“Thee Bungalow” to close this weekend and to re-open under a new name

by on August 13, 2010 · 42 comments

in Culture, Economy, Ocean Beach, Popular

logo lrgIt’s late afternoon on Friday the 13th. I just got off the phone with David Cohn of the Cohn family restaurant group – and owner of Thee Bungalow – he confirmed the rumor that we had heard: that Thee Bungalow – the Peninsula’s five-star European cuisine, high-end restaurant – was closing.  It appears that Sunday, August 15th, will be the last day of this favored place.

This is tough news for the loyalists. There’s two world-known restaurants in the Ocean Beach/ Point Loma area: Hodad’s and Thee Bungalow.  Thee Bungalow has been around for nearly half a century. It has one of the oldest liquor licenses in the County of San Diego.

Yet that’s just the beginning of the story, for the Cohn’s – owners of a dozen other restaurants throughout San Diego – took over Thee Bungalow from the old owner, Ed Moore with plans for changes.  Now it’s time for the changes to happen.  They plan to reopen in mid-October.

The big change – a new name.  Thee Bungalow will be renamed Bo-Beau’s Kitchen & Bar.  The old, white-tableclothed, formal atmosphere will also be changed, as well as some changes to the interior.  The exterior, however, will basically remain the same, with a new paint job.

quisineThe menu will be more moderately priced, with less of a French over-arching panache and taste, and more Mediterranean, more Italian, more Spanish.

“The interior and the menu will both be more casual,” David told me. “It’ll still be European.”

“Why the name change?” I asked David.

“It’s all about the changes we’re doing,” he said.  The interior, the menu, the prices, the atmosphere.  They had always had plans for changes when they first bought the place. But other things got in the way. Now it’s time.  They had already made some changes to the old building, like adding air conditioning, improving the restrooms.

I asked David, “Isn’t it risky to change the name of a reputable restaurant with such a history?”

Cohn came back without a skip and said matter-of-factly: “No, it’s not risky to change the name. It’s actually just the opposite. Today young people look for new things, for new businesses. They don’t want to drive their parents’ Buick,” – he had made his point well.

neonCohn quickly explained that, yes, the old Thee Bungalow was a special restaurant, actually a “special occasion restaurant” for those special occasions. But, he said, they can’t survive on customers coming in just for those occasional special occasions. Not in today’s market.  I could relate to that.  I was taken there for a birthday by my family two years ago but haven’t been back there since (especially on my OB Rag salary).

“There was a time,” David said sadly, “when being in business for fifty years meant something.  Nowadays, people don’t care about that.”

The hope is that the new place – more casual, more moderately-priced, a more modern menu – will attract a younger customer base, a younger crowd, and attract more locales, in fact.  Right now, Cohn estimated, maybe a 80-20 percentage split in clientele where the 20% are local people.

They’ll keep the bar, of course, and have more moderately-priced wines. They’re thinking of a weekend brunch. “We’re changing with the times,” David summarized.

As for the employees, he only has two full-time right now.  But David expects many of the part-timers he has now will return when they reopen in the Fall.

Finally, I asked David Cohn about his relationship with Ed Moore – the previous owner of Thee Bungalow – and current owner of the 3rd Corner – right across the street? “We’re great friends,” Dave said. In fact, they’re partners, as together they just opened another 3rd Corner in Palm Desert.

“One last thing,” he pleaded, “tell your blog readers that we don’t own the parking lot next door. That’s why we don’t pave it. We can’t. It’s not ours.” I chuckled as I knew that but a lot of people don’t. It’s a public lot, and belongs to the City.

I offered him a genuine “good luck” with the new endeavor. The new re-open. It might be a riskier venture than he admits.  Changing the venerable name like Thee Bungalow into something totally new could be very dicey as now he would be up against every other California Cuisine place that dots the coastal landscape – all with similar menus and bars.  But David Cohn’s the restaurateur, not me.

