Cali Comfort is more than great BBQ, it is about family and community

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What began as a family vacation home in the 70s, is now one of Spring Valley’s best known friendly neighborhood family restaurant and bar and recognized as one of the San Diego’s best barbeque and sports bars the county has to offer. Two brothers that began working for their grandfather bussing tables and washing dishes as kids took the small breakfast restaurant and have grilled their way to success.

What began as a family vacation home in the 70s, is now one of Spring Valley’s best known friendly neighborhood family restaurant and bar and recognized as one of the San Diego’s best barbeque and sports bars the county has to offer. Two brothers that began working for their grandfather bussing tables and washing dishes as kids took the small breakfast restaurant and have grilled their way to success.

Owned and operated by brothers Shawn Walchef and Thomas House, along with Walchef’s wife Rositsa Walchef, Calif Comfort, a family owned business with Walchef in charge of operations and House—the low-n-slow pit master. Despite a recession, Cali Comfort BBQ and Sports Bar continues to grow, has 36 employees, is expanding its services and working towards manufacturing its sauces and rubs.

Walchef said the restaurant business was not his grandfather’s main profession, so when he went to college he got a new operator to take over the lease. In 2008 is when his best friend from college and he took over, they turned it into Cali Comfort.

“The biggest reason I wanted the opportunity to own this business is working here as a kid I saw how much this place meant, not only to my family, but other families in the area,” said Walchef. “They are good, hard-working people that wanted a place that they could come in with their grandparents, parents, and children and have their favorite table in the restaurant, their section, their holiday. I was part of their tradition, which was part of my family tradition.”

 He said the biggest thing was to remain true to the branded breakfast built over the years, but also to utilize the liquor license to create a neighborhood bar. He said sports bars can be negative sometimes, fans with jerseys yelling and screaming all the time and they wanted a place that families could go and cheer on the Chargers or the Padres, but also have good food.

“If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right,” he said. “That was our introduction into barbeque. Thomas went to culinary school with former Charger Lew Bush, worked with his catering company and started learning barbeque.”

Walchef contacted Gene Goycochea, now its barbeque expert and taught House how to do the low and slow method, which took the breakfast and sports bar to its new focus—great barbeque.

“Barbeque is something we are really excited and passionate about, that we have incorporated into our breakfast menu, lunch, catering and other large events,” said Walchef. “It is closer to Kansas style BBQ with a little bit of Memphis. We are dry rub, with sauce on the side. Our food vendors make sure we get the best meat available, we trim all in-house, fabricate it ourselves, our seasonings are all homemade and we get the highest quality products for all of our seasonings.”

Thomas House said they barbeque the right way now, from dry rub, through the 13-hour smoking process in the huge three-tiered rotating smoker using pecan wood. He said his training with Bush brought out a technical side to the process that he never knew before, but is still learning more along the way.

House said it is amazing when he thinks about beginning bussing tables and washing dishes to where the business is now. He said at times, he has to move across the street to begin some work around three in the morning because business is getting better all the time, and that they will always find a way to keep up with demand. 

“Working here is great, I love this place,” said House. “It has been a great journey.”

Working with local sports teams helping kids stay off the streets and involved in organized sports, got them involved with a BBQ competition. The first year was a small event with a couple of local people. The following year Walchef went to the Spring Valley Chamber of Commerce and told them to let him turn this into a larger event, making it something for Spring Valley, so that it has its own festival. Heading into its fourth annual festival on October 20, he said the event brought 5,000 people last year.

“The BBQ festival is something that is very important to us, because it is something we do for the community,” he said. “It is an amateur contest, so anyone can compete as long as they have not competed in pro events. Barbeque restaurants come out and sample food, all the amateur BBQ teams sell to raise money for their kids.”

Cali Comfort now sells barbeque meats by the pound with a 72-hour notice. It does all the work with the 13 hours it takes to prepare it and Walchef said all that is left is to  pick it up and have something great to take to their party or event.

“Most of all, we want people to be excited that they can come home and go down to their neighborhood spot, get some great food, some great craft beer, watch a game, and bring the family,” he said.

Cali Comfort is located at 8910 Troy Street in Spring Valley. For menu, awards, specials and everything that Cali Comfort has to offer go to www.calicomfortsd.com, or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.

Cali Comfort is more than great BBQ, it is about family and community