Survival of the fittest – The Gopher Hole – Escondido, CA

Date line is stamped with this blog. Somehow we keep going back. We are considered “regulars”.


The Gopher Hole has now, long been a focus of my studies and hopes for some three years now. Having recently learned of its inevitable . . . I think the name of the joint should be renamed Punxsutawney Phil’s. Such slow change . . . if any. Three years ago I began showing up here, and today I keep coming back.

For most of those three years, if not all, Ms. Leann Rimes has been the General Manager of The Gopher Hole sports bar that is located in the clubhouse of Castle Creek Country Club in Escondido, CA. Located just about 1/4 mile east from the Gopher Canyon/Old Highway 395/Champagne Blvd. off-ramp from Interstate 15; this Gopher Hole has now become the local watering hole for many of the residents living in the general area, and a genuine gold mine if happening upon this place while lodging at Tuscany Hills. I guess Tuscany Hills has offers of wine getaways in the region. Stay there and walk next door to The Gopher Hole some evening. You may not know that the Gopher Hole is even there (no advertising agreement), but it is. They have bar specials every day.

Ms. Rimes spoke with me one day about the joint and its stagnation; yet with a now successful operation that features weekly local and National live musicians, 20 tap handles and a menu that seems to give most patrons a reason to keep coming back.

Upon first arrival, you may slip back in time about 3 years ago when much of the building’s aesthetics and landscaping was the same as it is today. You may perhaps, back then noticed the sign at the street entrance went without light until about a year ago when they finally changed the bulb (?). You may also have realized the interior of the joint has mostly remained the same, after an initial remodel was executed about 3 of those years ago making the bar area larger, removal of the restaurant area, keeping the formal event room and making the pro-shop smaller. But the lack of noticeable changes to the decor, the same empty outside patio area and the peeling window tint on the large panoramic golf-course view windows suggest there hasn’t been much profit to be had or success to be shared.hole

But the fact remains, Leann has taken the red and made it black. Leann has shown her ability to run a successful bar/restaurant. I didn’t initially see that ability in her, but have since understood her performance. But you know what? Leann’s ability to turn this place around within the confines of difficult circumstances have only strengthened her and made her that much more of a valuable asset. I wont speak much of those circumstances, but will give you reason to visit.

One of those reasons happened upon me one day when returning home from work to a hungry family. The suggestion from my kids was to get a quick take-out order of burgers or sandwiches and bring them back home so as to not interrupt an evening of homework.

I remember that evening very well; because of course, I had to sample the eats. Opening the first of the take-out styrofoam carry-out containers revealed the most perfectly plated to-go order. I was enamored at the quality of the presentation. It was probably the best looking take-out order I have ever witnessed. I was very impressed . . . and this was just a burger and fries. Sorry, but it just looked very appetizing; and what is one of the first things we notice about our food? That’s right, how it looks.

Subsequent visits for cocktails (rotating craft beer list) for me and burgers for my boys, I have noticed a significant quality shift from some of the previous visits. Both the quality of the food and the quality of the presentation. Not a bad job from that kitchen. I would rank the overall Gopher Hole food as “a cut above” most other golf courses can regularly produce. I’m beginning to realize why it is I keep returning. The array of tap handles serving many of the local breweries, the good music on Friday nights (to include the periodic National recording artist passing through), the decent food and the regular, very cool, staff.

Seems that Leann has something to offer her employees to keep them serving at this establishment. Many of that staff has been here almost nearly as long as Leann. That says something about her as a boss, and the ability of the bar to draw decent tips from the patrons. Something is going on that is right. I’m not going to say the service is overwhelmingly great, because sometimes it’s not. Just as any establishment being guided by limited profits, it’s hard to keep an adequate quantity of staff to support operations at all times. But each of those servers, cooks and bartenders treat each customer as their own, keeping the overall quality experience alive. Each musical artist plays for the locals as if they personally knew each of those dancing patrons.

The place hasn’t changed much from the looks of things, but the customers all seem to keep coming, and the regulars are still regulars. And speaking with the servers and others, the pace has been steadily increasing. I notice the place seems to keep pretty good pace with anything else going on in that area. Not a bad deal for a public golf course’s 9/18th hole.

So don’t expect to find an exceptional experience at the “Hole”. What you can expect to find are the same locals supporting their local establishment. What you will find is some great music on a Friday night. What you will find is the Millennial drinkers frequenting this place right along side of the regulars . . . , even considered regulars themselves; . . . or in my case, as with several others, . . . their Millennial drinkers. Perhaps that’s because Dad is buying.

It seems that everyone knows your name here at the Hole . . . and those Friday nights seem to be getting just a little better each visit. I used to say that I wouldn’t return, but . . .



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