3003 Grape St, San Diego, CA | Directions 9210232.726428 -117.129873
Mon. - Sun. 7:30am - 2:30pm
Neighborhoods: Central, South Park, Central San Diego
The Big Kitchen and Judy Forman are both one of a kind, and this in itself makes the Big Kitchen worth the visit, even if you just sit for a cup of coffee.
But you just can’t sit; Judy “The Beauty on Duty” is more likely than not to engage you in conversation about her experienced and worldly past, or yours. Vietnam in the pre-war 60’s, The Philippines as a beauty queen, social work with gangs in Detroit, California State Legislature 2005 Woman of the Year for the 76th Assembly District, induction into the Women’s all of Fame, all of that is Judy, and more; trés bien, her refrain. I believe that is French for “it’s all good.”
The food is excellent. The menu is classic diner meets progressive world all at the same time. Breakfast and Lunch only. But this place is no longer really about the food alone. It is the cornerstone of a strong community where Judy, in words volunteered up by Stephen Rey, himself voted Best Blues Guitarist in San Diego four years in a row, says “ She is a tremendous philanthropist and therapist, she’s helped me for years as a single dad…my daughter eats for free.” But there are no single dad coupons or discount in general, it’s just compassion and love.
“We just flew in from Albuquerque and came directly here for breakfast,” said one young couple at a corner booth. They were leased that their kid was just handed the ‘Basket O’ Fantastic’ - toys, books and crayons – without even asking. “I bring a hello from Debra G. in Louisville,” says a counter bound customer, to which Judy roars with delight.
Of The Big Kitchen, she says herself, “it’s one of a kind, I couldn’t duplicate it if I tried. And I don’t want to.”
The kitchen is indeed big, and one must pass through it to get to the side room (where the big art covers the wall) , the androgyny room (that’s a restroom to the rest of us) and the back covered patio (cool and hip, it’s the place for me). Betty Boop, the Pink panther, Scooby Doo and Gang, Opus the Penguin, and other characters populate the place which is an artistic and pop cultural feast on the eyes.
The eye candy décor bends far left in comparison to the classic diner style of the food. So if your conservative politics are bigger than your appetite – you might need a suppressant before going in. You will more likely than not stay longer than intended, leave fuller than expected, and carry a happy glow, cured of what ails you, even if you did not know you ailed, when you go. Trés bien.
Small Dining Room – this place is a hidden gem its a great little breakfast spot. The chorizo omelet was great the home fries served family style. the friendly staff made us feel like we were at home. i love how they serve avocado with every thing in California.
There's no place like home ... or The Big Kitchen – Yes, I'm prejudiced because I'm such a regular, but that means I know The Big Kitchen all too well. That warm, safe, friendly feeling of coming home greets every visitor, from local to tourist, regular to occasional. The Big Kitchen is the essence of "community" -- political, music, arts, local, even spiritual -- and the homemade comfort food seems always to be just what you were looking for. The BK's email newsletter gives you a good idea of what's going on, why and when. Sign up while you're there. One correction to the Citysearch listing -- the Big Kitchen is open daily from 8am to 2pm. Yes, there's often a wait for a Sunday table, but there's free coffee and friendly conversation on the Grape Street Square while you wait.
how DO they do it? – When you walk through the doors of the big kitchen you are transported to another place in time. It might exist in the 40's, parked right up against a train depot in the dusty outback of san jose. Their sense of history covers the walls. Photographs of celebrities and politicians juxtaposed with friends and family, passerby's and patrons. The food is honest, no frills eats. I highly reccomend the tofu rancheros or world famous flapjacks smothered in whipped butter and warm maple syrup. Big kitchen is somewhat of a South Park cornerstone so be prepared to wait a bit on the weekends, the good news? there are plenty of shops and storefronts to keep you busy!
Get a slice of Haight-Ashbury with a side of home fries at Golden Hill's community cafe. – In Short
Northern California transplants will feel at home at this neighborhood breakfast and lunch spot. Located on a quiet street between earthy boutiques, Big Kitchen's inside dining area is covered with liberal posters, 70's memorabilia and knick-knacks from around the world. Sit down at the retro wood counter and order a hearty omelet with home fries or one of the popular sautéed veggie dishes. For lunch, ask about specials like the hot meatloaf sandwich.
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