Eric Carlson, 1998

5 Spot Drive In
869 S. 1st

In the phone book listed as the 5 Spot Drive In.
One sign has it the 5 Spot Coffee Shop, another spells out 5 Spot Drive In. The drive in days are long gone. Drive-In appendages remain - a sign, a neon snow-cone, and small sliding windows through which food was passed.

I have taken of the Java bean here, and have spoken to the Blue Velvet Chef. The Chef is tall, gaunt, and dressed in black. He is visually intimidating, but turns out to be unabashadely friendly. Every finger has a least five rings, and myriad strands of American Indian jewelery hang from his neck. He is consumately solicitous of the broken-down bums who wander in for a cup of coffee or a plate of eggs.

Seating consists of eight to ten barstools and several booths. A window on one side and mirrored glass, festooned with Christmas ornaments and a cuckoo clock, on the other. The decor is eclectic, but weighted heavily towards cartoon characters and religious icons - Virgin Mary candles, little plastic figurines of dinosaurs, cars, plastic busts of humans and animals. An American flag is scotch-taped to the wall, an assortment of Indian feathers and beads placed below. On one wall several Indian (India) paintings depict Hindu deities.

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief - sitting on the barstool next to you. Well, maybe not rich man. Extremely destitute men drop in for coffee or food before quickly moving on, like butterflys. The 5 Spot is a sidewalk-flower oft visited.

Actual Conversation #1 at the 5 Spot:

Patron: "Whats your cheapest breakfast you have?"
Chef: "How much money do you have?"

I thought this was a joke at first, then realized the chef was asking a serious question - past experience, I presume, of cooking breakfast for customers with money only in their imagination.

Patron: "I have six dollars. I have enough for breakfast."
Turning to the grill and speaking softly to himself. "Well, we'll see, we'll see." I believe the chef was not entirely convinced of the existence of the six dollars, but he threw some eggs and batter on the grill anyway. I reckon he figured his odds were about fifty-fifty - good enough to make the effort.

It would be interesting to see Shiela Himmel of The Mercury News review the 5 Spot, and be asked, upon ordering, how much money she had. "Well, we'll see, we'll see," the chef might say. But Shiela would get her grub.

The chef served breakfast to this homeless man with great solicitude and care, ensuring he had everything he needed. This may not be the Ritz, but the Blue Velvet Chef of the 5 Spot Coffee Shop treats everyone like a king. I plan to eat here on a weekly basis.

The spiritual center of San Jose. Every San Josean should visit here at least once for a cup a' joe.

2001 Update. The 5-Spot has closed for good, it is now a ghost coffee shop.