Cafe Society: Family reopens Ojai bar
By Lisa McKinnon
June 1, 2005
The sign at Bodee’s Bar used to read, “I’m open until I’m closed. I’m closed until I’m open.”
Then it just read “closed.”
Now, after nearly a decade of inactivity, the watering hole that once attracted locals and travelers on Highway 33 between Ojai and Lockwood Valley Road is once again open.
It’s safe to say old-timers won’t recognize the place.
The name has been shortened to Bodee’s, for one thing. Coming out of the kitchen overseen by executive chef Christopher Watson are rib-eye steaks, baby back ribs, yellowfin tuna and barbecue duck confit quesadillas with mango salsa. And there’s a wine list, dotted with international selections from Argentina and Australia.
Inside, the decor is less about bar stools than dark wood and leather seating. Outside, an arrangement of river rocks around the foundation makes it look as though the restaurant grew out of the ground.
It in fact grew where Hiram Imboden Cromer—a physical therapist whose patients dubbed him “Doc” Bodee—built the bar, kitchen and steam baths in 1947 for use by patients and the boxers who trained at Pop Sopers’ camp nearby.
Cromer died in 1951, after a fire that burned the original Bodee’s to the ground; wife Anne and son Michael survived. With help from friends, Anne reopened for business two years later. Aside from suffering extensive storm damage in the late 1960s, she kept the place going until her death in 1998, switching to weekend-only hours as she neared her 85th birthday.
As owner-manager, granddaughter Michele Cromer-Bentivolio is among the family members involved in the site’s newest incarnation. The hours are a bit longer than in Anne Cromer’s day: Dinner is served from 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and brunch will be available from 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays starting this weekend. Call 646-5300.
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