Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile

Back Country Living on Highway 94

Commuting Highway 94

Every morning beginning at 4 to 4:30 a.m. traffic begins a line from East to West, every evening about 4 to 4:30 p.m. it winds back, West to East.  The population to the back country both off Interstate 8 and Highway 94 is spread out with a few close neighbor pockets.  Not exactly the same as living in town where your neighbor is a few steps away.  Why commute such distances?  Why live in the back country?

Daley Stretch on Highway 94

I cannot answer for everyone, but for myself it is a bit of freedom, clean air, and room to roam.  I don’t have to listen to my neighbor’s television or their arguments, or other night time activities.  Although being closer to Highway 94 means I hear the traffic beginning at 4 a.m. and ending nearer midnight.  When I am over tired from a day in town, I ask: “Self, why drive so far to go home?  If you lived in El Cajon or Jamul, you would be home now.”  I look out over the fields and into the rolling hills at the various color display, take a sniff of the air and am reminded of why I make that drive.  Freedom.  No smog, no industrial smells, only nature.

Forgotten?  Not lost.

With the changes closer to town, fewer remember the country.  As a child my grandparents and parents took the drive out to visit, sight see, or eat out.  The Cafe is one of those places remembered for family gatherings and a stop over to enjoy a meal before traveling on or going home.  Most come here for the weekend meals, reminding us of older traditions now gone.

Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile

1950’s Barrett Junction Cafe

The “fish fry” as they call it, now known as the All You Can Eat Fish Dinner,  was served only on Fridays.  Some believe it was catfish, others tell of fish from the sea and yet others fish from Barrett Lake.  Depends on who you ask where the original fish came from.  One dish I heard was served was frog legs.  Interesting, probably true.  I find it intriguing and will have to ask Leon if he has any of the older menus from those days, if there were any printed.

The Food

Additions include pulled pork, barbecued and Southern Baja Style.  Order a sandwich or taco.  Barbecued ribs are still served, now offering an third rack, where before you got a full one or half.  This is served with Ranch style beans and homemade hush puppies.

1/3 rack of ribs with hush puppies

The food is made fresh, not fast food, takes time to cook raw food.  Many forget that.  The Cafe remains a sit down and visit restaurant.   Just a reminder.

Take A Drive

The drive out the Highway 94 way has fields now turning brown, hills that seem to roll on forever.  Look to the right on your way out and there will be a few points you can see into the valleys of Mexico.  Even a couple of pockets where the smog hangs.  I am told this is where a vehicle manufacturing plant is, I forget which one.  Another reminder why I like living at 1500 feet above sea level.

Scenic Barrett Junction

The Tour

Many businesses are struggling or closed along the Highway 94 corridor.  A winery has opened, you will find cattle and horse ranches as well.  The Dulzura Vineyard & Winery is now open for business, stop in and take tour, enjoy their vintage.  The Dulzura cafe is now a market, also serving tacos daily.

Of course before you get that far, there is the Jamul Hollywood Casino, near finishing.  The SDG&E Capacity project continues along the Jamul portion of Highway 94, with long delays in the morning, not so bad coming home after 5 p.m.

The Cafe is open during the week after 11 a.m. and weekends after 8 a.m.  Breakfast buffet is served to 1 p.m. with the freshest meals you can find hot off the grill.

Further out into Potrero is the Twin Lakes cafe and mobile home park, the Potrero Park with camping and weekend stays available, or go for a long walk around the park.

Get into Campo and visit the railroad museum, Gaskill Brothers Store, and on into Boulevard where you will find a blink and you are through it.  There is a large camp ground for RVers and overnighters offering a view and a hike around in the hills.

Interstate 8

This is another journey, it picks up where Highway 94 ends.  At this point you are into Jacumba where the Hot Springs are.  Jacumba use to be the go to place for the Hollywood set before Palm Springs was built.  Now the frames and foundation stand from a couple of the best hotels there were.  The Hot Springs is still a popular go to place.

Coming back out I-8 you won’t see much unless you take Old Highway 8 and visit a couple of the small communities there, Pine Valley, Guatay, Descanso, Alpine and a few others.  Another beautiful drive filled with trees and fields.


This tour is a day trip, believe it or not.  Leave in the morning, get home by dark, depending on how many stops you make.  Play the tourist and visit the San Diego Back Country.  If you have not been out this way for a few years or never, now is the time.  Bring your camera, credit card, and room in the trunk for memorabilia and souvenirs.

We look forward to seeing you.  Safe journeys.

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