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Hobnobbing at the Hob Nob

It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, two days after “Black Friday,” a term originating (according to Wikipedia) with the Philadelphia PD in the 19th Century to denote this holiday’s weekend traffic that is a bitch to police. In weeks I will turn 59 years old, and I find myself with a menu in my hand at Hob Nob Hill, at 2271 First Avenue at Juniper Street.

Hob Nob has attracted much publicity over the years and recently was featured on the Food Network. I didn’t see it. And if Mr. Bedford has recently written about it, I am unaware. No matter, anyway, this is no restaurant review. I do not even get to coffee this particular morning.

The seating capacity for HN must be close to 200, and some ten to a dozen folk are waiting for tables, though I am assured by some pleasant staffers (the pleasantry key in HN’s appeal) that this is far from heavy traffic for a Sunday around 11 a.m. I find I am recalling my first visit to this establishment sometime in the early ’80s, when I had first moved from New York to Curlew Street, up the hill.

It had seemed to me (and this, through shredded gauze of memory dressings) a feeding place for the elderly, much like the Chicken Pie Shop, near my then-new home (long since relocated — both my home and the restaurant), and that the menu consisted of food that was almost exclusively colorless: white or beige. My then-wife shared a memory with me of the basement of a hotel in Pocatello, Idaho, where my country/Top 40 band was engaged for two weeks. We played the bar upstairs but were advised of the early-bird specials below, patronized largely by seniors. It would seem their fixed incomes compared with, say, Top 40 band-musician budgets. The image of dentures and gums, mashed potatoes, white corn left unattended on the plate, fish or chicken, deep fried and with a pale, floury sauce, milk or a tan coffee, apple pie with a prison-pallor crust — these details provided our 26-year-old selves with the laughter of the immune.

It now occurs to me, still breathing hard after a small hill on the walk over, that less than a year from now, considering lung congestion and the faulty ticker, that I might well be waiting for my name to be called for a table while seated on this same sofa, taking up two seats...one for myself, another for my oxygen tank.

The two seats to my left are in fact taken up at the moment by a young couple, reminiscent of that couple in Pocatello in 1972. Ryan Chambers is, he says, 27 years old and Katie LaFollet, 25. “I guess you could say I’ve been coming here for 20 years, but I left for college up in San Francisco. This is probably my first time back to Hob Nob in maybe ten years.” This is LaFollet’s first visit to the restaurant. “I live at Fourth and Laurel,” Chambers says.

“I live at Fifth and Maple,” says his friend. Neighbors to each other, but there are certainly other dining choices near them. Chambers has made a point of bringing his brunch date here, it would seem.

The food? “I really like the food,” Chambers says.

On my trip to the men’s room and back, I had noticed the plates of seated patrons sported multicolored foodstuffs: tomatoes, fruit, and vegetables. Even clay-colored frijoles and cheddar cheese offset the popular biscuits and gravy, and Cream of Wheat or oatmeal, and the memory of Hob Nob as a sea of white gruel for the toothless. The most expensive item seemed to be filet mignon and two eggs at $15.25. “One thing I like is that they write out the price in cursive. I haven’t been back in so long, I guess I’ll find out if it has improved.” Chambers does point out the larger number of patrons under 60 than I recalled from years ago.

Chambers and his friend get up when their name is called, and several women of age replace them next to me. Beverly Shipe is a fine-looking senior from Escondido. “I’ve been coming here for 10 or 15 years. We don’t have many places like this. It’s something special.”

Hob Nob’s origins involve Harold and Dorothy Hoersch in 1944 and their opening of a 14-stool lunch counter called the Juniper Café. In 1946 it became the Melody Grill, then Dorothy’s Oven, and finally Hob Nob Hill, San Diego’s oldest restaurant in the same location.

I turn to a new arrival, introduce myself, and ask her name. “I don’t like your politics,” she smiles and turns away toward the women’s room.

I stand there open-mouthed, wondering what they are.

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It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, two days after “Black Friday,” a term originating (according to Wikipedia) with the Philadelphia PD in the 19th Century to denote this holiday’s weekend traffic that is a bitch to police. In weeks I will turn 59 years old, and I find myself with a menu in my hand at Hob Nob Hill, at 2271 First Avenue at Juniper Street.

Hob Nob has attracted much publicity over the years and recently was featured on the Food Network. I didn’t see it. And if Mr. Bedford has recently written about it, I am unaware. No matter, anyway, this is no restaurant review. I do not even get to coffee this particular morning.

