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Bringing back the drive-in: Bobbi's Coffee Shop offers pandemic-friendly car-hop service in Cupertino

Photo courtesy of Bobbi's Coffee Shop
By Laila Weir - Published on December 09, 2020.

Turns out there’s nothing like a pandemic for bringing back those ‘50s vibes. Drive-in movie theaters have seen a resurgence of interest in the age of social distancing, and now locals can enjoy drive-in dining thanks to Cupertino landmark Bobbi’s Coffee Shop.

The iconic restaurant is now offering COVID-friendly car-hop service. Customers can order the eatery’s classic comfort food and eat in their cars — on disposable plates, of course.

“Bobbi’s was originally opened in the late ’50s, and that’s where we drew our inspiration,” co-owner Tracy James told the Mercury News.

James and his wife, Toya Yamagami, reopened the café after it closed its doors in July and have given it a facelift, according to their website, but kept the classic fare and staff.

Those popular recipes (including cabbage soup and biscuits and gravy, for example) date back to the original Bobbi, who had inherited them from her own mother, the Mercury News tells us, and current chef Ruben Garcia trained under the original chef more than three decades ago.

The restaurant was established in 1953 when Toya Yamagami’s father, Taro Yamagami, first created the shopping center it’s part of and his friend Bobbi Thorne opened her coffee shop. It’s changed names and owners a few times since, mostly passing into the hands of former servers and staff, but the recipe book – and many of the customers – stayed the same.

“Many of our loyal customers have been coming to Bobbie’s [an alternative spelling from one of its name variations] for decades; many of their children and their grandchildren continued bringing their families regularly,” shares the Bobbi’s website.

The site adds: “During the Covid 19 pandemic the current custodian, guardian, owner and keeper of the sacred Recipe Book decided to relinquish Bobbi’s back to the daughter of Taro Yamagami, Toya.”

When the last owners had to close after months of pandemic-related lockdown — sparking dozens of comments from loyal customers past and present on social media — Toya Yamagami didn’t want to see the Bobbi’s tradition end after so many years.

“Yamagami’s Garden Center used to be my play yard. I’d go from one little shop to the next little shop to Bobbi’s Coffee Shop,” Yamagami recalled to the Mercury News, describing her childhood growing up in and out of the restaurant. “People that even knew me when I was little are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re Toya Yamagami that used to run around here with Bobbi chasing after you when you were little!’”

On Facebook, customers shared memories and reminisced about years at Bobbi’s.

“I've been going to Bobbie's since the original Bobbie [sic] was the owner!” wrote one. “Looking forward to eating there again!”

“Cupertino icon!” declared another. “Loved breakfast there for decades with family and coworkers.”

Yamagami and James had kind words for their customers in return. “Our customers are the heart of who we are,” reads a note on their website. “We couldn’t be here without you. We are truly grateful to our community and their continued support, allowing us to remain open during this uncertain time.”

Bobbi’s is open Wednesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located at 1361 S. De Anza Blvd. in Cupertino.

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