El Cajon Boulevard History Pt.2

By the early 1960’s, El Cajon Boulevard was a booming hot spot for commercial businesses, which is credited mostly to the automobile. Interestingly the automobile was also a focal point for one of the first youth riots here in the 1960’s.  We Want a Drag Strip

The El Cajon Boulevard Riot otherwise known as the Drag Strip Riot was the first of many major uproars during this time. On August 20, 1960 during an organized protest over the closing of a popular drag racing spot, the riot began. More than 3,000 teenagers and adults lined the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and Cherokee Street and shut down nearly 3 more blocks where they began holding impromptu drag races. As police arrived to break up the riot they were met with glass bottles and rocks from teens and adults alike. This event marked one of the first acts of defiance on El Cajon Boulevard and proved its prominence within the era.

JFK-El Cajon BlvdOne cannot forget the momentous arrival of President John F. Kennedy in San Diego on June 6, 1963. During his visit, the President’s motorcade drove along El Cajon Boulevard as thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse. Shortly after the president made his way to San Diego State University where he gave the commencement speech to the graduating class. Interestingly, many people compare this visit with one where he met his demise in Dallas a short time later. Similar circumstances like the placement of the motorcade and the relaxed demeanor of the secret service were all too common in the two visits. As well, the President was riding in the same limousine and sitting in the same spot as he did in Dallas bringing an eerie feel to what was to come.JFK-El Cajon Black&White

From the mid ‘60’s to the mid ‘70’s, El Cajon Boulevard was slowly transitioned away from Highway 80 as development began on  Interstate 8. It was until 1989 that El Cajon Boulevard would soon experience a rebirthing. Architecture, design, and neon signs were highly popular among local businesses in the 1940’s and 1950’s as they lit up the Boulevard on any given night. The introduction of the gateway sign in 1989 aimed at increasing the “traffic” that El Cajon Boulevard was once known for and reinvigorating an otherwise desolate stretch of roadway. Thanks to the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement District, the sign (along with hundreds of ornamental street lights and miles of landscape) has helped to restore El Cajon Boulevard to the roaring times it was once known for.

Spanning over 100 years, much of the growth and development along El Cajon Boulevard can be attributed to the automobile and the need to establish services to accommodate it.

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El Cajon Boulevard History Pt.1

El Cajon Blvd-1908 Horse and WagonEl Cajon Boulevard has a rich history filled with automobiles, food, landmarks, and historic events. Originally named El Cajon Avenue, the famous roadway started as a dirt road and was home to the first small business district in San Diego.Emma Schnug House In 1873, the oldest house in East San Diego, the home of Albert Hille and Emma Schnug was moved to El Cajon Avenue. The Victorian style home was originally built in National City but later relocated to the present day location at 3705 El Cajon Boulevard. In 1912, Highway 80 (the first transcontinental highway) was joined with El Cajon Avenue and spanned from San Diego to Georgia. It wasn’t until 1937 when the city voted that El Cajon Avenue officially change to El Cajon Boulevard because of its significance for travelers. As the transition from Avenue to Boulevard went underway, the street was widened by 100 feet and decorative street lighting was installed.

By the late 1940’s El Cajon Boulevard had over 450 businesses lining the historic route. The addition of numerous gas stations, repair shops, and hotels in the 1950’s shaped the fast-paced culture in the area, which reflected the particular type of people who passed through – businessmen and travelers.

Oscars El Cajon BlvdOscar’s Drive-In, the first Jack In The Box, was opened on El Cajon Boulevard in 1951. It opened as a classic car-hop style dining experience and eventually became the first drive-thru restaurant to focus on using a two-way intercom to order food. The new development of fast food franchises mirrored the changes happening in society, as more people began driving automobiles and began eating out with their families.

By the mid 1950’s, El Cajon Boulevard was a modernized metropolis of dining, automobiles, and businesses which all helped to pave the way for this small urban area.

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San Diego Lafayette Hotel and Imig’s Kitchen And Bar

The San Diego Lafayette Hotel, formerly named the Imig Manor after owner Larry Imig, was originally opened on July 6, 1946 and was built at a cost of $2 million dollars. It was officially known as the playground of the movie stars which catered specifically to celebrity clientele, and Bob Hope is known as one of the first and most frequent guests here. Hotelier and San Diego Chargers owner Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel sometime in the mid 1950’s and removed all remnants of Imig from the hotel. Later in 2004 Hampstead Lafayette purchased the hotel and with the help of the San Diego Redevelopment Agency and the State of California, a $6 million renovation was completed in 2011.

Imig’s Kitchen & Bar, located in the north end of the lobby, started out with small plates and simple entrees and is anything but that today. With an updated menu that caters to just about any food lover; American cuisine met with a relaxed and inviting ambiance gives this modern restaurant a comfortable feel with a whole lot of class.

