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Brad’s Restaurant in Pismo Beach dishes up a free, festive feast

nlucero@thetribunenews.com

Last Christmas Launi Platt had just moved to Pismo Beach from Yuba City and had nowhere to go for a home cooked meal. She didn’t have a place to live either. Along with her four young children, the 34-year-old was homeless.

“We had just moved here from out of town,” she said. But luck was looking up for Platt that night. Brad’s restaurant in Pismo Beach had opened its doors to all comers for a free Christmas meal. For Platt, that made Christmas a lot better than it might have been.

No longer homeless, Platt brought her kids and friends to Brad’s this year.

“I loved it so much I brought my friends with me,” she said.

For Platt and anyone else who has nothing to eat or nowhere to go on Christmas day, Brad’s has become something of a merry oddity: one of the few places open to all day on Christmas serving up a home-cooked meal — literally cooked by a family.

Brad’s is a family-owned restaurant overseen by three sisters whose parents opened the place in 1956. Every year, the family spends Christmas day at the restaurant, cooking and then eating dinner.

“This is what we do for Christmas every year,” said Steve Becker, as he stood in the busy kitchen, loud with the sound of clanking dishes and silverware.

Last year, said Becker, his mother, Maryann Becker, and her sisters decided to open the restaurant to anyone who needed a meal or had no place to go on Christmas.

More than 700 people filled the red-cushioned booths last year, he said.

About half of the people who came were really in need of a meal, the other half either had no place to go for Christmas or were passing through on vacation.

Donna Campos, whose mother, Gerry Graham, is one of the three sisters who own Brad’s, said the number of people who needed a meal last year was astonishing. “We had no idea,” she said.

Because of the popularity of the offering the first year, the family decided to repeat the effort, said Steve Becker.

Much of the appeal for those used to free meals — besides the steaming oval plates topped with mounds of corn, peas, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, ham and turkey — is the fact that the meal is served in a restaurant, not a soup kitchen, Becker said.

Some of that food went happily into the stomach of Kevin Henley. The 52-year-old Texan, who wore a grip of silver rings on his this fingers and a wide-brimmed straw hat, said he’s been camping on Pismo Beach with his dog, Fredrick.

“This is where I want to be,” he said. Without Brad’s, he said, the night “probably would have been a little bleak, and I’d have got blown on.”

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