Restaurants and Me

Over the years, I’ve been hard on restaurants. I’ve never meant them any harm, but whenever I mention a favorite restaurant in one of my books, they tend to go belly up shortly thereafter. Five notable exceptions who have managed to escape the J.A. Jance curse are Pecos Pit Barbecue on First Avenue South in Seattle, Bellevue’s Pancake Corral, Dirty Dan’s in Bellingham’s Fairhaven District, and La Piñata and Vincent on Camelback in Phoenix. Those are all still going strong.

The first of my hapless and blameless victims from back in the eighties was Girvan’s fine dining restaurant at First and Cedar in Seattle. Another was the Dog House. When I first came to Seattle, that was one of my personal favorite hangouts. The food was cheap but, as it said on the menu, “the tenderness of the steaks is not guaranteed.” The Dog House was open twenty-four hours a day, and it was a place where an unofficial truce dictated that both cops and crooks could dine at the same time without hassling one another. The non-smoking section was a single table in the middle of an otherwise smoke-filled room. As for the waitstaff? They were mostly middle-aged ladies who, with racing forms tucked in their apron pockets, were not to be taken lightly!

Many of my early grand opening book parties were held at the Dog House. With customers lined up around the block waiting to get inside, the waitstaff—tough broads under the best of circumstances—became downright surly. One evening after the signing was over, we took our small bookselling group to the back room where one of our party ordered the salmon. When the waitress brought our food, it was on platters stacked from her chin to her fingertips, and she dealt them onto the table like playing cards from a deck. When a plate slid to a stop in front of the person who had ordered salmon, she looked down at it and said, “This doesn’t look like salmon.” “It’s ham,” the waitress snapped back. “We’re out of salmon.” See what I mean about the waitstaff?

When the Dog House went out of business in the early nineties, it was the end of an era. Vito’s on Madison—another hangout where officers of the court, attorneys, and crooks all hung out together—finally kicked the bucket earlier this year. Bellevue’s wonderful Fountain Court vanished like a puff of smoke. So did the glorious Queen Mary’s Tea Room over in the University District.

Which brings me to Tucson’s Anita Street Market. Located in Barrio Anita near I-10, the Anita Street Market was primarily a tortilla factory that served food on the side. When we had our Tucson house, we often feasted on Barrio Anita takeout—green chili, red chili, refried beans, tamales, salsa and wonderful flour tortillas so thin you could see through them. If that sounds familiar, you might have just read about just such a takeout feast in my most recent book, Blessing of the Lost Girls.

Whenever we flew home from Tucson, we tried to bring along several dozen freshly made tortillas in our carry-ons. In fact, I was once pulled over by airport security because they were sure the package in my luggage containing four dozen tortillas was actually a bomb!

After all that, imagine my dismay when, this year, while attending the Tucson Festival of Books, I learned that the Anita Street Market was closed. Last week, thanks to a fan in Tucson, I learned what Paul Harvey would call “the rest of the story.” The reason the Anita Street Market went bust had nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with a crooked accountant who wasn’t paying the restaurant’s tax bills to the tune of $265,000 dollars.

The daughter of the owner is currently trying to bring this wonderful Tucson icon back from the dead. They’re not yet making tortillas, but they are serving food. My fan said that he and his wife went there for a choriso scramble for breakfast earlier this week and that it was delicious.

So if you’re in Tucson, consider stopping by. Maybe this time, instead of killing off a restaurant, my fans can help bring the Anita Street Market back from the dead.

43 thoughts on “Restaurants and Me

  1. Sorry to hear about your favorite eatery.
    Fortunately, in my area, we have had a few long-time eateries have survived despite COVID etc.
    If I am ever in that area, I will be more than happy than go to that eatery.

  2. A very common fraud by accountants and payroll processors is this: they will pay federal withholding, but not state. A couple years go by and, lo and behold, the business is six or seven figures behind. Lots of luck in trying to get back the money from the bad guys.

  3. I hate to see small businesses go under. I hope the daughter manages to bring the around. I live in the mountains east of San Diego in an area called Boulevard. You notice I say area, not town. Town implies a much more organized place. Most people in the San Diego area don’t even know.where Boulevard is. Our one claim to fame is the Wisteria Candy Cottage. It was founded in the early 1920s, so it is over 100 years old. It is right on Old Hwy 80, which was the.main road east from San Diego.In the 70s the freeway went thru. The Candy Cottage survived that. I don’t know if the freeway planners took it into account but there is an exit just a mile from the Cottage. On weekends, I have seen lines out the door. About ten years ago, it closed down. It was for sale for awhile, no buyers. Then a family member decided
    to take it over and it has been going strong ever since. So it can be done. Just don’t mention the Candy Cottage in a book! Ha ha!

  4. Talk about the ying and the yang, I liked both Girvan’s and the Doghouse. I no longer live in Seattle so thanks for the memories. Keep up the writing! Jim

  5. It’s hard to lose a favorite restaurant. I’ve lost a couple, including the Dog House. Not that I every ate there, but I knew it well from the Beaumont series.

