Now Simon owns Island Joe’s Café and Bakery in Bethel Island, and while its menu hasn’t changed much, many don’t realize that Simon’s great food is still available in East County.
“Bethel Island is a wonderful community, and this summer we’ve seen a lot of tourists who come by boat, so we’re always meeting new people,” said Simon. “But I wish more people knew we were here. Once people try the food, they always say they’ll come back now that they know we’re here. The trick is to get them in the door. The rest is easy. The food speaks for itself.”
Lou Lane, Simon’s partner in the kitchen and former Discovery Joe’s chef, agreed. “We’re still here and we are ready to serve. You just need to be willing to drive out here.”
The only thing missing from the new venture is Joe, the restaurant’s namesake who passed away last year. When Joe became ill and unable to work, he and Donna, his wife of 48 years, decided to close Discovery Joe’s in 2004, but when he found the Bethel Island location, he couldn’t resist taking it over and converting it into a restaurant. As his health continued to decline, Joe encouraged Donna to continue with the renovations and open the restaurant in summer as planned.
“We weren’t sure how long he had, but he told me to partner with Lou and together he and I would run the restaurant,” Donna said. “Joe passed away in January, 2009. We opened July, 2009.
“Of course, it was hard at first. I wasn’t sure if I should open at all and take the chance of starting a new business, but I wanted to give back to the community that had been so welcoming to us. In all my years in the restaurant business, I’ve never felt such love and support from the community. They bring eggs and fresh fruit and vegetables. This is a community of such caring people. Their kindness makes me so happy that I want to cry just thinking about it.”
The Bethel Island crowd has come to love Island Joe’s for it’s hearty breakfasts and dinner specials. Lane said the eggs Benedict, an English muffin topped with ham and two poached eggs, covered in homemade Hollandaise sauce, is a morning favorite. For lunch, customers are fans of the build-your-own-burger option, and for dinner, they’re enthusiastic about the plentiful main courses such as calamari dore, chicken pomodoro and lasagna al forno.
Weekly specials offer a more sophisticated array of main courses such as crab-stuffed rainbow trout bathed in a sauce of white wine, cream and tomato, or Black Angus prime rib roasted in herbs and spices and presented with a creamy horseradish sauce.
“I would love to know what my husband would have to say about this place,” said Donna. “I ask myself all the time, but I think Joe would have been pleased. I think he would be proud of this place.”
Island Joe’s Café and Bakery, located at 6210 Bethel Island Road, is open Monday through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 925-626-7237 or visit www.islandjoescafe.com.