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“Look at that: Lucy’s here!”

She says it loud, with real enthusiasm. Everybody pays attention.

This is Judy the Beauty on Duty. It's her place.

And then her trademark phrase.

“Très bien, très bien!”

Honestly, for me it’s like – not to get all squishy and clichéd up - family. People next to you feel like distant cousins you haven't seen for years. You don’t really know them, but you talk anyway, just because you’re here at the Big Kitchen (3003 Grape, between 30th and Fern, South Park, 619-234-5789).

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Me, I get talking to the guy next to me at the counter. Mitch. Social media guy.

He’s just discovered this place, even though Judy says it's been 32 years now since she opened up and made this the activist heart of South Park.

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But what has my attention right now is Mitch’s home fries. Man. That aroma. I’m basically smelling rosemary, garlic, onion? Whatever, unbelievable.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” I tell Mark, the lanky server guy.

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Mark

And when it comes, it’s – hey: Whoopi’s Breakfast. Because, as the en-tire community knows, Whoopi Goldberg used to wash dishes here, before she got famous. (Judy says she worked on Whoopi to give up this day job and git on up to H’Wood.)

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Whoopi's successor Tim, dishwasher and rock guitarist, with Judy the Beauty on Duty

It’s basically two eggs (I got poached), about four rashers of bacon – way-thick – a mess of those potatoes, two thick slices of wheat bread, and a large glass of orange juice.

Have to say, the OJ is outstanding. Mark says they squeeze it right here, right now. Lord, that’s lip-smacking good.

But so are the potatoes. And truly, so is the bacon. “It’s 10/12 shingled bacon,” says Mark. “That’s about as thick as it gets.”

Uh, 10/12? Lower the numbers, the thicker, seems.

It’s all good, but really, the conversation is the thing here. I’m not sure about the other room (they have one big kitchen here with two small dining rooms. I’m in the one with the counter), but here, it’s non-stop.

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Jerry Garcia never leaves

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Don't dig political messages? This might not be the place for you...

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I get to talking to “John-Juan.”

“It’s John,” he says, “but 'John-Juan' is what Judy calls me. Judy has a big heart. I am diabetic. I have become legally blind. Judy has helped me so much. Taken me to the hospital, made sure I get good food, like this salad. I don’t eat what you’re eating anymore. She makes sure I eat good.”

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John

Wow.

The only thing is at the end, Whoopi’s breakfast costs $13.95, plus $2.75 for my endless coffee. Plus tax, that comes to $18. I mean, you do get the big, fresh OJ and the super-thick bacon, and those dreamy home fries. And they have cheaper choices, like $4.75 for one egg, home fries or rice and toast. Still, you might call the $20 I shell out for breakfast (including my mean tip) a Whopping Whoopi tab.

So sticker shock? Yes. But I like to think some of that goes to Judy’s many good causes.

Oh, and Lucy?

Now she's leaving.

"I have known Judy since the start," she says. "I practically live here. When I'm not here, my heart is."

Do people fall in love with their local eatery?

People do.

Comments
1

A lot of memories. A lot of work and joy. That Tot Lot next to the golf course? A lot of locals ate Judy's lasagna to raise the money to get that done. Nice musicians and ballarinas fell in love there. Well...you know...mazel tov, Big Kitchen!

Dan

May 6, 2012

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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