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“You’ve got oh, about six minutes,” says Sarah. “We close at 9:46.”

Sarah Mattinson. It’s her place, so she should know.

This was in Mission Beach last night. I’d just popped into the Olive Café (805 Santa Clara Place, at Mission Boulevard, 858-488-1224).


It was about 20 to 10. Fifteen minutes before my #8 bus was due.


The Olive Café had looked so cheery and inviting from across Mission at the bus stop...


...White forties-looking place with French doors opening up onto a deck with tables, umbrellas, flowers. I suddenly remembered: this had been a Turkish cafe where you could get great cookies, great teas, and even have your tea leaves read. The lady also sold blue glass amulets, good “eyes” to ward off the evil eye and bad luck. In the Turkish tradition. Think her name was Ozlem.

But best of all was that scrumptious Turkish coffee. Big flavor in little cups. It made you want to linger longer.

Except the business has long since been bought by Sarah. Not only that but she also bought the next door restaurant on the corner and turned it into an ice cream parlor extension of the Olive. And where the main café closes at 3:00 p.m., this ice cream part obviously stays open late.

Me, I’ve just got myself a single scoop of butter rum pecan ice cream ($3.25). Should be able to slurp it down before the bus turns up. It’s good, too. Comes from Niederfrank’s, the ancient ice cream makers of National City.

So I’m working at the softer parts when it hits me.

A business that closes at…9:46? What thu…?

“You close at…9:46?” I ask. “Or do you mean like, around ten?”

“No,” says Hannah, her assistant “We close at 9:46.”


Hannah, Sarah

“Uh, 9:46? Not 9:47?”


“Every night?”

“Every night.”

This is when a bunch of students and vacationers from Arizona suddenly turn up puffing away because they ran to get here before it closed.


They must have heard about the closing hour. They start hovering over the buckets of ice cream, arguing flavors.

So I’m just about to ask “Why 9.46?” again, when it starts.


It’s the nightly firework explosions from Sea World nearby. I look at my watch: 9:50.

“That’s why,” says Hannah.

“We just like to be outa here before this starts,” says Sarah. “And they’re always on time. Nine-fifty exactly.”

“Also because our customers want to see them,” says Sarah, “with an ice cream in their hand. Best view is a couple of blocks across.”

Man, it’s close enough to sound like World War Three, if you let your imagination loose. I quickly gulp the last of my ice cream, and head across the road.

Now if the bus could just be as precise…


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Ian Pike Aug. 10, 2012 @ 12:41 p.m.

I've been meaning to try Niederfrank's ice cream since a reader mentioned it to me. How do you find it stacks up against the competition, like maybe as compares to Cow-a-Bunga or something?


Ed Bedford Aug. 10, 2012 @ 12:52 p.m.

I like it. Pecan flavor was great and I think they use real milk and don't blow it full of air bubbles (as newer machines do, at least according to their website). They've been at it since 1948, I think. And I reckon they're at least as good as Mootime. You and I should go down to National City and spend an afternoon sampling so we could become real authorities on this...duty calls!


Mary Beth Abate Aug. 10, 2012 @ 3:57 p.m.

I volunteer to go along in case you need a tiebreaker.


Ed Bedford Aug. 10, 2012 @ 7:06 p.m.

Okay, maybe we should do a serious search for the Best Ice Cream in 'Diego. This could take weeks.


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