Over at Cueva Bar in University Heights, Chef Oz has a special thing going for Saturdays. He calls it “Saturday Lunching”, a time to encourage his patrons to slow down, take it easy, hang out and enjoy your friends, family and especially the food. I was recently invited in to check out the Saturday lunching menu.
The day we visited Cueva Bar was a very, very hot day – somewhere in the 90’s. It was refreshing and cool to step into Cueva Bar with it’s cooling atmosphere. The dark tones helped make us think it was cooler than it was and the cozy cushions on the bench seat made it feel homey and welcoming. Jake and I felt like we were tucked away in a secret little spot.
[saturday lunching menu]
This is the special Saturday Lunching menu – a mix of breakfast and lunch items and Mexican specialities. Chef Oz told us that this was the old menu and that a new one would be coming out soon.
[new english / black lager]
Our very friendly and welcoming waitress offered us some beverage choices and Jake decided to try out some beers. She told us about the New English beer and then gave him two little samples to try. On the left is the New English Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Ale. Phew, that was a mouthful. I discovered that is a local craft beer made by New English Brewing and after it’s brewed, it hangs out in bourbon barrels for 6-8 months. It looks on the darker side so I wasn’t sure if either of us would like it, but actually we enjoyed it very much. It was much lighter tasting than it looked with that hint of whiskey in the background. It also smelled really, really good. It had a nutty smell to it, almost like when you’re browning butter. The New English beer was our favorite of the two. So much so that I don’t remember anything about the second beer which in my notes only say “Black Lager”. Not sure which company makes this one, but I was too impressed by the New English to remember.
I went with a Hibiscus Sparkler, which is hibiscus tea mixed with champagne. It had a lovely fruity flavor and, more importantly, bubbles! Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!
[bacon and goat cheese stuffed dates / $7]
Jake and I started off our meal by sharing an appetizer of stuffed dates. I love the sweetness and chewiness of dates and these were no exception. The creamy goat cheese was paired with some smokey bacon to create a yummy little treat full of flavor. There was also a spicy little kick which tickled the back of your throat, but didn’t linger.
[macaroni and cheese with crispy brisket / $12 + $2 for brisket]
Jake and I can never resist trying out macaroni and cheese. Cueva Bar’s version is made with five different cheeses: mozzarella, asiago, romano, cheddar and Parmesan. You have the option of adding a little something something extra, either chorizo, bacon, brisket or cherry “matos” (tomatoes). We choose the brisket and asked if the brisket could be a little on the crispy side.
From the bottom photo above you can see that the macaroni and cheese was loaded with brisket! You got a little bit of brisket in every bite which made for a very rich and quite tasty treat. I loved the addition of fresh herbs sprinkled on top which gave it a brighter flavor. The only downsides were that the mac n cheese was a bit oily (due to the brisket, perhaps) with a little pool forming around the edges. Also, this combination of cheeses makes for a lighter cheese flavor but that made it pair better with the brisket in my mind.
[oz’s machacado / $13]
There was only one item on the menu named after Chef Oz so we figured that was definitely an item to check out. It’s called Oz’s Machacado. Machacado is tradtionally a shredded dried beef and here at Cueva Bar is it made with beef brisket. There’s a bit of a sauce on it and it has a deep, rich flavor. The homemade tortillas were my favorite part and I like soaking up the meat and sauce with the tortillas.
[pork belly chilaquiles]
Our favorite dish was this one – the Pork Belly Chilaquiles. I hadn’t tried chilaquiles before and I really enjoyed this. It was almost like nachos to me as I tended to just eat the chips on top that were still crunchy while Jake polished off the lower, soggier, sauce covered chips. This was wonderfully delicious with bits of oozing cheese and deliciously tender pork belly peeking out from every corner. Yum!
[la meztiza / $6]
We were seriously full by this point but I could not in any way pass up trying La Meztiza. I asked what it was and I was told it was a cookie but man, it felt like much more than that! There were flavors of cinnamon and chocolate in the warm cookie that was surrounded by two scoops of vanilla ice cream. The cookie had that par-baked feeling to it (like when you undercook your cookies on purpose in the toaster oven – I’m not the only one that’s done this, right?!) as it was kinda gooey and chocolatey in the middle. Then there’s this little hint of spice of tickles the very back of your throat as a little kick but then the ice cream helps cools it back off. The outside had a nice crispiness and I simply adored this dessert. I’d go back just to eat dessert…
All in all we had a wonderful time visiting Cueva Bar and would definitely recommend it! Their normal menu consists of mostly tapas dishes so we’re interested in checking out the other offerings in the future.
2123 Adams Ave.
San Diego, CA 92116
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine here and our meal and drinks were complimentary. All opinions stated here are my own.