  6. Well. There goes my hope of eating at the Doghouse if I ever came to Seattle! Ah, well, I’ll try to patronize small businesses in my own area.

  7. Made me hungry this morning…tamales, chillis, freshly made tortillas…

  8. When my aunt from Maine in the 1960s would spend a couple of months each year with us in Scottsdale, she became a fan of Mexican food, something unknown or at least unavailable in Maine. So when she returned home, she would pack as many taco shells as she could in her luggage. Some but not all would survive the trip.

  9. Definitely not a blog to be read on an empty stomach. I usually don’t have breakfast but was yearning for a good Mexican one after reading about the tortillas, tamales, chilies, etc. Yum! If I’m ever in the Tucson area I will be sure to visit. Do they do delivery – to California? Ha ha…

  10. The Queen Mary Tea Room is alive and thriving in the U District. My good friend treated me to tea in September. It was wonderful. I also spend time in Tucson and discovered Alejandro’s Tortilla and Bakery on S. 12th Ave. The tortillas are very thin and delicious. And I will try the Anita Street Market when we return.

  11. Curious minds want to know…what is the name of the fifth restaurant that fell to you curse? I only counted four in your blog.

  12. Queen Mary’s Tea Room in the University District is still open and doing great. My daughter took me there for my birthday last December. Google them.

    I’ll check my address list and if I know someone who lives in Tucson, I’ll be sure and let them know about Anita Street Market.

  13. THANK YOU for this vicarous pleasure MS. Jance, reading your writing blog about cafes, restaurants. I have celiac disease and can not risk eating out unless gluten free, safe (and there aren’t those in our small town in Oregon.)
    So just as I enjoy your books (LOVE Joanna Brady and enjoy Beaumont)
    really appreciated your column today on restaurants, and cafes and your supportive encouragement.

  14. What a great post. Laughed out loud about the salmon. I do have to say if you are the restaurant killer, I am very happy J P never went to Lil Jon’s in Eastgate which was across I90 from his office. I haven’t lived in Bellevue for 47 years, but every time I went to see my late parents, a trip to Lil Jon’s was essential. Last fall I was in town for a class reunion (Newport ’73) and made it to Lil Jon’s twice. Thanks for the memories.

    PS During my visit last fall, I also had a chance to visit a good friend from Phoenix who now lives in Mt Vernon. I saw one of your books in his living room and he mentioned you were once a client in Phoenix and a character in one of your books was based on him. We had a nice chat about JA Jance.

  15. My son lives in Bellingham so I looked up Dirty Dan’ tell them you recommended it. Unfortunately , according to their website they are indefinitely closed because of a devastating fire in the Terminal Building.
    We will be checking out LaPinata andVincent when we visit Phoenix this Fall. Always looking for new restaurants when traveling.

  16. Back in the ‘80’s I worked at our families small nursery, about 20 miles North of Seattle. One of our regular customers, who lived in the neighborhood, was a waitress at the Dog House. She wore her black hair piled high on her head, makeup always expertly applied, and wore sensible shoes. An attitude came along with all of that. I loved her, and as I write this her name just flashed into my head, thought I had forgotten it! Julie! Every time I read a mention of the Dog House in one of your books, I think of Julie.

  17. Whatever you do, please don’t mention the dining room at the Arizona Inn in a future book!

    I have similar experiences with places I have worked that are now out of business:
    Mervyn’s, Kmart, Peters-Griffin-Woodward, Huckleberry Finn, Tucson Citizen, Service Bureau Corporation.

    • I don’t think you need to worry about mentioning the dining room at the Arizona Inn. That hotel will never go out of business.

  18. When I first found your books back in 1988/89, you wrote about the Doghouse, and it brought lost memories back from my childhood. My grandparents used to take me there.
    Thank you so much for returning those memories to me!

  19. Judy, I’m going to Tuscon the last week of April for a weeklong workshop. I would love any recommendations or suggestions you might have of places to go. I’ll be staying at the Sheraton on Grant Rd.

    • Barrio Bread; A&J Deli; Cafe le Buzz; Time Market; Mona’s Danish Pastry; The Blue Willow; for starters.

  20. LOVE Peco’s and the Pancake corral!! 2 of my go to places for great food every single time! Peco’s not only has great BBQ but their Potato Salad is to die for (and we are PS SNOBS!)

  21. I hate to give you more bad news. Dirty Dan’s in Fairhaven has been for sale for quite awhile. There was a fire in another building nearby where the owner lost his life, recently. That building was completely destroyed. I believe that was the original location of Tony’s coffee. Anyway, Dirty Dan’s kitchen was damaged from the neighbouring fire and is currently closed. Sad for us as we have considered it our special dinner place.

