Note: A version of this piece was first published by Richmond.com. on Jan 26, 2000. On the left in shades without a beard is Artie Probst, who was a bartender at Soble’s. To his right are the late Fitz Marston, who built the interior of Soble’s on Main St., and the late Paul Soble. They were […]
Note: A version of this piece was first published by Richmond.com. on Jan 26, 2000.
On the left in shades without a beard is Artie Probst, who was a bartender at Soble’s. To his right are the late Fitz Marston, who built the interior of Soble’s on Main St., and the late Paul Soble. They were enjoying the Fan District League’s 1985 All-Star Game.
Soble’s, home of “the world-famous bacon cheeseburger” for 22 years, is no more.
Paul Soble and his partner, Bruce Behrman, have sold the well-known Fan District restaurant to a group that plans to open a new restaurant under the name, “The Devil’s Kitchen.”
Soble’s, Part One, lasted ten years (1977-87) at 2526 Floyd Avenue in what had previously been the location of Cavedo’s, a traditional neighborhood drug store with a classic soda fountain. Part Two saw the restaurant lose its lease, pack up its patio, and move one block to the south – 2600 West Main Street.
Soble’s had a feel to it that was reminiscent of traditional watering holes in large cities on the eastern seaboard. Its elegant back bar was cluttered with memorabilia that included hundreds of photos of regulars and popular culture souvenirs that documented a generation’s after-dark highlights and next-day hangovers.
The mirrors were covered with Elvis kitsch, dog-eared tickets from NRBQ concerts, High on the Hog backstage passes, postcards featuring shapely derrieres, and silly bumper stickers with slogans such as, “bad cop – no doughnut.”
Perhaps the peak of Soble’s popularity was in the mid-‘80s, when an every-other-Monday jam session evolved into a scene that had a touch of magic. It came to be known as the “Blue Monday Jam.”
As the summer of 1986 wore on, the crowds for the impromptu show began to fill the restaurant and overflow onto the patio and into Floyd Avenue. Jimmy Maddox, a vocalist who accompanied himself on piano, served as organizer and host for shows that included the best musicians in town on a given Monday.
Other clubs tried to copy the concept and attempted to set up nights for jam sessions. None of them were ever able to duplicate the scene that naturally formed in Soble’s.
Behrman confirmed that indeed he saw the Blue Monday Jam as a high water mark in popularity for the restaurant. But he laughed at the idea that the live music crowds of those Monday nights spent a lot of money.
Still, that rowdy scene was part of why Soble’s became a headquarters for a certain ilk. It now joins the Texas-Wisconsin Border Café and John & Norman’s as noteworthy Fan District restaurants to cash in their chips within the last year.
According to Vaughn Turner, a bartender for many years at the Border, the Devil’s Kitchen will serve a bacon cheeseburger of sorts. He also indicated that hot sauces, made on the premises, will be featured in the new operation. Turner is one of three partners involved in the venture.
While there to check out the changes underway, I looked for a bullet hole in the back bar that had been put there during a 1987 holdup, shortly after the move from Floyd to Main. One of the robbers fired a shot at Soble that he was purported to have dodged. I couldn’t find the hole; somebody must have fixed it. It’s hard to imagine Paul ever moving that fast again.
Perhaps it was time to make a change. As far as why he and Soble sold the business, Behrman said, “We both got tired of it and wanted to do some other things. Business was okay.”
Part fiefdom, part neighborhood dive, Soble’s earned a place on the short list of restaurants that deserve an obituary.
Note: Paul Soble died on July 27, 2000. Both Price’s Market and the Fan Market, compact Fan District grocery stores that also were throwbacks, closed a few months after Soble’s restaurant ceased operation. The Devil’s Kitchen didn’t last out the year 2000. Now Starlight is in that location.
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