The seating capacity for HN must be close to 200, and some ten to a dozen folk are waiting for tables, though I am assured by some pleasant staffers (the pleasantry key in HN’s appeal) that this is far from heavy traffic for a Sunday around 11 a.m. I find I am recalling my first visit to this establishment sometime in the early ’80s, when I had first moved from New York to Curlew Street, up the hill.

It had seemed to me (and this, through shredded gauze of memory dressings) a feeding place for the elderly, much like the Chicken Pie Shop, near my then-new home (long since relocated — both my home and the restaurant), and that the menu consisted of food that was almost exclusively colorless: white or beige. My then-wife shared a memory with me of the basement of a hotel in Pocatello, Idaho, where my country/Top 40 band was engaged for two weeks. We played the bar upstairs but were advised of the early-bird specials below, patronized largely by seniors. It would seem their fixed incomes compared with, say, Top 40 band-musician budgets. The image of dentures and gums, mashed potatoes, white corn left unattended on the plate, fish or chicken, deep fried and with a pale, floury sauce, milk or a tan coffee, apple pie with a prison-pallor crust — these details provided our 26-year-old selves with the laughter of the immune.

It now occurs to me, still breathing hard after a small hill on the walk over, that less than a year from now, considering lung congestion and the faulty ticker, that I might well be waiting for my name to be called for a table while seated on this same sofa, taking up two seats...one for myself, another for my oxygen tank.

The two seats to my left are in fact taken up at the moment by a young couple, reminiscent of that couple in Pocatello in 1972. Ryan Chambers is, he says, 27 years old and Katie LaFollet, 25. “I guess you could say I’ve been coming here for 20 years, but I left for college up in San Francisco. This is probably my first time back to Hob Nob in maybe ten years.” This is LaFollet’s first visit to the restaurant. “I live at Fourth and Laurel,” Chambers says.

“I live at Fifth and Maple,” says his friend. Neighbors to each other, but there are certainly other dining choices near them. Chambers has made a point of bringing his brunch date here, it would seem.

The food? “I really like the food,” Chambers says.

On my trip to the men’s room and back, I had noticed the plates of seated patrons sported multicolored foodstuffs: tomatoes, fruit, and vegetables. Even clay-colored frijoles and cheddar cheese offset the popular biscuits and gravy, and Cream of Wheat or oatmeal, and the memory of Hob Nob as a sea of white gruel for the toothless. The most expensive item seemed to be filet mignon and two eggs at $15.25. “One thing I like is that they write out the price in cursive. I haven’t been back in so long, I guess I’ll find out if it has improved.” Chambers does point out the larger number of patrons under 60 than I recalled from years ago.

Chambers and his friend get up when their name is called, and several women of age replace them next to me. Beverly Shipe is a fine-looking senior from Escondido. “I’ve been coming here for 10 or 15 years. We don’t have many places like this. It’s something special.”

Hob Nob’s origins involve Harold and Dorothy Hoersch in 1944 and their opening of a 14-stool lunch counter called the Juniper Café. In 1946 it became the Melody Grill, then Dorothy’s Oven, and finally Hob Nob Hill, San Diego’s oldest restaurant in the same location.

I turn to a new arrival, introduce myself, and ask her name. “I don’t like your politics,” she smiles and turns away toward the women’s room.

I stand there open-mouthed, wondering what they are.

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Comments
38

LOLOL! Thanks, Brizz. :)

Jan. 6, 2010

I keep wondering who it was with this bad attitude in there. Many of the servers (all female) live near the Hob Nob, as do I, and they are the nicest ladies around, smiling and chatting with one as they go to and from work. One of them lives across the street from me, and when I come out with a cup of tea and she with her little dog, we always chat. She knows our problems with the Hob Nob's food--yes, all grey and beige, and well-described, Brizz!

At any rate: Brizz, we would love to hear from you. Give us a call, eh?

Jan. 7, 2010

Well, I would have enjoyed hearing Mr. Brizzolara muse on how the food tastes, then and now. "Time is the fire in which we burn" and all that.

As for politics in a public place, boy have I seen people be braying jackasses on both sides of the Divide. And usually the intensity of the argument is proportional to a lack of knowledge of the subject matter---again, on all sides. I am reminded of the old Victorian story that follows.

