Dobson's is a power central at lunchtime -- downtown lawyers, politicos and other Eminent Type Personages have done business here since the early '80s while breaking through the pastry crust on the famously delicious Mussel Bisque. If you think you have no place here, polish your shoes, show up and be proven wrong: Dobson's is renowned for being an exceptionally comfortable place to hang out.
Wood-paneled walls and stained glass lend dignity to the rather narrow room, lending the atmosphere of an old fashioned men's club. (Don't for a minute think that women aren't a presence, too). Within a block of the Civic Theatre, Balboa Theatre and the Lyceum, Dobson's also draws theater-bound patrons at dinnertime, when the menu includes pan-roasted Chilean sea bass or a chicken breast stuffed with ripe olive tapenade. Be sure to make reservations as table seating is limited -- at lunchtime you'll find plenty of people eating at the bar.
Between lunch and dinner, you can choose from a "small menu" of appetizers and sandwiches, from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
San Diego Magazine's 2003 Dining Guide
Entering and exiting the narrow restaurant at 956 Broadway Circle in downtown San Diego, women kiss Paul Dobson, and men shake his hand. A host who stays eternally at the top of his game, the restaurateur is so identified with his establishment that the two seem inseparable, and a Dobson's without "Pablo" is unthinkable. Armed with the unblinking gaze of the bullfighter he has been for many years, Dobson opened in 1983 in a space originally occupied by the Theatre Buffet when the Spreckels Building opened in 1913. It later became a bar called The Press Room, when the offices of The San Diego Union and Evening Tribune were across the street.
Dobson opened in time to catch the patronage of Los Angeles Times staffers who worked in the tower built on the former U-T site, and now he hosts NBC staffers whose studios relocated to that structure. Besides media members, he entertains attorneys and City Hall folk, with the exception of Mayor Dick Murphy, who reputedly lunches at his desk.
Challenged by a south-of-Broadway location that was not fashionable in 1983, Dobson bought himself some chic by taking a page from the Grant Grill's book and mounting brass plaques engraved with regulars' names on the barroom walls. He discontinued the practice years ago but says that patrons sometimes surreptitiously add plaques themselves; he noticed two new ones in May 2003. In the mid-1980s, when then-Councilman Uvaldo Martinez was disgraced by using a city credit card for personal expenses at Dobson's and elsewhere, someone plastered a Band-Aid across his plaque.
San Diego Metropolitan Magazine
Power Lunch: Dobson's
With our economy booming and Downtown redevelopment back on track, power lunching is a popular spectator sport again. The best place to be seen is still Dobson's, where power brokers from nearby City Hall mingle with reporters, attorneys, bankers and the occasional visiting celeb. Yes, Dobson's tops this year's field of 25, including runners-up Asti and Rainwater's, offering yet another testimony to Paul Dobson's drive, charisma, good taste...and the cosmic hum of this location, dating back to a time when the U-T was still headquartered in the urb, and reporters and editors frequented a favorite watering hole somewhere nearby -- who remembers where?