As mentioned elsewhere on this site and in other posts, our Cafe has a long standing history in the back country, before it was a Cafe. We were known by other names.
We have managed to continue to keep our doors open and serve the World Famous Fish Fry, as it is commonly called. Our hours have changed, as have the staff, but the recipe remains the same.
A bit more of our history as written by Dr. Steven E. Schoenherr :
The Barrett Cafe had its beginning as a way station for the stage and freight wagons on the road from San Diego to Campo on the Healey homestead in the 1890s. (according to the deed, it was actually closer to 1988)
The construction of Barrett Dam and the city water conduit brought a steady flow of traffic and workers to the crossroads. A small store known as the “Cottonwood Store” was one of several enterprises started by Leon and Birdena Smith to take advantage of their location on Campo Road that included an olive press, a gasoline engine to irrigate hay fields and a dairy. In 1915, Birdena Smith opened a post office in the store and was appointed the first postmaster of Barrett, the new name for what had previously been called Cottonwood or Eisenecke.
In 1917 the store was sold to Charles Ketchum who became the new postmaster. In August Ketchum was arrested for bootlegging in violation of section 12 of the conscription act, selling liquor to soldiers in uniform on the Cottonwood grade near Barrett. In December, Ketchum’s 17-year-old son Leonard murdered his father and was sent to prison. The store was sold to Robert T. Vaughan, the former town marshal of Otay, and Birdena resumed her job as postmaster until she retired in 1933. That year the store was sold to Urban J. Wolfe, a caretaker at the city water works in Barrett. His wife Christina became postmaster until 1936 when Barrett was merged into the Dulzura post office. The Wolfes expanded the small store, adding a cafe and a concrete slab for an open air dance hall, with the added benefit of electric lights when power lines were installed in 1938 at Barrett.
In 1946 Wolfe moved to National City and opened a new restaurant, Wolfe’s Inn, with Frank J. Jendrossek at 38 West 8th Street. The Barrett Cafe was purchased by Bill and Viola Avril who had worked at Rohr in Chula Vista during the war. The Avrils bought a war surplus quonset hut in 1950 to cover the dance hall. Avril had the food and fishing tackle concession at Barrett Reservoir, and brought in a steady supply of fresh fish to his cafe. By 1952, the Friday night fish fry became famous, followed by a big dance Saturday night, and a free rodeo in the Barrett Arena across the highway on Sundays. When Bill Avril died in 1984, his daughter Cathy and her husband Steve Stephens took over. In 2000, Cathy and Steve retired and sold the Barrett Cafe to the current owners, Leon and Christine Herzog. Leon was a math teacher at Santana High School who found two other partners to join him, his brother-in-law, Ted Sherman, and Clark Staples of San Diego, a professional wrestler known as “Don Savage.”
Dr. Steven E. Schoenherr
Professor Emeritus of History
South Bay Historical Society