Monday, October 31, 2005

Hi! Lets Eat

Greasy spoons and dumpy dives. Every town has 'em. You know, the place you go for your heaping helping of artery-clogging cholesterol with a hot side of grease.

In Phoenix, our choice was the Waffle House at 27th Ave. and Deer Valley. Eating there was like stepping into Mel's Diner replete with an updated version of Flo. She never told us off though, but we'd tip her well regardless--the service is bad but the food is that good!

Hi!'s has been a fixture on Ocean for decades. The sign dominates the south side of the street as you approach from the east. I fell in love with the place before I'd ever stepped foot inside. And once I did, I knew I'd be back. Any place with a country-fried steak that good will keep my business until the last of my arteries harden and crack.

The building, the restaurant and the experience have a long history in Lompoc and it's become woven into the fabric of the city. In 2003, the place changed hands and closed for a short time before re-opening under new ownership.

This piece recounts that and captures some of the sense of civic history this greasy spoon embodies:

Hi Let's Eat, part of Lompoc's history since 1959, is set to reopen soon in its familiar unpretentious atmosphere with the kind of service associated with small towns where most everybody knows your name.

That's the way it's always been at the downhome eatery and new owners Lou and Judee Domingos want to keep it that way. A little piece of Americana and a big piece of Lompoc.

"I want to restore it to its old glory," Judee said. "It's an icon. Everybody has a Hi's story. One gal told me the story of how she was proposed to in here."

As in decades past, Hi!'s is a weekly meeting place for local luminaries like the mayor and members of the city council:

Some believe the city's future was imagined and developed by town movers and shakers at Hi's counter and in its generous leather booths.

"The whole town was built in this restaurant," said former owner Bill Blackford Sr. in a 1994 article in the Santa Maria Times.

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