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Good Old Days:

‘Sid ain’t here’ but his legendary stories are

March 02, 2008|By Sue Thoensen

Tucked away in a little “alley” known as 21st Place, The Blue Beet in Newport Beach is almost as hard to find as former owner Sid Soffer was when he fled to Vegas in the late ’90s.

What led to the self-imposed exodus? Soffer’s other restaurant and bar, known as “Sid’s,” was under fire from city officials for a litany of code violations.

To avoid jail, Soffer high-tailed it, apparently smack dab in the middle of stirring a huge pot of his famous Thousand Island salad dressing.

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Steve Lewis, who bought the Blue Beet from his friend in 1997, remembers the escape and the call he received from Soffer shortly after he fled.

“Sid had gotten a call from his attorney telling him there was a warrant out for his arrest. He’s up there on the hill stirring that dressing, but he just got in his Cadillac and took off.”

Once he arrived in Sin City, Soffer, who died a year ago, realized he was a little short of cash, which is when Lewis said he received a phone call and a special request.

“Sid explained that he’d left his good pants hanging on a hook in the kitchen and asked me to bring them to him. There were thousands of dollars in those pants,” Lewis said.

Everybody’s got a Sid story to share. People reminisce, do a “walk-through” and see what, if anything, has changed.

Owner Lewis and son Scott, the Blue Beet’s general manager, want to keep things like the old days. Much of the original building, built in 1912, remains intact. It survived the 1933 earthquake and a fire that damaged much of the structure in 1986.

“The challenge is to not modernize it too much, to keep it as real as it’s always been. This was a classic, funky saloon with great food...and today it’s still funky with great food,” Lewis said.

Keeping it real includes serving signature Sid’s dishes like his legendary beef stroganoff and garlic cheese bread, an item that requires at least 10 minutes’ baking time when ordered.

Ned Rose has been a Blue Beet regular since the ’60s, working at the grocery store and meat market Soffer frequented. It was across the street from the restaurant, and he shopped there several times a week.

Rose said Soffer just eyeballed the amount of food he’d be cooking in a given day, so sometimes he’d run short of items on the menu.

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