“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).
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Jerry Garcia never leaves
Don't dig political messages? This might not be the place for you...
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.”
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?