Barrett Junction Cafe History
The Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile is the historical cornerstone in the peaceful unincorporated valley known as Barrett Junction; East of San Diego, California, on state highway 94.
The property was a homestead in the 1800’s , turned commercial in 1915, got larger in the 1920’s and 30’s with an improved café and motor court , and became the premier, Friday night fish fry house in San Diego County after the 2nd world war (1946). Standing room only! The crowds are smaller today but the World Famous Fish Fry lives on and enjoyed by all that care to dine on deep fried cod.
Highway 94 is the updated version of the stage coach line. The original mercantile is still standing, it is the small white cottage. A porch was added with a few tables set around to hang out and enjoy your lunch or dinner.
The Saloon was established and added to the building in 1947. The Quonset hut was add to accommodate the larger crowds attending the free dances and fish fry. The field across the street from the cafe was used for rodeos..
An addition to the history of the Fish Fry as told by Tami Cubillas
One version of the history of the fish fry goes like this:
The original fish was caught in the oceans of San Diego or Ensenada, by the owner, Bill Avril, his wife Vi, neighbors and friends, sometime in the early 50s. They had so much fish left over, that on Thursday nights, they started cooking the extra fish outside of the cafe and serving it to friends. After that, even more friends decided to go fishing with Bill. That, is when they all decided to start serving the fish on Friday nights in the cafe for free, (because they had so much fish) until they ran out. That was when the Internal Revenue came out and told them, they couldn’t give the fish away without charging sales tax. Bill and Vi, began charging for the regulated and purchased fish (as they no longer were allowed to sell the fresh fish). At that point, the Health Department got involved and came and told them that they had to have the fish state inspected. That is when Bill and Vi started charging seventy five cents for the fish that they were now required to purchase. And, That is how the fish fry began! This information was told to me by my mother, Catherine Avril Stephens, (“Cathy”) daughter of Bill and Vi.”
Thank you Tami for your contribution to the history of the cafe.
Bill, the manager has added to this. During the 1950’s when Vi worked at the Barrett Lake, she would bring home catfish for Bill (Avril) to serve at the Cafe. It was into the 1960s when the county told them they could not serve fish that was not pre-inspected, that they began by random types of fresh fish, preparing them across the street and serving all you can eat. By the late ’60s they began serving cod and only indoors, due to the county regulations. Bill, the manager’s wife use to work at the Cafe during that time as a dish washer, she was a youngster and stood on a crate to use the dishwasher.
The current owner, Leon Herzog, purchased Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile in 2000 and has continued with the Famous Fish Fry and Family Style Breakfast Buffet. We have discontinued the Family Style Breakfast Buffet, except for Weekend Holidays and for large groups.
Leon introduced his favored barbecue pork ribs to the Cafe menu. As he did the pulled pork sandwiches. The barbecue is prepared on Saturdays. Usually done by 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
The Mercantile continues to grow as does the Cafe & Bar. When you walk through the building your eyes will be fed with the many amazing antiques, collectibles, deer heads, pictures, and much more.
In the large dining room there use to be a larger than life statue of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley to greet you.
The Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile recognized by California as the Small Business of the Year of District 40 in 2009. It is an honor to receive this award. Only 78 businesses were selected out of 3.5 million in the state of California. We thank you our customers, without you this would not have been possible.
P.S. You don’t own Barrett, you Live Barrett with its pioneer ways.