Por Favor Is No More

The longtime eatery has closed its doors in Lemon Grove.

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.

Angela Carson Dean April 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
my grandmother who is now 94 worked as the bookkeeper at El Amigo's for a long time..... great memories sad to see it go :(
David Brammer II April 03, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Lemon Grove sucks due to it's politicians who favor low income housing and beefing up the "Homeless Mover" area aka trolley area. They paint street instead of paving them and the library is older than Angela Dean's grandmother!
James Davis April 03, 2012 at 10:37 PM
David, I dont think anyone 'favors' low income housing. Its a fact of life that to be a city in California and receive funding and grants from the state, a certain percentage of housing must be set aside. The homeless mover is indeed that but is also a way for people to get to and from places that are not homeless. If more people took the trolley, like any other major city which has homeless, then they would simply be ignored. As far as the library is concerned the good news is that they ARE building a new library along with the new Middle School.
Lemongrovelocal April 03, 2012 at 11:05 PM
I am sad to see Por Favor leave. We loved eating there and. I think we need a microbrewery in that location. It's large, has a great patio area and is steps from the trolley. With the Promenade work anticapted to be complete by the end of this year, hopefully it will draw more people to our little city including some developers. David...Lemon Grove is getting a new library. It will be part of the new STEM middle school. Lots of development in Lemon Grove which to me is a good sign.
Corky Lang April 04, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I understand David's frustration when he looks around the city. It is easy to lash out at something you do not like. To find a positive solution to problems is a much harder task. Anger also raises your blood pressure...not good for longevity. That is, if you wish to live as long as Angela's grandmother. On a housekeeping note: Por Favor officially closed March 1, 2012.
Mark & Anne Stapleton April 04, 2012 at 08:25 AM
Sad news.
Chris Jennewein (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 02:25 PM
This is indeed sad news. I loved eating at Por Favor. The Patch staff would meet there at least once a month.
James Davis April 04, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I saw the for sale sign and it is disappointing. Does anyone know if the building is for sale, the actual business or both? There are clearly lots of changes going on in the area. The location is great and the open sky in the back is terrific. The place just needs a little TLC but would be terrific location for all of the suggestions in Corkys op and comments.
Helen Ofield April 04, 2012 at 07:15 PM
The building dates from the end of WW I and its Spanish Revival arcade reflects the cultural and architectural history of the town. The building was formerly owned by Tony Sonka and housed the popular Avalon Café, a drugstore, and, in the early 1940s, the Lemon Grove Library. The Historical Society has many photos of the building. It attaches to the Art Deco now housing Starbuck's and is an important site in local history. All of you are right to be dismayed--and your suggestions for a new restaurant, microbrewery, jazz club, etc., are terrific. Who wants to invest? Whom can we call? With so many musicians in the area (and in town), the place is a natural. Thank you, Corky, for the charming reminiscence.
Corky Lang April 05, 2012 at 03:11 AM
The corporate office told me the building is for sale...not sure what is inside. I vote for a brew pub with a great kitchen. Lemon Grove Lager anyone? Actually, I would prefer a LG I.P.A.
Christine Huard (Editor) April 05, 2012 at 04:48 AM
I can already see us sitting on the patio, listening to great local music, enjoying a frosty brew! We need a Hometown Hefeweizen with a juicy slice of lemon.
James Davis April 05, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Helen, always love your in depth contributions into the history of many of these spots. Christine, I couldnt agree more! Its borderline frustrating to see the potential. I am very hopeful that in the near future we will have events to really show that potential to outsiders or even locals that are looking to open a great business for a great location.
Debra April 05, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Let's think of this as an opportunity. Lemon Grove is "ripe" for change (sorry, had to do it) and I hope to see exciting new restaurants and retail opening in our little city. Lets make our town something worth driving to! Kensington did it, over 15 years ago, starting with a cool new restaurant (Kensington Grill). At the time people thought it was going to be another draw for trouble-makers and the owner almost didn't get a beer and wine license. Now Kensington has it's own unique appeal, it's become a destination, and the property values have gone sky high!
LemonGroove April 06, 2012 at 07:00 AM
Carnitas Uruapan has also closed their doors too and moved to La Mesa. El Amigo was there until the 80's-yucky. Then Por Favor came- Viva la Margarita!!! Por Favor will do better in La Mesa and in El Cajon, it's more open and they have nice outdoor seating. Whenever we went in here, about once or twice a month, it was practically empty, even though their food, service and prices were good. It's dark and I think a pub would be great!! Some contact Sam Chammas for God's sake!!!! He is a miracle worker. Let's not have anymore nail, hair, loan/money and tattoo shops and let's get back some retail money into Lemon Grove. Hey, why don't we extend our sidewalks so we can have a better walking area (Las Ramblas) and places for open air seating. It would attract the businesses we want, restaurants, pubs, coffeeshop/bookstores. Hey why not invite the food trucks in one Saturday night? Could you imagine a great pub crawl with one night in LG? Ooops I forgot no pubs. (I'm talking like the Whistle Stop or the Station), not like Dirks (no offense to DHSL). Incentives, incentives incentives. How about some funky vintage stores? Why do we have to go to South Park for most of this? I say we go 50's and bring back the soda shops. I was born in the 60's and grew up here and we (kids) never, ever had a place to "hang out" and spend our money. We went elsewhere, shoot, still do. The kids that were born in the 50's had places to "hang out". Ask them about Oscars and the Ace. :)
LemonGroove April 06, 2012 at 07:04 AM
Remember that we still need to raise funds for our new Library!! Donate books to the Friends of Lemon Grove Library, donate money or just buy some great books from them!! While your at it, donate funds to the Library so our children and youth will have a Summer program!
James Davis April 06, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Great comments grovian! Things to think about and start working on....
James Davis April 06, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Great point Debra. For those of us that have not been in SD for that long, looking at Kensington now, it would be hard to imagine it was like that once. Amazing what just a few people in a community can do with a little imagination and vision.
LemonGroove April 06, 2012 at 05:42 PM
If only I could....
R January 28, 2013 at 07:38 AM
I just moved back after twenty years.... The Blue Man used to be our favorite special place. And Andrew Kerr's health foods!


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