Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria is a neighborhood staple built on the personalities of the people behind the counter. In fact, in the 15 years since opening its first location in North Park, co-owner Lauren Hodson says some staff members have stuck with the joint for more than a decade.
To this day, Hodson still likes to hire kids from the surrounding neighborhood, both in North Park and in Mission Hills where the restaurant’s second location is located.
“In 15 years you watch a lot of kids grow up,” Hodson said. “We just celebrated a 15-year thing and we got a couple of messages from original staff saying ‘you really opened my eyes, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.’ And I’d say, ‘dude, you were a dishwasher,’ but a dishwasher at Lefty’s. You’re not going to be here forever, we know you’re more than this, but let’s be present, do it right have fun. It’s a job; we all have to work.”
Now, some of these kids who started out as dishwashers are off launching their own culinary careers, including one who is in Peru studying the culinary arts.
Hodson stopped by the PACIFIC magazine offices to record an episode of Dish It Up, where she talked about the importance of the local community, the troubles small business owners face and the following topics:
- More than a decade open in San Diego
- Consequences of shiny new things nearby
- How the vibe affects decision to eat somewhere
- Training methods
- The vibe of Lefty’s
- Taking over original Phil’s BBQ location
- Mentors in the business community
- Secret menu item, Karen Fries
- Where to eat in North Park
- Giving nods to those from the past
- Changes in the Mission Hills neighborhood
- The lost art of reading
- Bringing interactivity to dining
- Creating emotional connections with customers
- Appreciation of when people take the time to give positive feedback
- Consequences of going straight to the public instead of taking it up with the owner directly
- Challenges of consistency
- Being a small business owner in California and in the City of San Diego
Dish It Up is a collaboration between PACIFIC and Facebook group EDSD.
Listen and subscribe to Dish It Up and sister podcast Kiss My Glass on Apple iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud. And, if there’s something you want to hear about in an upcoming podcast, whether it be a food-related topic or specific guest, please feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Hills, 4030 Goldfinch St.; North Park, 3448 30th St.