Once inside, I was taken aback. The room was sparse, walls painted a warm gold and decorated with the front pages of newspapers. Headlines read "Hundreds Dead in Huge Quake," "Singer Elvis Presley Dies at 42," and "Pro-Castro Texan Held as JFK Killer" on copies of the San Diego Union and San Jose Mercury. A solitary wrought-iron bannister divided the dining areas and was slung with copies of newspapers and magazines. The restaurant was under-decorated but clean.
We took a place at the bar and ordered two glasses of Kiss Chasey Premium White wine ($6) that was served promptly in stemless glassware by Rick's wife Julie, the waitress and bartender, while Rick rang the bell for food pickup from the stainless steel kitchen.
Julie and Rick opened the Press Room on August 11 last year after buying the building and doing expensive and labor-intensive renovations. Julie shared these tidbits with my dad while she dried glasses and refilled water bottles. She added orange and lime slices to our water glasses with a flourish and said that although the process of buying and fixing up the building was an expensive headache, ownership has helped them assure longevity in a volatile business and a volatile economy. Julie's father runs the Smoke Shop next door to Rick's. He occasionally meandered through the dining room and bussed plates before retreating through a side door back into his store.
When asked about the theme of the restaurant, Julie explained that Rick had saved newspapers since he was a boy growing up in California. Now, customers contribute newspapers they have collected. Sure enough, where there ought to have been Maker's Mark on the bar shelves, there were stacks of newspapers, yet to be framed.
All entrees at Rick's come with soup or salad. My spicy Thai chicken noodle soup was far too big and too hearty to be considered a side. Though I told myself that I shouldn't finish it or I would ruin my meal, I couldn't help myself. Large succulent hunks of chicken in a zesty chicken broth with assorted herbs and diced vegetables had me scraping the bottom of the bowl. The soup was a mix between the chicken soup of my childhood and the best Americanized Thai food of my dreams. Dad's starter salad of mixed greens was much smaller and less remarkable, saved by a tasty lemon vinaigrette.
For an entree, I ordered the salmon in potato ($15). At first glance, the dish looked heavy and humongous, but I ate every morsel. On the plate was a thick salmon fillet laid on a bed of mashed potatoes and greens, topped off with crispy shoe-string potatoes and surrounded by a moat of lemon butter cream sauce. It was divine. In spite of two servings of potato on either side, the salmon was flavorful, flaky and perfectly cooked. The lemon butter cream sauce was light and tart. My dad was pleased with his rib eye ($15), "a great value," he said.
Although I should have felt overstuffed from the soup, and salmon and two glasses of wine, the food sat lightly in my stomach as we left. Plus, I felt that I was a part of the family for an hour. While scantly decorated and oddly located, Rick's is a bastion of the family-run restaurant that is too often getting forced out by chain restaurants and a fickle economy. For the sake of the food—and the family—I hope Rick's does well.
—Kelly Lynae Robinson loves fun, food and family, though not necessarily in that order.