A hot spot of hospitality | September 11, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Cover Story - September 11, 2019

A hot spot of hospitality

Whether you're a rider or biker, or a neighbor on the hill, going to Alice's is 'like coming home'

by Magali Gauthier

On a recent Sunday morning, hundreds of local and international visitors flocked to the same destination: Alice's Restaurant at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Highway 84. They came on foot and on horseback through Wunderlich Park, and riding vintage motorcycles and in luxury cars down the winding roads of the Sky Londa hills. The scene wasn't unique to this particular Sunday. For decades now, it has happened all weekend, every weekend.

"It's a sort of cultural local capital of the moto scene," said Rob Malkin, a Bay Area native in his 60s who has been riding his motorcycle to Alice's Restaurant for decades.

The parking lot at the intersection turns into a pop-up motorcycle and car show. Local collectors bring their priceless "hardware," Malkin says, for tourists and aficionados to admire and chat about. On this particular Sunday, while the crowds waited to be seated at Alice's, they were treated to a handful of Ferraris, a 1966 Lotus Seven and an Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint from the early 1970s.

"It's a carnival atmosphere of collectors, gearheads and motorcycle riders," said local Tom Chavez, 51, who remembers going up to Alice's as a child. "It's a place to be seen. If I got a brand new exotic [car] that I spent a quarter of a million dollars on, I promise you I'm going to Alice's that Saturday morning to show it off."

Chavez says that he has met people from around the world at the restaurant. They come to experience what he says "one would otherwise only see in an auto museum."

But by the time Sunday evening rolls around, the crowds of visitors, riders and drivers have gone their separate ways.

"Alice's has two personalities," said Malkin. "On the weekends it's a hot spot, and during the week it's a place for beauty and contemplation."

During the calmer weekdays, the locals come by to enjoy the food or to just spend time with friends. There's no wait. Customers take a seat right away and the staff greet them on a first-name basis.

Debbie Williams, who grew up locally and has been coming to Alice's since the 1970s, says the food is delicious and the "down-home hospitality" is unparalleled.

"While we're tying up the horses, they're calling out to us 'your lunch is ready,'" Williams said. "That's what they do for us. It's just like coming home."

Brothers Andy and Jamie Kerr, Alice's co-owners who grew up in the area, purchased the property in 2002 and have worked hard to make the place as welcoming as possible to the local community and families. Most notably, they changed the menu to reflect more healthful ingredients and meal options, and put in a lawn in the back for children to play.

Jamie says that because some of the tables are communal, people from all walks of life end up eating a meal together, chatting and becoming friends.

"You can have a venture capitalist sitting next to a Nobel laureate sitting next to a logger sitting next to a hippie all at one time," said Andy.

On a recent Wednesday, Williams joined two old riding friends, Kathy Di Zio and Joe Squillacioti, at a communal table where hikers Squillacioti had just ran into in Wunderlich Park were also seated. It's not the first time Squillacioti, who also goes by the name Kactus Joe, has befriended hikers on their way to the restaurant. He says Alice's is the kind of place "where you can meet people." Squillacioti has been a regular customer for the past 18 years.

Another devoted group of locals has been coming every Tuesday for dinner and drinks for the past 12 years. The staff reserves a booth and table in the bar every week for the "Ladies Night" celebrants — a group now 12 women strong. Grace Welcome, who was one of the first five women of the crew, says that the Kerrs have made Alice's a neighborhood spot.

"They catered to all of us who live up here," said Welcome. "We felt that and we feel like it's our spot. It's the 'Cheers' of the hill. Everybody goes there."

She says that during power outages, the whole community finds itself back at Alice's. The place has a generator and stays open to offer food and fuel to folks who need it in the neighborhood.

Andy and Jamie Kerr also host an Easter egg hunt every year, organize fundraisers for the nonprofit Second Harvest, and host a Christmas tree sale on their lot for Woodside Elementary School. All net proceeds go to the school.

Ari Delay, 46, a battalion chief with the Coastside Fire Protection District, has been coming to Alice's his entire life. "The restaurant and the community support each other," he said. "It's really great because whether they need help from us or us from them, it's there. It's a unique thing you don't see anymore in this day and age. It's a tight-knit community."

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