The comfort of Hillcrest is located on Robinson Avenue with a giant pink elephant.
Those of you who have been in Hillcrest for the past three or four decades don't need an introduction to the Crest Cafe. Its reputation precedes itself with multiple awards, reality show appearances, and a dining room constantly filled to capacity with satisfied and well-fed customers.
Located on Robinson Avenue, the bright blue building with a huge pink elephant mural on its west-facing wall has been family owned and operated since 1982.
But Hillcrest can be a fickle district. Businesses appear, only to suddenly shudder after a few years, or months. In order to be successful in one of the busiest culinary districts in San Diego, you have to know what your customers want. Crest Cafe is known for its delicious comfort foods of course, but owner Cecelia Moreno subscribes to a business model that includes more than just the traditional dining experience, and it all started with her enthusiastic dad.
"My vivid first memory of the restaurant business was in the sixties with my father Luis," she recalls. "He was working in restaurant operations at Foodmaker, managing several Oscar's Drive-ins. It was my first visit to the back of the house and it was during a rush. I thought my Dad was a multi-tasking God!"
Dedicated to learning everything there is to know about the business Cecelia worked as a server for six years during college. In fact, a life-changing event would happen while she was working at a restaurant near her alma mater in Orange County. "I first met my husband at a Houlihan's where he was a manager. It was near the University of California Irvine."
It wasn't long before she fell for him. "That was 1979--In those days you could date the help--We didn't marry until 2003," she laughs.
Once her foray into academia was over, and she bid an early farewell to graduate school, Cecelia went back to her roots and began working for her dad once again.
"He had an office on Robinson Avenue near what is now the Whole Foods property and frequented The Crest Cafe," she remembers. "He purchased it in 1985 and I have worked here ever since. I credit our longevity these past 37 years to our wonderful long term employees and my cousin Ruben Medina, who is now my partner. His son, Enrique Medina is currently learning the business."
Cecelia is a great match for Hillcrest or as she calls it, "the loveliest, charming, vibrant and welcoming neighborhood in San Diego." It seems Hillcrest has that same love for her since she has been able to thrive in the district for nearly four decades.
"Although we certainly have our challenges I have never met so many people who genuinely care so much. I am forever energized by all those who live and work and patronize Hillcrest."
In 2017 Cecelia lost her father, the man who inspired her so many years ago. But even through her grief, she carries on, adhering to Luis' ideologies that have made her who she is today.
"I honor him by continuing to follow his advice and philosophy," says Cecelia. "I believe our success is predicated on staying humble, working hard and focusing on providing our customers comfort and hospitality."
You can make your way to Hillcrest's heart by way of Crest Cafe 365 days a year. It's located at 425 Robinson Ave., San Diego.