Hungry patrons formed a line down the sidewalk outside of the Pickled Porch Café at lunchtime on Feb. 19, anticipating fast service and delicious deli creations.
“Her reputation precedes her,” one diner said of the restaurant’s owner while awaiting an order on the airy, sit-down porch, the day after the grand opening.
Truly, local businesswoman Gretel Tiscornia has had ample experience in drawing scores of loyal lunch-goers to her doors—more than 20 years, in fact—at the Pickle Patch Deli in San Andreas. More recently, however, it seemed that Tiscornia was preparing to move on from the restaurant business, opening a boutique, Mingo’s on Main, in downtown Angels Camp, putting the Pickle Patch up for sale and stepping into an elected position on the Angels Camp City Council in January.
But a spark of inspiration changed her mind.
“When I found out the visitor center was moving, I jumped on it as soon as I heard,” Tiscornia said. “I could totally envision people sitting on the porch. I had the whole place planned in 30 minutes. … Once I get an idea, I just don’t really look back.”
Across the street from Mingo’s on Main in downtown Angels Camp, the wide, wrap-around porch building that was once occupied by the Calaveras Visitors Bureau, now owned by the city, was begging for a new purpose.
As a business owner and council member in Angels Camp, Tiscornia has consistently argued the need for more “anchor businesses” to rejuvenate the historic downtown. The handful of boutiques and restaurants there have been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the indefinite closure of the city’s movie theater eliminating a primary attraction to the area.
Yet Tiscornia believes that people will travel for food — particularly, eateries that are easily accessible and maintain consistent hours.
“It’s not a competition,” she said. “Business encourages business. All of the shops have been busier. … There’s just life everywhere.”
In the Pickled Porch kitchen on Feb. 19, Tiscornia hustled alongside her employees, assembling sandwiches for what appeared to be an endless stream of customers. Throughout the day and the weekend to follow, people came from work, from church, from Murphys and the local hotels to eat on the porch.
“Even though they’re busy, it seems it’s going very quickly,” Erica Close, a patron from Arnold, said. She is a fan of the Pickle Patch but was excited to visit the Pickled Porch. “It’s closer.”
Although similar to the Pickle Patch, the Pickled Porch’s menu offers some new items including a chicken sandwich that has been very popular, according to Tiscornia. She will now be dividing her time between all three of her businesses, as the Pickle Patch has been taken off the market.
Regarding her most recent endeavor, Tiscornia admits that she has invested thousands of dollars into a renovating a building she does not own. But she hopes that the kitchen she installed will serve the next generation, regardless of who owns the restaurant.
“I just like making things better,” Tiscornia said. “The money doesn’t matter.”