cueva Bar another chance and know that anyone working at Cueva Bar works hard to offer a great experience to all of our guests.

Best regards,

Oz Blackaller
Executive Chef/Owner.

"Whenever we have a family member volunteer to watch our daughter, this is our go-to place for our dinner date. We enjoyed every dish that we order whenever we go there. The sangria is very yummy. It’s not as sweet as most sangria. The pour is about 5 ounces, no ice or fruit so it makes it look like you didn’t get that much. However, after a couple, you’ll start to feel very happy. The other wines are good too. The prices are not cheap and portions are small (since they are tapas), but the preparation of the food is well thought out and well prepared. Go and enjoy your date night out without the kiddos."

Very delicious. Came last night with a good friend and was blown away. We had the fingerling potatoes with sausage, the carrot mole sope, squash taco. All flavors were dancing on my tongue, perfectly seasoned and very different flavors. I don't normally care for sausage but the andouille sausage is delicious at this place. Definitely coming back.

Cueva Bar is Chef Oz’s approach to the concept of Tapas with an essence of Mexican cuisine, known for continuous reinvention and embracing evolution, where food is prepared in a cosy, relaxed and inclusive atmosphere without the white table cloth element, just a purely human relationship fostered by those who dine in the all are welcomed neighbourhood gem.

Letting the inspiration flow and keeping balance in mind, Chef Oz marries Mexico’s ingredients and flavours with elements from around the U.S and the world using local-organic produce and vendors to produce both delicious and healthy dishes that have little to zero impact on our environment.

Cueva Bar in San Diego California offers world-inspired tapas by Mexican-Gringo, Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen alumni Chef Oz. Fusion tapas inspired menu with plenty of omnivores, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

Our happy hour is from Tuesday to Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm. Happy hour offerings are $2 off tapas and $3 off all drinks by the glass

We're located in the eclectic University Heights neighbourhood

Small, quaint little wine bar. Friendly bartender and great tapas and small plates with latin flavors. Definitely would recommend to every San Diegan and anyone visiting San Diego. They even have few local San Diego craft beers on tap too, not a huge selection, maybe 4 or 5 but still a good selection.

I met with friends here for a wine tasting and Oz provided a great and educational presentation of wine. The wines were absolutely delicious, I fell in love with a sparkling red wine from Italy. The vegan mole was spicy and good, the vegan pizza was amaaaaaazing, and the mushroom kabobs were good. It's a snug and cozy space with a bar and some tables behind the bar.

We parked on the street and walked here.

Yelper review for @Cueva Bar 

"Beautiful restaurant with amazing food and wine. I have no idea how i have just heard about this wonderful place but I cannot wait to be back and introduce others to its magic." Sara G.


94 points Wine Advocate The Camigliano 2015 Brunello di Montalcino sees fruit from a 50-hectare vineyard planted 300 to 350 meters above sea level. The soils show lots of variation with clay, sand, rock and marine fossils. The wine's bouquet reveals classic Brunello characteristics of wild berry, forest floor, pressed rose petal, crushed stone and spice. You also get those typical balsam and herbal tones that are so specific to Montalcino. In fact, I argue that they come across with even more intensity in a beautifully balanced and sunny vintage such as 2015. This wine ages in 60-hectoliter botti for 24 months, making for a firm yet surprisingly streamlined mouthfeel. Drink 2021-2033.

94 points James Suckling A bright and elegant Brunello that suggests sliced oranges, tulips and rose petals. Medium-to full-bodied and finely structured, drawing on silky layers of tannins and a vibrant edge of acidity. Drink now or hold.


Castiglion del Bosco

97 points James Suckling Wonderful aromas of flowers, plums, terracotta and white pepper. Intense, yet ever so subtle. Medium to full body, firm and silky tannins and a long and intense finish. Shows excellent length. Drink after 2021.


Col d'Orcia

93 points Wine Advocate The Col d'Orcia 2015 Brunello di Montalcino (made with organic fruit) has a very distinctive aromatic profile with subtle hints of rusty iron and moist potting soil. However, this wine also shows an impressive evolution in the glass with those earthy and sanguine notes lifting to reveal sweet oak tones of vanilla and baking spice that remain pronounced in a second underlayer. To me, Col d'Orcia's wines are almost always characterized by a medicinal or balsamic element, and the primary fruit is downplayed as a result. This vintage puts on a good show with wild berry, blackcurrant and dried blackberry. That said, this wine is more ethereal and spicy than it is fruity per se. Drink 2021-2038.


Fattoria dei Barbi

96 points James Suckling Ripe plum and cherry aromas with dried flowers and spices. Some lavender and cedar, too. Full bodied, tight and chewy. Needs time to soften and come together. Better after 2022.

94 points Wine Advocate The Fattoria dei Barbi 2015 Brunello di Montalcino is a extremely polished and precise expression that hits all the right buttons for those seeking a classic expression of Sangiovese. In appearance, the wine shows a bright ruby hue with brilliant garnet reflections. The bouquet is tempered and shy at first, but it opens quickly to reveal those characteristic aromas of wild berry, candied cherry, licorice and pressed blue flowers that are so beautifully tied to this mighty Tuscan grape. Drink 2021-2035.



97 points James Suckling Excellent ripeness of fruit here with glazed strawberries, blood oranges, red licorice and dried spices. Superb density and focus to the centre palate, which is layered, ornate, plush but balanced. The finish goes on and on with nutmeg, tar and saffron. Wonderful length and intensity. Drink from 2024.

93 points Wine Advocate The Fossacolle 2015 Brunello di Montalcino shows a prominent mineral note of crushed stone and talc powder. It becomes a fitting segue to more typical aromas of wild berry fruit and balsam herbs. There is some firmness or tannic bite on the close that suggests extra cellar aging is required. Even just a few years should be enough to shave it off. This wine is tightly coiled and inward-looking at this early stage in the game. The finish is structured and angular, but it just needs to open. Fruit comes from a 2.5-hectare vineyard with full southwest-facing exposures. Drink 2021-2035.


Frescobaldi “CastelGiocondo”

97 points James Suckling This is a pure and beautiful Brunello with super fine and abundant tannins that are comprehensive and expansive. Builds on the palate. Full body. Round and firm with beautiful fruit and length. Lively and vivid. From organically grown grapes. Needs a year or two to soften, but already gorgeous.


La Poderina

94 points James Suckling This has a lifted, toffee quality to it with hearty Christmas spices, spearmint tea, dried boysenberries and strawberry jam. The full-bodied palate has stocky, robust tannins that coat the mouth in layers of nearly overripe fruit and sweeping alcohol. But a dash of acidity on the finish reins in this powerful Brunello. Drink from 2023.


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