Dog Days

“Sometimes I look at the line and I’m like, ‘how do all these people know about us?’” Joleen Green, left, says. She and Tamie Aceves are partners in Lucy’s on Lighthouse.

Where some people might have seen a shuttered restaurant on a weedy lot in an odd location set between downtown Pacific Grove and the coast, Tamie Aceves saw a dream. “It’s the light,” she says of the building that in 2020 became Lucy’s on Lighthouse. “I fell in love.”

Aceves has long been part of the local culinary scene, mostly through her catering business, La Crème Monterey, and now also operates The Grill at Point Pinos. Her 35-year career in food has tended toward higher-end cuisine. But her then-assistant, now-partner Joleen Green saw the airy building and immediately thought: hot dogs. “I ran baseball park concessions in Pacific Grove for two or three years, and I always wanted to do better creations of hot dogs – but there was no cooking,” Green says.

These two minds originally converged because Green, who ran a cleaning business for 25 years, counted Aceves as a client. Their collective dream became a surf shack-inspired destination that locals regularly line up to visit right at opening time, 11am Friday. (The restaurant is open just three days a week due to pandemic-era staffing challenges.) “It’s comfort food,” Aceves says. “Older folks love coming here, and kids of all ages – we love that part.”

“We created this place where everyone wants to hang out, it makes me so happy,” Green says.

Happiness is part of the premise. Green lost her husband to suicide in 2019, and was looking for a new career and earning opportunity, so she stepped in to become a partner to Aceves and the restaurant manager.

The menu – loaded Nathan’s hot dogs (or veggie dogs), tater tots and milkshakes, named after surf spots and skate and roller derby maneuvers – is oriented around all-American classics.

Weekly: Hot dogs are a pretty unique item to build your entire menu around.

Aceves: You’re not putting on airs when you’re eating a hot dog. It’s user-friendly. It’s associated with being at a ball game, a beach – positive, fun.

What’s most popular?

Green: The Asilomar – a bacon-wrapped dog with chili, nacho cheese, grilled onions and jalapeños. My favorite is the Boneyards, bacon-wrapped with grilled onions and peppers, and Lucy’s sauce.

Can you tell me what’s in the Lucy’s sauce?

Green: It’s a secret.

I’ll admit my favorite is basic – The Cliffs, with just mustard, sauerkraut and relish. I think you’ve gone pretty wild with the toppings.

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Green: We took it above and beyond, while keeping the classic chili dog and classic Chicago dog. But we also went crazy – like, who puts kimchi on a hot dog? And I love our tangy slaw.

Aceves: There might have been some mimosas involved in this menu plan.

Why tater tots and not fries?

Green: Everybody has fries. We wanted to do something different and still honor the potato.

My new favorite is tater tots with pimento cream cheese and a pimento on top. Sometimes I think I’m going to turn into a tater tot.

Tamie, you have had this long career in food, doing high-end catering and now – hot dogs.

Aceves: I loved eating out even when I was a kid. Any time I was going to get a present, it was picking a place to go eat. This is my tribe, this is my thing – I like feeding people. I love the business, I love the people in the business.

Joleen, this place has such warm, happy vibes – no signs of grief. How do you process your grief?

Green: I stay super busy. I don’t like the idle time at home, it makes me sad.

You mentioned that you and your 18-year-old daughter – who works here at Lucy’s – play on the same roller derby team, the Hollister Faultline Derby Devilz. Do you ever get competitive with each other?

Green: At practice, we sure do. We scrimmage each other, sometimes on opposite teams, and hit each other.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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