Exactly 50 years ago, a couple of avid horseracing fans who worked in the racetrack business formed a partnership and opened one of the most iconic restaurants in San Diego. Lester Holt and George Bullington opened the doors to Bully’s in La Jolla and it quickly became famous for its juicy Prime Rib steaks, red leather booths, and the famous Leroy Neiman paintings that adorned the walls.
In 1969, Bullington and Holt opened their second Bully’s Restaurant, called Bully’s North, located only a mile from the Del Mar Racetrack. Over the years, Bully’s North became iconic as a favorite place for the thousands who flocked to watch horse races at the Del Mar Racetrack during the summer race season. Bulley’s North was a family establishment with a long list of regulars who boast that they have been dining at the restaurant for more than 30 years. Famous people like Betty Grable, Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball were patrons at Bully’s.
Sadly, Del Mar is saying goodbye to Bully’s North. The owner of Bully’s is currently in escrow selling the property, comprised of four lots, to Beverly Hills-based Hillstone Restaurant Group.
Hillstone’s vision is to build a 5,200-square-foot restaurant with a three-level parking garage. They plan to create a platform structure, with the back half of the restaurant mounted on posts, hovering over the alley behind Camino Del Mar. When complete, the new restaurant will hold twice as many patrons as Bully’s North did. The new restaurant is proposing to offer American cuisine with cheeseburgers, sandwiches, salads and prime rib.
Del Mar City Planner, Evan Langan, said that this new restaurant project will be the first city commercial project in over 30 years. The building and renovation project is so complex that it is estimated to go on through 2019.
Bully’s was known for its famous one-of-a-kind cocktail called Keoke Coffee, created by original owner George Bullington. Staff lovingly referred to the special house cocktail as “George’s Coffee.” We spoke with the manager at Bully’s North and he said Keoke Coffee isn’t ordered much anymore, but we think it should be honored as the restaurant closes its doors forever. Here is the recipe, try it at home after your prime rib dinner.