Jenuine Oak Coals Kook Our Steaks
I’m going to squeeze my entire weekend vacation to Pismo Beach down to a three sentence highlight and then focus on JOCKOS! Spent a much need relaxin weekend on the beach, drinkin, mobbin in the 4 through the Oceano Dunes (history lesson), and celebrating a little Mardi Gras DT, San Luis Style. The city of San Luis Obispo ended the 23 year tradition of the Mardi Gras parade by canceling it this year mostly because the up-tight Cottonheads that run this “college” town can’t stand for a bunch of kids to have a little fun and let loose (read too many titties!). So besides my shattering but not so surprising news the rest of my post to you is on this Jewel of a restaurant in a small town south of Pismo Beach called Nipomo.
For those that are not meat eaters, move on from this post. Jockos is the epitome of Bar-B-Q on the central coast! You drive up, middle of nowhere to standard red shack of a restaurant. The crackling fire and smells of the classic “Santa Maria oak” barbecue make any die-hard cowboy’s cheeks leak. This is a find of a place, were the company is all locals and the decor is stocked with stuffed deer, bull, and I think possum on all the bar walls. Make a call in, or drop by, you are waiting regardless…this place is PACKED! We called ahead and this place has a 3 dollar corking fee for wine!!! We brought 3 bottles. And if drinks can’t keep you till you sit, they have a trailer park style collection of plastic rapped garlic sticks or saltine crackers to munch on. But don’t go for the bread. Steak is all you’re gonna order. I went balls out and ordered the New York and the baked potato with everything. Next the waiter goes in the back and hacks off your meat from the bovine and two-handed, flips that slab up on the outdoor grill. Half-hour later you get a plate of the biggest steak I’ve ever tried to finish and an Idaho tater the size of my foot (I have a 11 if you’re wondering). mmmmmmmmm……
No need for steak sauce, pepper, or any other condiment. Perfection. This is a must if you roll though Nipomo around dinnertime, just make sure you leave yourself an extra hour to digest before getting back on the road or face nap-time on the 101. You’ll notice my description runs much like the history of the place. Check out some classic California cowboy tales and check this historic joint out.
History of Jocko’s Restaurant
In 1886, Emery Knotts opened a saloon on Tefft Street in Nipomo. In 1888 a fire burned an entire block in the area of the saloon. The building was relocated to the west side of Thompson Street in the block just south of the present Jocko’s Restaurant.
Emery had eight sons who helped run the saloon or “tended bar” over the years. One of Emery’s sons was Ralph “Jocko” Knotts. Jocko was the second licensed driver in Nipomo, he was also “justice of the Pease”. In 1909 Jocko married Mollie Dallesi. Mollie was the first telephone operator in Nipomo and also a postmistress. Together they raised seven children: George, Patrick William (“Pookey”), Adela (“Sissy”), Marie (“Nunie”), Fred, James (“Beagle”) and Richard.
During the time of prohibition, 1920-1930, Jocko ran a garage and service station in Nipomo. It is rumored that even then Jocko sold booze, white lightin’ and homemade brew out of the trunk of a car.
Sometime during 1926 Jocko and “Bull” Tognazzini (who owned Bull’s bar and restaurant in San Luis Obispo) opened a saloon/watering hole at one end of the garage called “Jocko’s Cage.” During the “flapper forties,” there were slot machines places periodically in the bar. For about a month, there was a card room for poker playing. Jocko ran the bar very successfully until he died in 1952.
Jocko’s son, Fred, ran “Jocko’s Cage” until about 1956. He and his older brother, George, who had assumed operation of Grandfather Emery’s saloon at the end of World War II, joined together and opened a restaurant and bar. They started out serving barbecue on Saturdays and Sundays and provided horseshoe pits under the pepper trees for entertainment. This also proved very successful. Together, they combined their resources at this location. George gave up the saloon operation across Thompson in 1957. Adjacent to “Jocko’s Cage,” on Thompson Street was an old renovated streetcar in which the Arrellanes family maintained a lunch counter, serving tamales and other delicious Mexican dishes. Eventually, Fred and George took over the use for additional seating, since their barbecues had substantially increased their business.
During the late 1950′s this restaurant and bar was one of the most popular dining spots in the county. Jocko’s became well known to visitors who considered it the highlight of their visit to dine there and it continues to be so today. It is not unheard of for people to travel hundreds of miles to get to Jocko’s for the quote: “best steak dinner I’ve ever had”.
In order to satisfy popular demand, George and Fred opened a new barbecue restaurant and saloon in 1962 across the street on the corner of Tefft and Thompson streets in a newly constructed building. They “branded” the walls of their new building with cattle brands of former Nipomo ranches as well as those of current owners. Included is the brand of Captain William C. Dana, original owner of the 38,000 acre Nipomo rancho grant to whose family the Knotts bear a relationship.
An original drawing, drawn by the well known artist, Al Ash, of the cow, deer and baby Jocko the “bull hunter” still hangs prominently in Jocko’s bar. It is also believed that Al Ash gave Jocko his well-known name, which means “monkey”, which he founded during a trip to the Flieshaker Zoo in San Francisco. For years, there were monkeys in Jocko’s bar.
Jocko’s restaurant, first conceived and operated by his sons, George and Fred, in now operated by the late Fred’s wife, Sandy and their son Mike, they carry on the tradition and the name that has brought a modern-day fame to Nipomo.
So, as currently printed outside Jocko’s restaurant”
“Come in and monkey ’round”