Photos by Beth Demmon
Barrett Junction Cafe
Dulzura isn't exactly known for its culture or culinary offerings...or for even existing, as far as most people know. However, this border-hugging town on the way to nowhere has a few tricks up its sleeve for wayward travelers and packs of bikers who rumble through these parts. The main stop on the side of a dusty, deserted patch of Highway 94 is Barrett Junction Cafe & Mercantile (1020 Barrett Lake Road.).
World War II-era checkered tablecloths are draped over rickety tables—quite possibly left over from the original 1880s homestead—and every wall sags with old-timey memorabilia, ranging from kitschy lunchboxes to ceramic Elvis figurines. Don't expect the food to get any fancier. This is the quintessential place to "get your grub on" without worrying about classing up the joint.
Best known for its "World Famous Fish Fry," Barrett Junction Cafe stays true to simple, hearty food from another era, where gloriously greasy and piping-hot fried cod gets heaped on flimsy plates that feature plastic separators. Sides include some of the best hush puppies you'll find this side of the Mississippi, coleslaw, rice pilaf and baked beans. The beer is cheap lager served by the pitcher. If you feel at home in the Gaslamp or Pacific Beach, you'll stand out like a sore thumb in these parts, but if you splurge for the all-you-can-eat fish fry, you'll get treated like royalty (just be sure to tip 20 percent).
Barrett Junction is so far off the beaten path that you'll have to stop at a border checkpoint on your return west, but don't be worried. Once they see that telltale doggy bag on your lap and the familiar glassy look in your eyes, you'll be waved back toward civilization.