It seems that a number of Victorian fellows were in their gentlemen's club one evening, enjoying port and cigars. Soon, the men began arguing about religion. One gentleman, however, said nothing.

Finally, one of the debaters turned to his silent colleague, and asked "Why are you not engaged in this debate?"

After a pause, the quiet gentleman said "Mine is the gentleman's religion."

"And what, pray tell, is that?" asked the first man.

"Gentlemen do not discuss religion," came the calm reply, punctuated by a puff on a fine cigar.

The woman was rude to JB, no question.

I'm with SDaniels, and I hope that John is doing well.

Jan. 7, 2010

My guess is that John introduced himself as John Brizzolara from the San Diego Reader. Short-sighted people presume that any writer that works for a publication represents whatever preceived politics the reader interprets from the publication. The only pieces I remember writing that brought angry and rude responses were political - not believing in the political process at all promises to be the only thing that could possibly unite the right and the left!

Jan. 8, 2010

Yep, you're right, refried. This person probably had some idea of "The Reader" in her head, and reacted to it. The scary part is that apparently there are those out there who think the Reader is identifiable as a left-wing paper (she could not possibly have thought it was right-wing, because it could not have been right-wing enough for her--remember, this is the HOB NOB, of nursing home food and elderly, reactionary politics).

Jan. 8, 2010

I've met more Dems than Reps who say they abhor the Reader.

I have a Reader sticker on my laptop, and while helping San Diego Democratic campaigns in 2008 I repeatedly was told off for that. They said things like, "How could you support such a fascist rag!"

This is because the publisher is a staunch Catholic who donates to pro-life causes.

They completely ignore the indisputable fact that there is little in the Reader that is right wing at all. On the contrary, I'd say it's content is leftish or even libertarian (sometimes libertine).

So when someone just makes a blanket condemnation of the Reader, I roll my eyes and dismiss whatever else they say...they're neither well-informed nor well-read.

Jan. 8, 2010

I don't see the Reader leaning in any one direction, politically. Sure, there are certain writers and contributors that share their political beliefs, but it's too esoteric when compared side by side to make a judgement either way.

Jan. 8, 2010

But that's just it--the Reader (happily) isn't wholly identified with its owner's politics, and maybe partly Brizz's point when he scratched his head, wondering what his own politics were--the Reader is just not one thing or another. I'm hard pressed to pin it down, because happily, it's so far been let to pasture, to graze here and there without becoming too fond of one point of view. I hope it stays that way. I have always appreciated that European cities tend to have at least one each of a leftist, a central, and a conservative-right paper, but it is nice to just have a paper to blog on where one can be political or no, whenever s/he desires. I think of it mostly as a neighborhood corner cafe, just a place to chat. --Not like that fasist Hob Nob of the uniformly beige food! ;)

Jan. 9, 2010

oopsy: "fascist"

Jan. 9, 2010

The nice thing about The Reader is it is not “owned” by the downtown San Diego establishment. The good old boys (and girls) developers, pro-sports owners, and such have little influence with the Reader.

Jan. 10, 2010

SDaniels...no! You've committed a Godwin! Aaargh!

:-)

Jan. 10, 2010

On the other hand, JB does bring up his own politics in his columns from time to time. Maybe the lady was a devoted reader of JB's columns. Sort of like Kathy Bates in "Misery"?

Jan. 10, 2010

I identify more with Godwin's daughter and her protags, but I'll bite: What massive metaphysical error have I wrought, o Fred? ;)

Jan. 15, 2010

SDaniels, it's the word "fascist". See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

BTW: I got nothing but love for you, my friend...even if you don't want that necklace I so "generously" offered. :-)

Jan. 15, 2010

"Two cinderblock liquor stores are planted across from the Hob Nob, which in Victorian English means ‘numbed senior palate.’"

From SDaniels' blog, which I just re-read for like the tenth time.

Jan. 15, 2010

re: #14: Reductio ad Hitlerum!

yay and yikeroo at the same time! But is it a Godwin if one compares using the more general term "fascist?" And when the topic is left/central/right?

Thanks in any case for letting me in on that one, Fred--am I ever gonna use it, too. I had the wrong Godwin ;)

I love you too, Fred--even if you don't stop by Zales (I refuse to consider that other possibility--we'll let sleeping girlfriends lie). ;)

Jan. 25, 2010

re: #15: Ahhhhhh. Sweetums.

Jan. 25, 2010

...and I guess it is time to start worrying about Mr. Brizzolara again. I just hope he is well and as happy as he can manage.

