Googie Gourmet: Flames Coffee Shop in San Jose

The Flames Coffee Shop remains a remarkable sight on Winchester Boulevard. Photos by Dave Weinstein

The flying saucer-shaped Century 21 domed theater may have gone dark, but one lively reminder of San Jose’s mid-century glamour days remains nearby – Flames Coffee Shop.

With its rubble stone pillars of an indeterminate rust shade, angled windows and jaunty cantilevered parapet, the Flames remains an icon of the 1960s. Tabletops are salmony-pink.

Built originally as a Bob’s Big Boy, the coffee shop at 449 South Winchester Boulevard today is part of a small San Jose chain that plays up the fun of its original architecture.

Flames Coffee Shop has a welcoming, bright, mirrored interior.

“The Bob’s building, with its rock pillars and convex roofline, was designed by the Los Angeles based architectural firm, Armet and Davis, and is a prime example of ‘Coffee Shop Modern,’ ”   Heather David writes on her blog, SV Modern. “Fortunately, when the folks at Flames took over from Bob, they did little to alter the building’s exterior.  Today, Flames Coffee Shop on Winchester Blvd. looks much like its predecessor, although one thing you’ll notice is that the original sign’s characteristic spike has been shortened.”

Still, it’s not the retro architecture that draws most people to the Flames but its food. “The Flames Super Burger – it’s Huge,” the menu proclaims. And notice the glass cabinet by the door filled with immense and scrumptious appearing cakes.

On the menu are such items as Caribbean chicken salad, “savory lunch crepes,” and much more. A recent lunch, fish in a succulent sauce, was the epitome of high-toned coffee shop food.

Right across busy Winchester Boulevard, the neo-urbanist commercial-residential complex of Santana Row shouts 2002. But at the Flames, it’s still the 1960s.

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