Be forewarned:

this weekend is Thee End of Thee Bungalow.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Robert Burns August 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Destroying the name if foolish and energetically gross ec0nomic waste. I hope that the menu, service, and ambiance are not similarly trashed.


avatar Danny Morales August 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Don’t bet money on it, Robert!


avatar oBdaDa August 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm

•i LiKeD thE aMbianCe,,
••+The FooD waS gooD..
((aNd i gueSS iT haD to bE exPensiVe iN ordeR to MaKe yoU thinK iT waS gooD))
The GraVeL ParkinG didn’T boTheR mE==i thoughT iT waS quainT!


avatar Jon August 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Dude, SERIOUSLY. Stop with the weird capitalization. Your comments make me want to vomit.


avatar Danny Morales August 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

DaDa is as DaDa does, John.


avatar Molly August 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Oh David, oh so risky! You bought a name that people knew around the globe, and instead of making changes within that motif, you bring us Bo-Beau’s? You could have lowered your prices and changed the menu without changing the name. The best of both worlds that you’re trying to capture and maintain. But no, … you must be a gambler, David. You do have a lot of restaurants, but to be honest, they’re all not good. I mean they all don’t serve quality food. Changing with the times – maybe its all necessary. But I think you’ve blown it, really. Don’t put up the new sign yet. Maybe we can convince you not to do that. Just change everything else that you want. Hire me to be your PR – looks like you need some. Don’t do it … if you do, you’re lose it. People won’t care to go to BB’s – as it will probably be nicknamed – and there won’t be anything special about it.


avatar Danny Morales August 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Molly- To paraphrase Mr. Starbuck, “It is not the wrath of the Great People that I fear but that of the Almighty Market!”


avatar Connie August 15, 2010 at 6:19 am

Molly is right. Thee Bungalow is a steller name. Not even one “chain” sounding sylabyll in it. It’s cozy. It’s special. Don’t screw with Serendipity. She can get pretty nasty when she’s pissed off. …Bo-Beau’s…..BB’s…..Bozow’s? What’s the diff? How about Mc Bow’s? You could add some golden arches or something. Thee younger crowd you’re trying to seduce seems to like that sort of thing. A wise man will comtinue to romance those who have been “aged”. We can have the wine and not turn into idots. ….. and we vomit a lot less. You want more locales? Well walk around and LOOK. Most of us have a little grey. And we choose our wine by something other than what color it is. Do a series of the specially priced “updated” dinners. We’ll respond. Don’t rape and discard Thee Special Bungalow. Some things need to be updated and changed. But you have a CLASSIC here. You wouldn’t do a “low rider” thing on a 1957 Corvette, would you?


avatar Danny Morales August 15, 2010 at 7:41 pm

The Cohn family did ride its Corvette Diner out of Hillcrest and into Liberty (sic) $tation. Talk about a classic. Just because a business is local doesn’t mean it won’t sell out the community to the corporate state. Next time you pass by the Little Chef, repeat the saddest words of sword and pen, “It might have been!”


avatar BK-OB August 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I agree. The name is great and so was the food. The new name sounds like a hip restaurant opening at the Circus Circus in Vegas!!!


avatar Debbie August 15, 2010 at 8:05 am

Keep the name, change the owner? Bungle in the Jungle! Make it a fun experience for ALL ages.


avatar doug porter August 15, 2010 at 8:48 am

closing a restaurant down is a tough decision to make. (been there, done that)
based on what i’ve seen of the family’s operations, i’d say that they have a big emotional investment in each of their restaurants. the fact is that smaller special event/dinner only operations like Thee Bungalow are having a tough go of it these days. keeping the restaurant open on that basis, even with tweaks, could only lead to a diminished product. (when you’re losing $$ quality levels always decline, despite the best of intentions.) and the fact is that this economy is in for long, slow recovery.
i think the story here is that the Cohn family has enough pride in their product to invest in a new enterprise at this location. it would have been much easier for them to simply close it and leave the community with a boarded up building on a major thoroughfare.
keeping the old name on a different style of restaurant would have only confused people who actually wanted to spend money there.


avatar Frank Gormlie August 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

Thanks for pointing out “the real story,” – must have missed it. ;)


avatar Frank Gormlie August 15, 2010 at 8:59 am

Well, the U-T picked up the story, and without crediting us, printed a version by reporter Lori Weisberg in Saturday’s online signonsandiego. Lori, Jeff Light, everyone at the U-T: you’re welcome. You know, usually, when we post something that we saw in the U-T, we’ll write something as an intro and then link to the original article. But that is apparently below the “new” U-T that has a new emphasis on local news. Good going, guys. Off to a damn good start, I’d say.


avatar tj August 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Breaking the news = GOOD job.

The big guys giving credit to the little guys = never.