Feb. 2, 2010

He has to come back. I can't live without him.

Feb. 2, 2010

re: #18: Lord, Eric, I need to do that thing I said I would. Will write.

Feb. 2, 2010

i love this restaurant...the Roasted Lamb on Sunday is to die for...Lamb with mint jelly taste much better then politics

Feb. 2, 2010

And at this point, we can only hope that John is warm and dry and not alone.

I miss my friend. So take a moment, right now, and tell one person who is dear to you that you value them. That they matter.

Feb. 14, 2010

I'll take that moment, and tell YOU, Eric, because your friend won't. You are an amazing friend, and not well deserved by all.

Feb. 14, 2010

Helloooo John! Are you there? Miss you.

March 11, 2010

Gosh, it's been since January 6th that he's posted.

Brizz, are you out there?

March 11, 2010

I had a talk with his Ex-wife the other day. She said he recently got out of Scripts for some heart condition. I haven't heard from him in months as well. I hope all is well.

March 11, 2010

Yeah, Curtis, all of us Brizz fans wish him well, but only Brizz can save himself. He has to care about himself before he can care about us. Within a few weeks, I think I'm going to ask the Reader to rep that column in his stead. I won't be as good as Brizz, but regardless of how much I drink, I'll be there every week they want me to contribute.

March 11, 2010

I'm afraid we've read the last T.G.I.F. penned by The Brizz. I, for one was thrilled to have lived with him while he was sober, as well as having his genius available for conversation. I know this reads like a eulogy, but it's not . . . . . . . .yet.

March 20, 2010

Damn.

March 20, 2010

xians, what's up with the cryptic non-info?

March 20, 2010

This makes me very sad. What's happened to him?

March 20, 2010

I know nothing for sure, but I do know John. I also know the disease.

March 20, 2010

True, xian, and you are yourself truly an inspiration, with all of the work you do to help others suffering from that very disease.

What I am hoping for John is that he will one day accept the help he needs--this has been said here many times, so I feel ok repeating it.

What I am hoping for the TGIF comment sections is that if we have information, we circulate it privately--not here.

John has been pretty clear on the fact that he would like to be the one to reveal details of his life in his writing--when he deems appropriate--and he has been nothing if not very generous in that regard.

I say we show appreciation for him by exercising some discretion, and continue to allow him to control what reaches the public about his life. He would be grateful for that, and it's the least we can do...

March 20, 2010

Things may indeed be dire. But I would rather hope for the positive. Sooner or later, bad news becomes truth, but Cassandra was a bore at parties, metaphorically speaking.

John Brizzolara has been through awful situations long ago, worse than this, and recovered. Maybe that will happen here. Maybe not. I know which I would rather hope for.

And pray for.

Just my two cents. No one at all can replace John Brizzolara, Different, maybe. But it wouldn't be TGIF without him.

Fingers crossed.

And the most important thing? John Brizzolara never gave up on me. Ever. So out of respect for that man, I will continue to hope (and pray) for the best.

March 20, 2010

"John Brizzolara has been through awful situations long ago, worse than this, and recovered."

That's good to hear, Eric. John has surely had many good friends, but none as good as you, that is for sure! Obviously, I hope for recovery for John, but I also send good wishes and thoughts to everyone connected with him. I hope Xian is not impressed upon to become your counterpart here in SoCal. I hope his son is well cared for in his absence.

Like gringo, I am not the praying type. But I do something that is like prayer, and constantly send forth positive thoughts for all.

March 20, 2010

I am rather of a different opinion. Although I love him, the end for our hero was inevitable, the powers arrayed against him were intractable, insurmountable, inescapable, and yet, appropriate. Well meaning folk espouse the “help” that he supposedly needs... What help is there for an artist executing their vision? Did Van Gogh need help? Did Poe need help? Such artists express themselves in all the human anguish that makes them great! John’s achy musings on life are his masterpieces; there is no help for such vision. Although some might think he could be cured or that they could take his place, in my opinion no one else could fill that particular achy void. And yet there is hope. Those with his affliction have a strange way of living on well beyond the predictions of the wise. When John is truly gone, I for one will miss him and celebrate him!

March 22, 2010

Well, ma'am, them's some very fine words, I'll be duly honored if you'd do my eulogy as well. 'cept he ain't dead quite yet.

March 22, 2010

hope to see u around here soon John

March 22, 2010

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