Well now this is awkward for Apple: for the second year in a row, an engineer from the tech company has apparently lost a prototype of next-generation product at a Bay Area drinking establishment. This time the watering hole in question is Cava 22, a local margaritas, mariachis and free chips joint on 22nd Street in the Mission. CNET reports:

The errant iPhone, which went missing in San Francisco's Mission district in late July, sparked a scramble by Apple security to recover the device over the next few days, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype was bought by a gadget blog that paid $5,000 in cash. This year's lost phone seems to have taken a more mundane path: it was taken from a Mexican restaurant and bar and may have been sold on Craigslist for $200. Still unclear are details about the device, what version of the iOS operating system it was running, and what it looks like...

A day or two after the phone was lost at San Francisco's Cava 22, which describes itself as a "tequila lounge" that also serves lime-marinated shrimp ceviche, Apple representatives contacted San Francisco police, saying the device was priceless and the company was desperate to secure its safe return, the source said.

Using the phone's built-in "Find My Phone" feature, Apple and SFPD apparently traced the device to a home in Bernal Heights. The resident admitted to being at Cava 22, but said he had no knowledge of a missing iPhone and willingly allowed SFPD to search his place. The cops came up empty handed, but Apple's hapless recovery team reportedly, "offered the man money for the phone no questions asked," according to CNET's source.

Although we previously reported on some potentially fresh designs for the iPhone 5, other gadget blogs are now saying the prototype is running updated innards similar to an iPad 2, but the exterior is virtually indistinguishable from the current iPhone 4. Which could explain how it might have ended up on Craigslist. Last year's incident, you'll remember involved an iPhone 4 shrouded to look like an older model.

As for when this thing will get an actual release date: Based on order Apple has put out to it's parts suppliers, most of the tech speculators have put that date sometime in October for a pre-holiday release. It would make sense then, that a couple of the devices were being tested out in the wild.

Hat tip: Bernalwood