The newly updated menu represents the true tastes of mid-century American cooking with a unique ingredients and pairings.

breakfast sandwichBreakfast items like the always delicious Pork Belly Eggs Benedict with a side of grits and fruit are already a perennial favorite among patrons. Morning goers also opt for traditional dishes like Belgian Waffles or a Breakfast Sandwich to satisfy that hearty breakfast hankering. The dinner menu is nothing short of spectacular either with hearty dishes like the pot roast or the “4-hour beer braised pork shoulder.” Some prefer to go a little more “outside the box” with the Ox Tail (pictured to the right)ox tail and Leeks Ravioli with a homemade white sauce. And you couldn’t possibly eat all this delectable food without pairing a fine glass of wine or a craft cocktail either. Home to everything from an Old Fashioned to an Apple Pie Mule to homemade Absinthe, you can be sure that whatever you drink you won’t find much anywhere else.old fashion

Be sure to check out Imig’s Kitchen & Bar and all the other fabulous restaurants on the Bite San Diego El Cajon Boulevard tour!

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Restaurant Spotlight: Lips

Most locals are quite aware but if you haven’t heard of Lips, one of the stops on the Bite San Diego El Cajon Boulevard tour, then you are in for a very special treat unlike any other! With the tagline, “We are as serious as our 6-inch heels” you better believe this place is anything but your neighborhood hangout.

This famous drag restaurant-bar and cabaret show is loved by both men and women not only for the entertainment but for the delicious food you enjoy with it. Serving up breakfast, brunch, and of course dinner, there is always something “de-lips-cious” to choose from! For the morning crowd the plating possibilities all revolve around 3 things: unlimited bloody mary’s, mimosas, and champagne with your purchase. For the serious eaters, Chicken Parmesan or even a Chicken Ceasar Salad are anything but average choices.chicken ceasar

If you’re looking for a full tummy to accompany one of the best shows in San Diego then browse their full night menu with tons of choices to decide from, vegetarians included! Most go for the Mushroom Ravioli topped with a creamy pesto sauce (don’t let the picture fool you, they are mouthwatering).mushroom raviloi


Other favorites like the Baked Ziti give you the comfort of good food in an unconventional environment. What better way to top off your than with one of their many desserts like the “Super Brownie Stack.” Compiled of 3 brownies, yes 3, each topped with vanilla ice cream and covered in whip cream and caramelized walnuts.brownie stack

Make sure you catch Lips and all the other great stops on the Bite San Diego El Cajon Boulevard tour!

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Spotlight: Pizzeria Luigi

So how much do you love Pizza? Find out more about Pizzeria Luigi, the newest stop on Bite San Diego’s North Park food tour!

Established in 2004, Pizzeria Luigi has been crafting authentic New York style pizza pies for San Diego area locals. Featured on the hit TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Pizzeria Luigi is frequented by many, including celebrities, San Diego locals, and pizza enthusiasts for their delicious an authentic Italian selections.

Whether you’re a fan of the traditional pie toppings, or  prefer a more refined taste like fresh ricotta cheese with a savory penne sauce, you can be sure to indulge in your deepest pizza pleasures.                                                                                                                                                              They also have an assortment of baked items, pastas, and sandwiches for those who aren’t as pizza crazy as the rest of us.

Be sure to check out Pizzeria Luigi’s and all the other delicious stops on the Bite San Diego’s North Park food tour!

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Spotlight: Flavors of East Africa

If you frequent Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, or even San Diego State University Farmer’s markets, then you may have caught a taste of Flavors of East Africa, a kenyan infused cuisine now located off El Cajon Blvd.

Treat your taste buds to flavors they have never experienced with East African inspired appetizers,entrees, and desserts!

Patrons can enjoy an eclectic menu of treats that include curried Tilapia with Ugali and their signature Jungle fries . They also cater to vegans, as well as those self proclaimed flexitarians.

What are you waiting for? Embark on a journey through East Africa with a true taste of kenyan cuisine right in your own backyard,

And check out Flavors of East Africa, one of the many great stops on the Bite San Diego’s El Cajon Blvd food tour!

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Spotlight: Spike’s Africa

Spike Africa is the newest addition to the Downtown/Little Italy tour and highlights the fresh seafood culture that exemplifies San Diego. The name “Spike Africa” has become popular in sea folklore tales and can better be attributed to the “President of the Pacific Ocean.” It originated from a devout seaman and expert sailor of the West Coast and Pacific Ocean, Philip Marion Africa. He later got his name Spike, from a rigging tool used in sailing, and it stuck with him ever since. Spike Africa takes you on a culinary adventure of fresh seafood shaped by Master Chef Paul Rinaudo.

Of course they are well known for their seafood which is sourced fresh from local fish markets and fisherman. The Poke Bowl with Mango (pictured here) is sure to release a burst of seafood deliciousness to satisfy the sweet taste of island flavor.

If you’re looking for a great place to hang out and save a little cash then check out their Happy Hour, Spike’s favorite time of the day! One of best Happy Hours in all of downtown, you can order oysters for only a $1! That’s right, “a buck a shuck”

If you’re looking for something lighter and more health conscious you can opt for one of their gluten-free entrees. Their grilled shrimp lettuce cups are a huge favorite on the 600 Club Menu as well as the Ginger Chicken Skewers.

Check out Spike Africa, along with the rest of our favorite hot spots on Bite San Diego’s Downtown tour!

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