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Nov 16, 2004 08:02 PM

Is Santa Cruz burning? Where is Juanita?

  • k

I've been spending some time in the East Bay recently and heard for the first time about Juanita and her stay at Port Costa.

Juanita, I've heard was a former madame who opened a number of restaurants around the Bay Area. She has been described as an ample person of both size and personality whose menagerie of animals wandered around the restaurant.

Each of her restaurants mysteriously burned. After hearing the story, I sought out her last location in Port Costa ... a place I had never heard about before and is a challenge to find.

It is called the warehouse cafe and from discriptions, the eclectic atmosphere hasn't changed since the days of Juanita (circa 1980).

An inquiry revealy that Juanita only worked here and did not own this actual joint ... or to quote the bartendress when asked if Juanita was the proprietress replied "Did it burn down?"

I can only recommend the Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa for brew, color and challenge to locate. Definately an R rating, so if you have a delicate nature, I wouldn't go.

Here's the food question. When asked if Juanita still lived and worked, I was told there was an article in the Contra Costa Times about her colorful past and current future. Can't find it.

Seems she (plus current menagerie) was about to be evicted from her Richmond apartment. A Santa Cruz restaurant owner rescued her and her animals. My question is...

Is Juanita currently gracing a Santa Cruz eatery?

p.s. Anyone have the link to the Contra Costa Times article?

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  1. I don't have a link to the CCTimes article but did you know that there is a book about her? JUANITA! (the madcap adventures of a legendary restaurateur) written by Sally Hayton-Keeva. with an Intoductory Interview with Herb Caen. Sagn Book publisher. 1990 almost 300 pages worth of stories/background and some interesting photos....

    1. Hmmm...Juanita sounds like a colorful lady...I've only lived in Santa Cruz for a couple mos. now, but have not read, heard, or seen anything of her presence in SC or environs. If I catch anything on my radar worth reporting, I'll let you know...Hope she doesn't open yet another taqueria here.

      1. Jeez, you find the most interesting stuff :-))

        Keep looking and reporting, I love what you always seem to unearth.

        1 Reply
        1. You've got me curious, too. I called the Sausalito Historical Society (which was taking the contributions mentioned in the GAW article in Melanie's link) but they weren't answering the phone. This is the first I have heard about Santa Cruz, and I'd love to find out, since I get there once in a while now that my stepdaughter is a UCSC student.

          I'd suggest you post again on the SF board (a new topic, with Juanita visible in the subject line). Her prior restaurants were, after all, in the SF sphere of influence as Chowhound defines it.

          I tilted a few at the Warehouse Cafe (and at the nearby Bull Valley Inn) in the early 70's, but that was when Juanita was still up in Sonoma.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Gary Soup

            Thanks Gary. Under my Cliff House post, Melanie linked me to your post from a few years ago. I am guessing that she has moved to Santa ROSA and not Santa CRUZ after all.

            The bartender at the Warehouse Cafe was where I heard the Santa Cruz lead. However, I think she just made a mistake about the city.

            After finding out from your link to the 2002 article in the Chronicle, I found out her name is Juanita Musson and I had a few hits on Google.

            It seems there is an out of print cookbook called Juanita’s Eat It or Wear It Cookbook. Don't know if this is the same as Juanita! : The Madcap Adventures of a Legendary Restaurateur by the same author published in 1990.

            This blog has a Juanita siteing in Santa Rosa on New Years day of 2004. It also has other Juanita stories.


            This is the author of the book mentioned above. Info about Juanita is the fourth question down.

            I am guessing from the info on the blog that she is not currently associated with a restaurant.


          2. It was rumored in the '60s that Juanita's restaurant fires had something to do with an old squeeze who happened to be an insurance guy. I certainly hope so. Her cooking was ... well, to be in her presence was more than enough. What a lady!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bosko

              Juanita was evicted from her cabin in Aqua Caliente in 2001.
              Chris Smith of the Press Democrat wrote a few
              articles about her which can be found through the archives of their website.

              Chris Smith/Press Democrat
              Oct. 13, 2002
              AFTER YEARS OF BIRTHDAYS on which nothing much happened, the once-notorious Juanita Musson is going to Sausalito today to celebrate her 79th in style.

              ``Farley'' cartoonist and Sausalito-lover Phil Frank will MC a sold-out luncheon honoring the formerly hard-drinking, hard-hitting restaurateur and her place in the town's history. Forty years ago, when Sausalito wasn't so precious, people went to Juanita's cafe hoping to see her smear a plate on someone's shirt.

              ``People would go just to watch her, and to get insulted,'' remembered Sausalito's Leon Galleto, an instigator of the birthday bash.

              Juanita left Sausalito for Sonoma Valley, where she ran several restaurants famous for their huge servings and free-roaming wildlife, including a blind rooster and a white pig.

              Folks in Sausalito presumed Juanita was long dead until they read earlier this year that she was being evicted because her funky old cabin in Sonoma Valley was being torn down. Sober and slowed, she lives now with a friend in Santa Rosa.