Harry’s Coffee Shop | 7545 Girard Avenue | (858) 454-7381 | www.harryscoffeeshop.com
by Robby Robinson
“One order of chocolate chip pancakes, two scrambled eggs on the side, an order of fruit, a small orange juice, and a coffee black, please”. It’s 6 a.m., the first order is taken, and Harry’s Coffee Shop is open and humming.
This legendary coffee shop/diner/gathering place has been at 7545 Girard Avenue since 1960, winning a handful of America’s Best Diner awards from notable publications and a television segment from the Food Channel. Whoa – this place is famous!
So how did all of this come about?
Restaurant founder, Harry J. Rudolph was born and raised in Brooklyn, an avid fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers (and even landed a position as a kid as a batboy).
Oh no! The Brooklyn Dodgers pulled up stakes and relocated to Los Angeles in 1958. Harry’s heart was broken. There was only one way to heal it. He and wife Catherine also pulled up stakes and followed the team to Los Angeles (for real – talk about a devoted fan-man). The Brooklyn couple decided to open a Brooklyn style diner in Southern California and settled on the village of La Jolla for their future venture. They had instant love for “the jewel” (who doesn’t?) and, thus, Harry’s Coffee Shop was established. The restaurant reputation grew and so did their family. The Rudolphs went on to have nine children (when the current day Rudolphs gather they number 45) and to establish themselves as a part of the La Jolla Community.
Harry was devoted to his diner as he opened the door at 5 a.m. daily. He walked the floor and greeted his customers by their names – for nearly fifty years. (Ahem – my coffee shop barista doesn’t have a clue as to what my name is after 1 1/2 years.) He hired friendly staffers and served delicious, tempting, and inviting menu items. The restaurant is more than just that – it is a community.
The tradition continues and is now owned by Harry’s son, John Rudolph. John credits his amazing staff for keeping the guests happy. And how is the staff loyalty at Harry’s? Wait for it ——-kitchen staffer, Ignacio, recently retired after 45 years! Jesus and Alberta have been with the restaurant for well over 25 years. (I think the crispy bacon contributed to the longevity.) Any famous peeps show up at the restaurant? “I’m told JFK Jr. sat at the counter”, says John (can you even!) “and Junior Seau was a regular. Phil Mickelson stops in for breakfast.”
All-time most popular dish? The BW Benny! The Food Channel flew down to La Jolla to cover this phenomenon. It’s Harry’s version of a bacon waffle eggs benedict. Surprises and secrets now revealed: Harry’s puts chopped up bacon into the waffle batter! So- we have the waffle, a slice of ham, two slices of bacon, 2 poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.
If you haven’t already – try this!
Fun fact – John estimates Harry’s serves over 300,000 eggs in a year – Holy Toledo! Yes, that’s right – the population of Toledo is 300,000, too.
Happy stories that took place at Harry’s? Funny you should ask. “Recently one of our servers ended up meeting and marrying a local police officer. They met at 5:30 a.m. as the restaurant was opening”, says John. “Folks conduct meetings, celebrate significant life events (anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations) at the restaurant. We’ve been fortunate to have some of the most generous, loving, and kind guests imaginable. It’s incredible that we’re celebrating 60 years of serving our wonderful guests and the community”, says Rudolph.
Oh, I wouldn’t call this good fortune, Mr. Rudolph, I would call this hard work, dedication, fantastic service, excellent food – and a homey and cozy and happy environment.