  22. I commiserate with you on the loss of favorite restaurants. I’ve been to the Dog House several times across the decades, and never quite got the charm of the place. Beth’s, too, over on Aurora, a good place to go after too much beer to try to sober up before going home to mama, But eggs in any form other than not on my plate have never been one of my favorite foods.
    Several of the restaurants in your list I’d heard of but for whatever reason I’d never gone to. i remember the Hunt Breakfast at El Gaucho when it was on 7th ave, and 13-coins across from the Times was my all-time favorite. they seem to have stumbled across the years. the Joker over on the edge of Belltown was a more affordable favorite; late hours and a couple of clicks better than Denny’s. let’s not forget Mama’s Mexican at 2nd and Bell! They had their own private labeled surly waitstaff.
    Part of the charm of your books, to me at least, are the recognizable and memorable locales you use in your settings.
    keep on writing; i’ll keep,on reading!

  23. Jeanne T. brought me back some of their fabulous tortillas when she and I worked together. They were soooo good.

  24. Mexican restaurants are not popular where I live in Connecticut. I loved the places I went to when visiting my sisters in Tucson. I’ve tried to duplicate the recipes, but haven’t been very successful.

  25. Where I live in Connecticut there are no Mexican restaurants. I loved the things I ate when visiting my sisters in Tucson. I’ve tried to make some of the things, but they don’t taste as good.

  26. Sorry about the double posting. My first message was refused so I wrote it differently and tried again.

  27. Once again, Fridays give a gift. They are my JAJ blog day. What a great way to start a weekend.
    Thank you for sharing La Piñata with me after your Sun City West book talk. It was a highlight of my life!!!! I wish I knew about it while attending Grand Canyon College. Amazing what one sees and doesn’t see even in their own backyard.
    You’ve also mentioned Daybreakers Cafe in the Foothills of Yuma, AZ where one of your villians dined. It’s still open off Interstate 8 and Fortuna Road. We like their chicken fried steak dinner. They recently opened a Daybreakers II in Yuma proper on 4th Ave.
    Have a great day!!!

  28. This is for Dianne B from the April 5th Blog: Cucina! Cucina! was a fave, now closed, restaurant in Spokane WA. Thanks, J.A., for the continuing gifts of your blogs and books. Hi to Bill.

    Cucina! Cucina! Lentil Sausage Soup
    1 C plus 2 T dry lentils
    1/2 C diced leeks (white part)
    1/4 diced or shredded carrots
    3 T diced celery
    8 oz raw Italian sausage (I use sweet, not spicy)
    1 T red wine vinegar
    4 C chicken broth
    1/2 T Dijon mustard
    12 oz heavy cream OR evaporated skim milk
    salt and pepper to taste
    10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

    Rinse and sort lentils, soak in hot water for 30 minutes, changing water twice*
    Sauté sausage, breaking it up
    Add leeks and carrot, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally
    Stir in chicken broth and soaked, drained lentils
    Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes
    Add mustard, vinegar and evap. milk
    Cook 10 minutes, correct seasonings
    Add spinach, cook 1-2 minutes, serve.
    Makes about 6 cups but you might as well double the recipe because it’s great as long as it lasts. Refrigerate and gently re-heat left-overs.

    *for ease, put lentils in a sieve and soak in a deep sauce pan or bowl full of hot water

    xx, Annie

  29. Thank you so much, Annie. I have printed it out and will try it soon.
    Dianne B

  30. The Queen Mary is actually open:
    A note from the tea room:
    “Thank you all for helping us survive the pandemic closure that made it possible for us re-open! Our survival is still at risk as Queen Mary Tea Room has taken another hit. Our 100+ year old plumbing is failing. We have a serious water leak under the building and must replace all of the plumbing in the building to stay open. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

  31. Anita’s Market seemed dead when visited today. Open for business, but not much going on. Little on shelves.

  32. I remember being so bummed when I heard The Dog House shut down.
    Where would Beau go that I could be a fly on the wall?
    A couple of sisters and I would go there occasionally just to pig out on all we could afford at the time. Then we would pool all our change and leave a large tip. We had all been waitresses at times and knew the drill. A fave memory was going there with two sisters, who were 3 & 4 years younger than I, were allowed to order a drink and waitress didn’t believe my drivers license so I couldn’t. Having a couple ponytails in my hair didn’t help al all. I was 27 and already a married old lady for 9 years.. Wish I still had that affect now! My father was a regular there, often having breakfast or lunch.

  33. Thank you once again for brightening my weekend with your stories. I chuckled at the salmon/ham dinner.

  34. I could not stop laughing out loud while reading this Blog!
    The waitress who saw Ham as a perfectly reasonable substitute for Salmon (After all, both are in the same “Pink” color family!) is a story I will dine out on-
    My husband Carl found it hilarious when I shared it with him-

    I saw in the “Comments” that the Queen Mary Tea Room is once again alive and well- As an Anglophile and a huge fan of tea and tearooms, that gave me, as Garrison Keeler would say, “The courage to go on!”

  35. keep on keeping on. I appreciate your sometimes, rambling weekly gift to “us” readers. Chuck in Tacoma. maholo and aloha to you and yours.

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