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Harry’s offers taste of past

There was a time when the country was dotted with little coffee shops. Folks gathered at these informal neighborhood eateries for food and conversation in cozy booths. Solo diners could sit at the counter and chat with the waitress who filled their coffee cups every few minutes.

Most of the neighborhood coffee shops are history but not the La Jolla landmark, Harry’s Coffee Shop. This reminder of kinder and gentler times lives on, offering a marathon menu of breakfast and lunch items every day of the week.

Harry’s closes at 3 p.m.. Until then, you can still get anything on the menu, including a wide range of egg, waffle and pancake creations.

There are three generations of the Rudolph family working in the restaurant now, plus a couple of fourth-generation family members who come around on a part-time basis to learn the family business that Harry and Cathy Rudolph started on Girard Avenue in 1960.

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When the restaurant opened its doors 45 years ago, a cup of coffee cost a nickel. Customers complained when it doubled to a dime. Now Harry’s charges $1.80 for coffee, but you get a full pot on the table.

Harry’s counter features covered cake platters laden with pastries and muffins just like the good old days. The menu still offers the classics of coffee shop cuisine, including New York steak and eggs ($10.95), tuna and egg salads ($4.90 or $7.35 to add a scoop), patty melts ($6.75), liver and sauteed onions with bacon ($8.50), and shrimp in a basket ($7.85). Along with the old-fashioned favorites, Harry’s has added chicken quesadilla ($7.75) and chicken tenders salad ($8.85).

Almost everything is made on the premises, and the quality of the food is excellent. Harry’s uses certified Angus beef in the burgers, and you’ll find several varieties on the charbroiled burger list, including a diet burger plate with tomato slices and cottage cheese or yogurt ($6.75).

We love the waffle topped with fresh berries ($7.50). This crisp waffle is enhanced by the strawberries and blueberries on top, as well as the mounds of whipped cream. It makes a great breakfast or lunch.

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There are several great salads on Harry’s vast menu. Two of our favorites are the fresh spinach salad tossed with warm bacon dressing and served with a hard boiled egg, bacon, mushrooms and a hunk of foccacia bread ($8) and the tuna stuffed into a fresh papaya, melon or tomato ($7.85). These two salads alone are reason enough to make frequent trips to Harry’s.

The coffee shop maintains a large parking lot in back to accommodate its customers.

Harry’s Coffee Shop is at 7545 Girard Ave. Call (858) 454-7381.