We wrote in September that Boogaloos might be closing because of a rent increase. What we know from the co-owner Carolyn Blair Brandeis is that it will be staying open at least through Christmas. As Boogaloos sorts its future out, we will be running Odes to Boogaloos. This is ode #1. If any other readers have odes they would like us to consider, please send them to email@example.com with the subject, Ode to Boogaloos.
I was standing in the Reno Safeway, surrounded by the 125 gallons of water that I’d just purchased to survive my annual week in the desert, when my wife dropped the text bombshell on me—Boogaloos was closing. The news didn’t exactly shock me, given the current state of affairs on Valencia Street, but it really hit home. This was the place where I’d eaten my first meal after moving into a one-bedroom apartment a block away 18 years ago, and it was also my preferred pancake provider on countless mornings ever since. Boogaloos has been a seminal part of my Mission experience for nearly two decades, as it has for so many residents of the neighborhood.
To say that it is a sacred space may be stretching the truth a bit, but the founders were definitely on to something when they attached the temple moniker to their signature spuds, a mountain of divine intervention in the battle against the excesses of the night before. A deus ex machina in carbs.
Even if nothing truly holy has ever gone down there, it has certainly always been the Mission’s preeminent shrine to the morning after. And it’s still the spot where you can count on reuniting with friends—both old and new—that you somehow lost track of the previous evening. Like the time I ran into a budding couple that I’d met at the Edwardian Ball the night before, still decked out in all of last evening’s finery, while they waited outside for their name to be called as a foggy morning gave way to a sun-drenched afternoon. And I’m just about certain that I myself have graced the well-worn black vinyl booths with some amount of glitter or fake blood, or both, still clinging to my face on more than one occasion.
But what started out as a place to nurse a hangover and relive the previous evening’s shenanigans has become something much more to me over the past two decades. Years ago, as I was coming home far too late for my own good, I’d occasionally catch sight of a parallel universe of young families filing into Boogaloos to get a jumpstart on their day, just as my evening was winding down. But then, slowly, I started becoming part of that earlier group myself. And after fourteen mostly freewheeling years, I suddenly had a family of my own.
My newfound status as a father did nothing to diminish my love of Boogaloos, in fact, it only served to enhance it. Although becoming responsible for the safety and well-being of a tiny human being forced me to make changes to many other parts of my life, I could still hang out at Boogaloos any time that I wanted to, and I always felt welcome, because that’s the kind of place it is. That spirit of inclusivity goes far beyond serving as an equal-opportunity clubhouse for both hung-over hipsters and hungry toddlers to refuel and watch the neighborhood roll by. It permeates the cracked, wood-veneer walls, which are always festooned with a display of slightly off-kilter artwork from Creativity Explored that manages to strike the right note with both groups of that disparate demographic.
There’s a lot that goes into making a place hum day in and day out for more than twenty years, and the staff play a big part in Boogaloos’ long-running show. While the cooks could no doubt write a treatise on the restorative powers of biscuits and gravy, they also know how to turn out a pretty mean smiley-faced pancake. And the same tattooed, studiously disheveled servers who seemingly manage to get your food to the table before you are done ordering it, don’t mind one bit if the smallest member of your party wants to spend the better part of an hour methodically polishing off every item on her plate, one maple-syrup-soaked blueberry at a time.
If I was troubled by the news of Boogaloos’ imminent demise, my four-year-old daughter, who didn’t shed a tear over losing our beloved cat just a week before, was downright heartbroken. She cried when my wife broke it to her—over a plate of blueberry, lemon-cornmeal pancakes. “Why is it closing?” she demanded to know.
The answer, of course, is money. Somehow the place that everyone still lines up for every weekend can no longer afford to exist on the corner that it helped to build. Which leaves me wondering, if there is no longer a place in the Mission for Boogaloos after 21 years, is there still a place for me after 18?