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What's up with the Big Kitchen (San Diego)?

We had breakfast at the Big Kitchen yesterday ... first time in about 2 years. Food was ok but not as good as I remembered. But more important, the service was dreadful. Terrible. They weren't THAT busy, in fact by the time we left the rush was totally over. One breakfast arrived stone cold and another only barely warm. We had to ask for salsa. We had to ask twice for our toast, on order didn't arrive until after we were finished, in fact, after they had delivered the check! Our coffee was refilled frequently, but our water never was. Did we hit a bad day, or has this place gone downhill?

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  1. I stopped going there a long time ago, the food is so..so and the coffee is putrid.

    1. I think you must have gone there on a bad day. I have always had great food and service at the BK. Give it another try.

      1. Many San Diegans love this place. It is most certainly a local tourist attraction. But everytime I talk to someone else about it, I get the feeling that they compliment it more for the fact that it was an excuse to take a side trip to visit South Park. Which is nice, it's good to drive out to other little neighborhoods.

        I live just a few blocks away from it, so I don't get to have that "let's try something in a different neighborhood" perspective. I've been there more than my fair share. The owner Judy is a very nice host, which can't be stressed enough. She really is great. But overall the food is just not very good. The preparation, the presentation, etc. And yes, the coffee there is just flat awful. Really really bad. And I wish that I could say something nice about the service, but apart from Judy, there's not much to write home about. Believe me, I'm as liberal as they come, but even I don't always want to order breakfast from a tatted up waiter who doesn't look like he's showered that day. Junk chic is fine, but it's not for everyone. And then you look at the old mis-matched silverware and how oddly dirty that back patio is and you start worrying about the whole cleanliness issue. Not to mention the fact that the place STILL only takes cash, which will never stop being absurd.

        But that's just my .02 cents. My faves for breakfast include Cafe 222 downtown, Influx in Golden Hill, and Honey's up in Encinitas. Zanzibar downtown gets honorable mention, but the service there is waaaaay too slow. Still a nice experience and the food is good though.

        1. I love the Big Kitchen! My boyfriend and I actually go there every Saturday (Saturday is a way better day to go out for breakfast in San Diego, I think- not as busy!) for our eggs, potatoes and toast. It's become kind of a ritual...anyways. I can see how your experience would be upsetting. Every once and a while, Big Kitchen has an off day. They can be quite busy at times, although it sounds like your visit wasn't too busy. But also, they don't work to the same old tune. That's what I love about the Big Kitchen. You should give them another shot! But I'm obviously a bit biased. : )

          1 Reply
          1. re: jesso

            Big Kitchen reminds me of Cheers. Sure there are better bars with better beer and better drinks but there is something comforting about going to the same place that hasn't changed in decades and yes, everyone knows your name. The food is fine, the service is fine, the prices are fine -- nothing earth shattering but never a letdown. Something to be said about the status quo -- especially those mornings when nursing a hangover. Besides, they have a frakin Opus the Penguin out front and, well, "Bloom County" rules!

          2. BK has never been a place to go for the food. It's essentially a community gathering place that happens to have food. The food's not offensive or anything, just nothing special.

            That typed, the place itself IS pretty special. Many business deals, relationship moments, political discussions, broke moviestars-to-be, and the ubiquitous Judy. And has served as a community vortex for years, well before the 30th street corridor was littered with culinary options, and one could purchase a home nearby for under $100k.

            Yes, I'm an old guy.

            Does that disqualify it for chowhound status? I don't think so.

            1. Was the service ever good? It's charming and quirky, a real neighborhood place with a lot of character but in all honesty the food and service have never impressed me. If you go, bring your patience and sense of humor, enjoy the atmosphere and soak up the local color.

              1 Reply
              1. re: juantanamera

                I don't know that the service was ever good. OK would be OK. The service was spectacularly bad, which is why I wrote the post. And I have been gong there since 1994 so I'm on the same page as BK's defenders ... again that was why I was concerned. I don't think anybody would feel very tolerant about a cold breakfast arriving, and then not getting the accompanying toast (also cold) until AFTER the bill had been presented (and everyone's plate was clean).