They’re too insecure for that.

Here’s a quote I like to try & remember for similar situations:

“Imitated … but never equaled” …
from Friendly Ken




avatar jim grant August 17, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Just because you ” broke” the story ……..its not like you found the missing link here right?? Do you think you are the only one who knew about the change ? I doubt that….
I know Lori and she is a very nice person and a true foodie and very well connected in the SD buisness climate. …thicken up the skin.


avatar Frank Gormlie August 18, 2010 at 7:11 am

It would be like if someone took one of your photos, enhanced it, trimmed it, edited it, and then republished it – without giving you any credit whatsoever. It’s not like you are the only one to have viewed the scene you photographed. The “big boys” do this all the time to us little guys. Actually, more and more, mainstream media is coming to the OB Rag for news.


avatar jim grant August 18, 2010 at 7:27 am

You are not considering the possibility that you BOTH were working on the same thing at the same time…come on that does happen.
If that happens ( somebody stealing a photo)I can sue , you know that. Bad analogy. Now if I shoot something and I give another photographer an idea or a editor an idea for a story and they follow up I am SOL….That has happened to me many many many times.
To insinuate Lori read your piece and reworded it is a little bit of a stretch. I doubt she knows of this web page. Like I said she is a foodie and knows all the players in this town I doubt she snakes story material from sources like the ob rag. . More than likley the Cohn’s were her direct source. Like I said I know her she is a very upstanding reporter and person.


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I remember when they opened The Bungalow; we were thrilled to have it – I’ve forgotten the chef’s name – a German guy, I think – then it moved across the street, as I recall.
It was a very special treat to go there. At one time, I lived on the same corner there.
Another wonderful memory lost to progress.
Bo-Beau’s – how cynical – just what my black friends call ignorant middle class white
folk – appropriate, I guess.


avatar John Koca August 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I’ll try the new place.


avatar Debbie August 15, 2010 at 5:50 pm

If the Cohen want more locals offer a discount with proof of 92107 residency. That’s what many cool places are doing in North County. Try it, you might like it! The Kensington is changing their menu but they didn’t have to change their name. Maybe Kensington’s don’t get confused?


avatar Brian August 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I just got back into town after being gone two weeks today. Happened to see this article, so managed to make it in for one last Bungalow dinner. Thanks, OB Rag.


avatar Frank Gormlie August 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Brian, you go to more restaurants! I’m envious. Hey, how about becoming our “food taster editor”?


avatar Brian August 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I do like to eat out… but, I’m probably not cut out to be a restaurant reviewer. I’d imagine most of my reviews would look like, “The food was yummy.”


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I’m just reading the NYC food writer’s Gael Greene’s biography, “Insatiable”, and it’s exceedingly funny.
Thee Bungalow served me a grand Pimm’s Cup the last time that I was there and I could describe it as “fresh, crisp, non-pretentious and perfectly executed in the traditional manner of this British favorite”. Heh heh.


avatar Goatskull August 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm

““There was a time,” David said sadly, “when being in business for fifty years meant something. Nowadays, people don’t care about that.””

Not that of fully correct. I wonder what is thoughts are about The Red Fox in North Park. Weekend nights it turns into a full on hipster hang out who in fact DO care about history and like old school types of places. How about Albie’s Beef Inn? That place is always full. I’ll check this place out maybe around 2 or three months after it opens (give them time to get settled). Based on past experience, most of the Cohn restaurants aren’t really that good (with the expetion of Indigo Grill) so we’ll see. Also the whole out with the old in with the new way of thinking may not work on OB. OB is not the uptown ares of SD where most of the Cohn restaurants are located.


avatar Brandon Goodrich August 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

I am VERY VERY disappointed Thee Bungalow is now A Bo-Beau Bogus Downtown-tailored joint. The name alone suggests the servers will make balloon animals and wear creepy clown customs. Word of mouth goes a long way, and to all the people I recently recommended to go there, I’m telling then now to boycott the cooperate mongrel OB does not allow. I’m so sad I could cry. The best service staff, wine list, food , a cook in the kitchen that has been there for 20 yrs. Nothing means nothing to a business with $$$ signs in their eyes. NOTHING WILL EVER COMPARE TO THEE BUNGALOW. SHAME ON YOU COHENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 17, 2010 at 8:20 am

Finally remembered that the chef who opened Thee Bungalow originally was called
Siggy (for Siegfred, of course). Forgot who took it over after, if I ever knew. All good
things must end, but it was very special there for a long time. I lived in Vaseline Flats then and we went to Thee Bungalow for special meals. Now I would not bother
to stop in when I come to San Diego.


avatar Frank Gormlie August 17, 2010 at 8:22 am

Deen – great hearing from you! How’s Texas? There’s a clinic reunion in early November – any interest?


