Not that Hobo Joe’s

There is a little place in Cottonwood, Arizona called Hobo Joe’s Coffee Shop. 660 E Mingus Ave. My dad, Marty and H.o.p. and I were pointed to Hobo Joe’s by my mother who had never actually eaten there.

I ordered the green chili omelette with cheddar and hash browns and biscuit. “Good choice,” said the blond waitron, whose name I forget but she is one of those few with the personality to make you feel that every customer she’s ever waited on was a friend frequenting the establishment for as many years as she’d been working there, the kind of waitron who if she ever changes jobs and goes to wait at another place, the customers pick up their chairs and follow her. She made me feel special by saying, “Good choice.” And she didn’t look at me cross-eyed though I was covered with hundreds of flaming red hundreds of hives.

They have the biggest biscuits in the world. Cross my heart, poke a needle in my eye if it isn’t the truth (don’t challenge me on this, please). The biscuit needed its own chair. It was about 4 inches in height. Who needs to be eating a Babe and the Blue Ox sized biscuit, I don’t know, but I was on vacation and vacations are for things you don’t normally do, even if it’s as mundane as eating a really big biscuit, and I was ready for it. And it was just right. I should have taken a picture but it didn’t occur to me until I was done eating it. The call to eat that biscuit was too strong to wait for a photo.

Marty had country-fried steak and hash browns, a couple of scrambled eggs, and his way of describing the biscuit is to say it was about the size of his head. He says the steak, was different from the southern style he’s used to, not quite as spicy, but he was pleased with it and devoured it all.

While we ate, late-morning stragglers, another table with a man in a wheelchair (easy access!) congratulated her and the cook on something they were eating which they said was the best of whatever it was that they’d ever had. I don’t know whether they had her call out the cook or whether the waitron brought him out on her own initiative but he appeared in his long white apron and soaked up the praise. I’m not certain the cook was the owner of the coffee shop but he sounded like he was. Appearances and feel indicate that Hobo Joe’s is a mom-and-pop coffee shop.

There was a mural and dozens of framed hand-drawn pics on the walls that I didn’t examine and wish that I had.

There was another Hobo Joe’s, a long defunct chain, based out of Scotsdale, Arizona, begun by Robert Goldwater, a brother of Barry Goldwater. A man named Applegate hooked up with Goldwater and a guy nmaed Martori in the 60s and Hobo Joe’s was born, each establishment apparently graced with the statue of a hobo. The Humpty-Dumpty Coffeeshops were also gratis the same team, and eventually Applegate birthed Applegate.

The Hobo Joe’s of yesteryear is mentioned in the 1977 book, “The Arizona Project”, by Michael Wendland.

It’s an old saying in Arizona that what money won’t buy, sex will. And the saying is not without merit. For in almost every aspect of the state’s business dealings being investigated by the visiting reporters, sex-in the form of well-paid prostitutes or carefully kept mistresses-played a major role. Without seeking it out, the reporters kept stumbling across example after example: a couple of extremely prominent lawyers who staged weekly sex-party poker games for their well-heeled business clients; a land fraud huckster who bought a Phoenix tavern for his mistress; a Tucson drug dealer who kept two Las Vegas hookers on annual retainers; an elderly judge whose vice was young girls; and a well-known Phoenix politician and businessman whose kinky sex habits were paid for in diamonds, thus earning him the nickname “Diamondman” in the trick book of almost every madame in the Southwest.

I would imagine that the owner of the Cottonwood Hobo Joe’s is aware of the legacy the Hobo Joe’s name carries with it so I am curious as to why the name was chosen.

If I lived in Cottonwood I’d be down at Hobo Joe’s several mornings a week, I think. As a shooter for every catastrophe in life I know I’d be down there.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

12 thoughts on “Not that Hobo Joe’s”

  1. Now just how big is this town of Cottonwood? The reason I ask is that our single mom friend lived there for quite awhile, raising her daughter and running her own cafe until a few years ago. She lost everything when after sending her girl off to college and selling the business in order to retire, the buyers defaulted on the loan, scuttled all the equipment, and were never heard from. Now at age 60, she lives out of her pickup.

  2. Jay, I read that it has a population of about 5900 people. Tiny place. My mother just moved there within the last five years or so.

    Terrible story. I’ll ask my mother but she’s fairly new there.

  3. Jay, my mother says she may have met her but she’s not certain. The woman she’s thinking of, however, she says sold her establishment just last year. She thinks it had Blue in the name but she’s not sure. She has a friend she is going to ask about it who would know.

  4. Thanks. I was just curious. Our friend left there I think last year, but the episode played out over several years, involving some funny business in the state office investigating the fraud, and some links to organized crime. She finally had enough.

  5. I waker for Hobo Joes in 1969. I meet applegate and goldwater in th main off in scottsdale. Iworkrd for aman henry krikwood. My life ong dearm has been to own one. thanks

  6. I moved to Cottonwood in January of 2006 and have been driving by Hobo Joe’s almost every other day. After reading this article, I’m just gonna HAVE to stop and check out the food at Hobo Joe’s! thanks for the article!

  7. The old Hobo Joes you speak of in Phoenix was wonderful. My family used to go there and get the “all you can eat Pancakes” and “pigs in a blanket”.
    I went there on my Prom night as a Sophmore in High School, what a great place for us kids of the 70’s!

    April from Central High School

  8. Hi there, I live in cottonwood. Hobo Joe’s is by far the best place to eat in town. Unfortunately they are closing down. The last day they will be open is 9-11-11 and it will be a sad one. 🙁

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