Walking into Hoover’s Beef Palace in Templeton is like stepping into the pages of local history, and you’d better bring along a good ol’ appetite to boot.
The classic coffee shop dates back to the late 1950s, and the main interior wall sports a roundup of portraits of the county’s Cattlepersons of the Year. A look through the several dozen names reads like a veritable “who’s who” of local ranching icons, and there are also a couple dozen rustic plaques portraying the cattle brands of area ranches.
Since 1995, the Beef Palace has been owned and operated by Mark Simmons, who never gave a thought to removing the iconic portraits and brands, simply because, “to me, that’s Templeton.” He did, however, add “Hoover’s” to the title, which has its own place in county chronicles dating back to 1966 when Ervin Simmons — Mark’s father — launched the first of two very popular Hoover’s coffee shops in Atascadero. (The back of the menu tells his story, including how he got the “Hoover” nickname.)
Though Mark Simmons grew up in the family business, he had to step into some big shoes in short order. His father passed away in 1976, the year after Mark graduated from Atascadero High School, so he took over the reins of the second Hoover’s restaurant, continuing to serve the hearty Mexican and American fare his dad had taught him.
In 1994, while on a Toys for Tots benefit horseback ride, Simmons noticed the Beef Palace. He remembers thinking “it’d be a cool place to have,” and by the following June, he was cooking away in the kitchen of Hoover’s Beef Palace. Partner Kandy Siroonan joined him several years later, serving up the whopping plates of food to hungry patrons as fast as Simmons can sling them out — which is pretty darn fast.
The menu at Hoover’s Beef Palace is that of a traditional Mexican/American coffee shop. Breakfast options include fluffy omelettes, buttermilk pancakes, pork verde with tortillas, and a whole herd of meat-and-egg combos such as chorizo, bacon, linguica, sausage and tri-tip. Plus, there are generous bone-in ham steaks and country-fried steaks that dwarf the plates they’re served on.
The country-fried steak is also available at lunch, or you can also opt for everything from burgers to grilled tri-tip, tamales to turkey sandwiches, soups to salad, light lunches to liver and onions suppers. There are daily specials as well — recently as varied as a chile verde burrito and a grilled Polish sandwich with sauerkraut — and those in the know relish the “all you can eat” days; on Wednesday it’s hamburgers, Thursday tacos, and fish on Friday.
Though the Hoover’s Beef Palace menu might not surprise you, the method behind it probably will. As busy as the place can get, many cooks would be tempted to go for a few shortcuts, but Simmons shuns instant mixes and premade ingredients. He arrives at the restaurant early in the morning and starts on such tasks as grinding sausage, making brown and white gravy from scratch, baking biscuits, peeling potatoes, roasting the turkey breasts, and firing up his housemade chili verde.
Instead of getting pre-mixed egg mixture or doing his own ahead of time, he also takes the time to “crack all the eggs to order” — a daunting duty considering that the restaurant goes through an estimated 2,880 a week. In addition, Simmons makes all the country-fried steaks in house, preparing each ginormous piece of meat one at a time from choice tri-tip.
“We’re not fancy,” said Simmons, “but we serve really good food and we’re known for our portions. It’s the old-fashioned way, the way my dad taught me.”
January is San Luis Obispo County Restaurant Month, featuring three-course prix fixe menus for $30 per person, some with wine pairings at an extra charge. Go to www.sanluisobispocounty.com/restaurantmonth for a list of participating restaurants and sample menus.