‘BackStreet’ doesn’t take a backseat

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By Andrea R. Solis

By Andrea R. Solis

It’s known as the little place on Nelson Street without a sign.

You won’t need a secret password to enter this hideaway, just some particular directions on how to find the chameleon-like establishment whose reputation was built on word-of-mouth.

When you’re in the mood for a hearty sandwich just like mom used to make, and maybe even better, The BackStreet Restaurant is the place to go.

Located on Nelson Street between Magnolia and Brockton, BackStreet is more than just a great sandwich shop, it is an oasis.

Step through the wrought iron gates of the café and you will be transported into a lush tropical paradise filled with lustrous plants, vibrant flowers, fountains, unique artwork and a majestic old tree with branches that wind through the sky.

You can enjoy your lunch outdoors under an emerald umbrella or in the “Greenhouse” next to the 300 year-old imported stained glass windows as subtle jazz music pillows the air and you are serenaded by a choir of chirping birds singing for their supper as generous patrons share breadcrumbs.

When it’s cool outside space heaters are available and misters operate during the hot summer months.

Indoor seating is also available in the adjacent renovated house on the other side of the garden. On chilly days they’ll turn on the fire place for you and you can even pull a book off the library wall to pass the time.

BackStreet is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and starting May 2 they will add dinner hours from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday when you can experience live music from local jazz trios, classical guitarists and occasionally an ensemble from a local school.

Last year the Ramona High School jazz ensemble appeared as well as a group led by local Press-Enterprise columnist Dan Bernstein who played the trombone.

The menu will be the same all day, including fresh sandwiches made to order with all of your favorite ingredients. A salad bar is available and there are some specialty salads to choose from as well.

Beer and wine are offered along with the usual fountain drinks, and a variety of tantalizing desserts make for a sweet ending.

I had a sandwich of thinly sliced turkey on soft, sweet squaw bread and a piece of the “world famous banana cream pie,” both of which were heavenly. They add a secret seasoning on the sandwich that catapults it into the realm of the amazing.

If you asked owners Keith and Kitty Holloway what that secret spice is, I doubt they would give it up. Their trade secrets have kept BackStreet in business for the past 39 years.

The Holloways, both RCC alumni, took over the restaurant from Kitty’s parents in 2001 and run the daily business themselves. Keith makes the sandwiches most days and Kitty can be found running the register and schmoozing with the regulars.

BackStreet serves up two things very well: great sandwiches and hospitality.

So why didn’t they ever put a sign up outside? According to Keith, it’s tradition. The sign was stolen in 1967 in an apparent fraternity prank and by the time it was recovered two years later the restaurant was already known as “that place without a sign.”

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