Eatery offers patio dining amid the redwoods; owners hope to succeed
in location where others have failed
By Julia Scott
San Mateo County Times
Article Created: 06/22/2008
LA HONDA Jane Sullivan thinks she knows what it takes to thrive in
the restaurant business, even though it's all so new.
"You've got to put the hours in, keep the smile, and beer," she
instructs in her thick Yorkshire brogue.
It was a little too early in the day for beer, but Sullivan proved
she had already mastered the other two ingredients on Sunday morning
at her new restaurant, Sullivan's, smiling and talking to every
customer while she fixed breakfast for everyone on less than six hours' sleep.
Sullivan barely stopped moving on Sunday, a sunny day that capped the
end of the restaurant's opening week at its brand-new space in La Honda.
Plates heaped with Scottish eggs, Cornish pies, sausage, toast and
marmalade a north England version of comfort food moved past her
appraising eye to customers seated out on the sunny patio, while the
smell of tri-tip beef leaked out of a sizzling barbecue. A musician
plucked an acoustic guitar on the bandstand at the end of the sitting
area; the brunch crowd, although sparse, was generous with its applause.
The morning's relative calm was a huge relief for Sullivan and her
husband Tim, who were somewhat overwhelmed by the crowds that flooded
the restaurant on its opening weekend of June 14th an event that
coincided with the annual La Honda Faire.
Still, the newly-minted restaurateurs were glad to see such a large
group of locals venturing into their space, La Honda's one and only
restaurant. In time, they hope to inspire a local following that will
tide them through the dark winter months a time when the patio
won't attract tourists but the shepherd's pie will warm the stomachs
of loyal customers from La Honda and the surrounding rural communities.
"They're me bread and butter in the winter months," affirmed
Sullivan, who moved to La Honda with her husband ten years ago after
they were married. They met at a bar in Princeton-by-the-Sea back
when Tim Sullivan was a commercial fisherman and Jane a bartender. He
hired her to prepare meals for his six-person crew on long sea
voyages and fell in love with her at the same time as with her cooking.
The couple decided to purchase the space, which used to belong to a
restaurant known as the La Honda House Cafe, after watching it sit
vacant for two years. Some have remarked that the space which sits
in a mini-mall near a veterinary hospital, a post office, and a
convenience store fronting on Highway 84 is cursed, since no single
restaurant has occupied it for more than five years straight for
decades. Locals remember a time back in the late 1970s when the town
hosted three restaurants a wealth of choices for a community of
1,500. When the La Honda House Cafe (known in a previous incarnation
as the Merry Pranksters) closed its doors, locals lost their only
"This is all we have. We need to keep a restaurant in this little
tiny town," said Marcy Steiner, a La Honda native who owned the Merry
Pranksters for a time before having to sell it for financial reasons.
Steiner has been talking up the restaurant to everyone she meets, and
she believes Sullivan's has all the ingredients of success.
"I think they have a good handle on what we want here. It's simple
Irish fare and it's going to appeal to everyone in the area," she
said with conviction, before ordering some calamari and chips.
"Everybody says the place has never made any money but I think if
it's well run eventually it will," reasoned Tim Sullivan. "There's
not many places in San Mateo County where you can drive out into the
redwoods, sit out on a back patio on a nice day and listen to live music."
The Sullivans have made a point of hiring local kids some as young
as 14 to bus dishes and wait tables, and they derive most of their
meat, fish and vegetables fresh from San Mateo County. Even the art
on the walls when it comes will be created by local artists.
Sullivan's won't be open every day just Fridays for dinner, and
Saturdays and Sundays for all three meals. When summer turns to
winter gloom, Jane Sullivan plans to import some of her favorite
childhood games and traditions from England for the local clientele.
They'll play La Honda history trivia games and gather 'round a piano
at Christmas; do some harmless gambling on Boxing Day and play darts
over pints of beer (preferably Guinness). She intends to introduce a
leg-wrestling game called cock-a-hoop on the grass outside.
"It's a lot of friends having a right good laugh," said Sullivan.
"They're all going to do good out of me, and I'm going to do good out of them."
Staff writer Julia Scott can be reached at 650-348-4340 or at
Sullivan's: Hours and location
8865 La Honda Rd. (Highway 84) La Honda, CA
Friday 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. -10 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.