Embroidered bywords on the wall behind the cash register of Hob Nob Hill offer this assurance: “Pleasures in Life are Few, One of Ours is Serving You”. There isn’t a more benevolent restaurant in America. Its gentle dining rooms put us in mind of mid-century domestic science brochures that offer advice for the new bride who wants to please her husband and create a happy home: Set an attractive table, cook wholesome meals to keep your family healthy, add a pleasant little garnish to every plate that shows you care. So it is at Hob Nob Hill, the last word in comfort-food restaurants and one of the last of a special breed of place that once thrived in Southern California – the deluxe urban coffee shop.
Outfitted in uniforms with crisp white aprons, the ladies who attend tables are brisk and kindly; and they are guided in their work by an almost imperceptible loud-speaker system utilized by hosts who patrol the floor and rush to a microphone whenever they see a customer who needs something. The hosts’ broadcasts are made in old-fashioned numeric code like police dispatchers on “Highway Patrol” once used, so the sensitive ears of customers are not exposed to the nitty-gritty details of dining-room upkeep. “101 on 20,” means table 20 needs service. “50 on 10” summons a bus boy to table 10 immediately. “104 to the counter” alerts the staff that someone at the short counter in the first dining room needs a check.
Pause a moment to admire your Waldorf or spinach salad when it’s set down. A moment later, the waitress will return with a plate topped with a linen napkin on which are placed chilled forks for your salad-eating pleasure. Yes, chilled forks.
Everyday dinner entrees include prime rib and chicken croquettes and hot turkey with sage dressing; but there is a whole rotation of specials by which regular customers set their clocks: corned beef and cabbage on Monday, beef stew Wednesday, pot roast and leg o’ lamb Sunday.
Many San Diegans think of Hob Nob Hill as a breakfast spot; and if you can eat but one meal here, that’s the one. It is a joyous place in the morning; and to start the day with freshly squeezed juice and good coffee and a wedge of blackberry coffee cake or a pumpkin muffin, is a taste of Pacific Coast heaven. Amidst the rush and crowds, waitresses liven up the room by schmoozing with customers they have known for years as enthusiastic pastry-hounds rhapsodize out loud over the individual bundt cakes and caramel pecan buns and sweet rolls in the glass case that everyone admires while they wait for a table.