              2. When I moved to South Park, proximity to Big Kitchen was something that I was excited by, until I had three or four really mediocre breakfasts there. I think it's one of those places, like El Indio, that survives more on its history than the quality of its food.

                1. I went to Big Kitchen today for the first time. The food was good, but not great. Our toast was also delivered after the food arrived and it wasn't warm enough to melt the butter. The butter wasn't even that cold, so it should have melted easily. We also had to ask for salsa. My companion ordered one pancake, because the menu said if you can finish one pancake the second is 1/2 price. Having eaten recently at Hash House, we imagined a pizza sized pancake. It was a fairly normal sized pancake that was quickly finished. The service wasn't bad, but not great either. I'm glad I tried it, but I most likely won't return.

                  1. Larry Himmel visited The Big Kitchen last week, and his report pretty much says it all:

                    Big Fun At The Big Kitchen
                    While the gentrification of Golden Hill continues, the Big Kitchen remains locked in a self-imposed time warp thanks to Judy Forman, aka Judy the Beauty, who's still on duty.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: greeninker

                      Funny, I'm pretty sure the Big Kitchen is in South Park, not Golden Hill.

                      1. re: juantanamera

                        Himmel is old school like that. He even still thinks he's funny.

                        1. re: juantanamera

                          You're right. South Park is considered a neighborhood within "greater Golden Hill," but Judy The Beauty is old-school, so she insists on telling folks she's in Golden Hill. The South Park Walkabout is coming up Sat. March 28, 6-10pm. See www.southparkscene.com.

                      2. How does BK compare to the Huddle in Mission Hills on Goldfinch? I love the Huddle. Its cheap and very basic, but if you want a basic breakfast then that is the way to go.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: LaurenZ

                          I'd give the nod to BK simply because of variety and atmosphere. Huddle's a couple blocks away from me, and I won't go there.

                          1. re: LaurenZ

                            BK costs a bit more -- they give you huge helpings and wonderful home-fried potatoes, plus toast. Much more atmosphere and interesting than the Huddle.

                          2. The Big Kitchen is the place I always take my friends for great food and a great time. I've never experienced anything but delicious and lasting memories here. I love this place and so do a LOT of other people. For a place that is in the middle of nowhere.. there's always a waiting list. There's a critic everywhere. It saddens me to hear anyone dishing the Big Kitchen. This one woman show is the best San Diego has going for it. Everyone who knows the lady who runs this show loves her too. If you haven't been to the Big Kitchen, go. You'll be glad you did. :D

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: gioleedy

                              It's very nice that Judy is a South Park icon. It's very nice that Whoopi Goldberg worked there. It's very nice that the menu is bursting with personality. It's very quaint and kitschy and eclectic.

                              But the food is really not so bueno. I don't get this weird attitude of homerism in San Diego. It's so pervasive and it's really strange. Just because this place has been there forever doesn't make it good. It really doesn't.

                              When I moved to South Park I ate there many times, and tried a lot of stuff on the menu. Finally, after my 10th mediocre yet expensive plate of food, I gave up. I can't believe there are lines to eat here.

                              And to say it's the best thing San Diego has going for it is honestly insulting to all the places really striving to do good food in a town that doesn't support it.

                              1. re: gioleedy

                                Can't say I agree, been many times, I think the best thing I've had is the blueberry pancake, lots of blueberries in the huge cake. Judy is very bubbly and out there but, the food is meh, prices are high, for a cash only operation, and the coffee is not worth drinking. Ever since Ratchel Ray visited and plugged it on her show $40. a day it's gotten worse.

                                1. re: cstr

                                  Wow, can't believe that place would be on anyone's list of bargain food spots.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    Totally agree, SD has a good supply of breakfast spots far better, like Parkhouse Eatery.