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Actually I’m in SW Louisiana, but 6 miles from Texas…..and there is no good food!
Especially not European. And now I’m afraid to eat our seafood, thanx to BP.

I’d love to make the reunion, dunno if I can but can you post me the details at deenh2000@yahoo.com? Does Dean Chiasson know? I’m still in touch with him,
Theresa, and Mike Mangioan.


avatar Sunshine August 18, 2010 at 12:17 am

i agree with the collective comments i’ve read so far that the new proposed name is, well, frankly, cheezy, cornball, and dare I say highly unappetizing. I don’t want anyone named boo-boo or bebe to serve me anything but cotton candy or cracker jacks at the ballpark or circus.

don’t get me wrong, but isn’t the restaurant in question owned by new people? last I checked a new owner has the right to do what they want with the restaurant or did they sign a clause with the previous owners to not make any changes? how long ago was the restaurant sold? hasn’t the new owner tried to make a go of it as it was when they purchased it. i simply don’t agree with the comments that attempt to shame the Cohn’s recent business decision.

Perhaps the new owners would be open to giving some of their daily leftover food to local shelters or hungry homeless. who of you know for sure what they are going to do? seems to me that you’re all hanging the new owners out to dry before giving them a chance. is it personal? or do you just want to keep a restaurant around that you never frequent based on “it’s always been there.” If that’s what you want, i suggest you buy it from the Cohn’s and make a go of an expensive european restaurant in this economy yourself.


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

“Sunshine”, I’m afraid that I find your comments and your thinking “well, frankly, cheezy, cornball, and dare I say highly unappetizing.” to quote you.


avatar Danny Morales August 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Deen-I don’t want to batter up an unappetizing cheezy cornball so could you be more specific in your criticism. Frankly speaking, hot dog, which of Sunshine’s comments did you find distasteful?


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

All of them.


avatar Danny Morales August 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Deen-Keep up the good work @ the East Texas Border. I think that’s the right place for you, you epicure you!


avatar Deen Hollingsworth August 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Danny, I admit to being a hedonist, and it ain’t easy to do here in the land of barbecue as haute cuisine, with Tex-Mex as culinary adventure, but I
do my humble best.

If there were a just god in heaven, the San Andreas Fault would run along the Mason-Dixon line….


avatar Danny Morales August 19, 2010 at 3:51 am



avatar John August 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

How sad to hear this. Looks like the Cohns singularly killed the one classic restaurant in San Diego and then spit on the grave with a new name that’s one step away from “Jughead’s Burger Joint.” Let’s pray they don’t start buying NYC restaurants – I shudder to think what they’d do to “Cafe des Artistes” or “One If By Land” just because they’re classic.


avatar TEK August 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Thee Bungalow closing is sad, but the real tragedy was when the Belgian
Lion across the street (the 3d Corner now) closed. THAT was a place.

As long as the Belgian Lion was open Thee Bungalow wasn’t even in the
running for my structured-night-out system calls.



avatar OB Mercy September 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Say it ain’t so! I only got to eat there about 3 times in the last 17 months I’ve lived in OB. In fact, it’s about a 2 min walk for me. My friend and I loved their food and it was a wondeful touch of class in our beloved hippie type beach community. It will be greatly missed. I always want to try new places, but the new name…c’mon, ya gotta do better than that! You can read my reviews of Thee Bungalow on Yelp.com under Mercy B.


avatar Joanna December 16, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Why don’t you just try the place… THEN criticize?


avatar Jon December 17, 2010 at 8:09 am

This is a blog. It is thee readers job to criticize everything. Plus, it’s understandable that locals are a wee upset that a long standing, and well liked restaurant is closing, no matter what they put in there. I’m sure I will try it, and I’m sure it will be fine, just like every Cohn group restaurant. Fine, not great. They’ve sorta cornered that market that lies somewhere between a Chili’s and a Donovans. IMO.


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