When I was a child growing up in San Diego, just about every Friday night my parents would take me out to dinner at the Stardust Room in Clairemont. The restaurant was a classic 1960s steakhouse—darkly lit, with cozy red Naugahyde booths and a round piano bar in the middle of the room.
My parents would order martinis, and I would have a Roy Rogers, to accompany our steak dinner. The meal started with an appetizer of kidney beans in vinaigrette, followed by a salad with blue cheese dressing (I always got Thousand Island). The restaurant had a warm, fuzzy feeling enhanced with light background music, conversations and laughter. It was a delicious weekly outing that we all enjoyed, and now is a cherished memory for me.
Maybe those of you who grew up in Lemon Grove had a similar experience at Por Favor. For 38 years, the family-owned restaurant delivered traditional Mexican cuisine in a pleasant setting full of nostalgic decor. I remember visiting Por Favor in the late 70s—it was the go-to place for margaritas and antojitos Mexicanos. Everyone liked the spacious patio that was enclosed on four sides, but open to the sky. It was the scene of many Sunday brunches and parties, including the . The place had a decidedly comfortable feel, from the colorfully painted walls chock-full of old photos, to the reliable and tasty food.
Patch reader and longtime Lemon Grove resident Joseph Monroe was the first to inform me that Por Favor was closed and a “for sale” sign had gone up in the window. He remembered many meetings and social gatherings there over the years. Monroe reminded me that before it was Por Favor, it had been Jansen’s El Amigo restaurant. He also told me that Por Favor’s La Mesa and El Cajon locations remain open, which he has verified with their managers.
Monroe lamented the number of businesses, particularly dining establishments, that have gone away in the Grove. He has been eating regularly at for 40 years, and doesn’t know what he would do if it closed. Monroe hopes that when the downtown redevelopment is completed and the economy improves, more sit-down restaurants will open. Me, too.
Unfortunately, we have become a culture of grab-and-go eaters. When you think about it, where can you go in this city to enjoy an evening out with family and friends for a nice meal? The choices are slim. The scene has changed, and not for the better. It’s hard to believe that Lemon Grove was once home to a very good French restaurant called The Blue Man.
There are some bright spots on the Grove’s dining horizon: . The restaurant has recently expanded and opened Coop's Chow Hall in a space just across from its Lemon Grove Avenue location. And a new restaurant on Broadway called Copacabana is set to make its debut soon.
But what about the Por Favor site? Something with live jazz on weekends, and local microbrewed beers would draw customers countywide to little Lemon Grove. The big Lemon is nice, but we sorely need a new vision.