Peanuts Cafe is the new Blimpie’s. Near SJSU, 1993 has become 2023. Or vice versa.
First of all, if San Jose State is ever to be a real urban campus, it needs another 20 places like Peanuts Cafe, which is now remodeled and upgraded. The food is more expensive, as is everything else everywhere, but the place remains Peanuts, with old janky collegiate stuff on the wall from years past.
Much has changed. The old bar, where in 2000, a drunken SJSU sociology teacher grabbed a Writer’s Digest magazine out of my hands and threw it across the room—that bar—is long gone.
In those days, a pitcher of Killian’s Red was $5.50, so at that time, when I had already squandered one potential career and was becoming a writer, I drank at noon with an argumentative yet wildly literate dude who just happened to be a part-timer across the street in the sociology department. I can’t imagine he lasted that long at SJSU, but we spent days talking about the writer’s life. At that bar. Vietnam vets, hungover frat boys and homeless people occupied the tables behind us, often arriving for coffee and breakfast. Or beer and breakfast. There was an entire crew of old salts who apparently went to SJSU decades earlier but for whatever reason never left the orbit of the campus community. At the time, I vowed I would never turn into one of those guys …
In those days, Peanuts served dirt-cheap draft beer in frosty glass mugs. The students were broke, so were the drunks around the corner, and there was definitely some overlap in those two categories. It was a true college hangout.
Many regulars are no longer with us. There was an old guy named Francis. Decades ago. A tiny plaque with his name was attached to the back counter along the wall, in the corner, right where he always sat.
More bars should do such things, but these days, when students are now paying $20 for some hipster mixologist swill at meat-market bars after standing in line for 20 minutes to get past the metal detectors, well, you probably won’t see any old-school barfly types emerging around here. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Also long gone from Peanuts is the half-rotted wooden flooring behind the food counter, likewise a good thing. The flooring had probably been there since the ’60s. Who knows. I’m glad it’s gone. The kitchen area is a thousand times cleaner. Surely the employees are happier.
Of course, there will be folks who lament the old prices from 30 years ago. I get it. I do. But if you’re still living in the days of $5 breakfasts, well, those days are gone. No place anywhere can charge that kind of money.
“I wish I could charge that much,” says the proprietor, as I pay for my $2.50 refillable coffee. The menu at Peanuts is just now starting to expand back into what it used to be, but the prices will never be what they used to be. This is life.
“I see these breakfast places around here—I go shopping at the same places they do—and it’s crazy, the prices people are charging,” says the proprietor. “It’s really hard. Everything is corporations these days. There’s hardly any mom ‘n’ pop places left.”
The best thing about the new Peanuts? The books. Seriously. Along the western wall (a phrase with a ring to it) one now sees shelves and shelves of books. For free. Or exchange. It’s like a gigantic mini-library in which anyone can partake. This looks exactly like Blimpie’s, another old sandwich shop that used to be on San Carlos, right where “The Grad” high-rise is now. Blimpie’s was a hugely popular college hangout, with tons and tons of books along the perimeter of the eating area, all in a cozy living-room type of feel. Only timeless people will remember it, but Blimpie’s, I can say, now lives on at Peanut’s. Every place near campus should be filled with books.
“I’m trying to build more shelves,” the proprietor tells me.
If you want a $5 breakfast, you’ll have to stay home. But if you want a book and a beer and a sandwich, go to Peanuts.