Meet The Coffee & Beer Purveyor
Clay Summers fesses up to a love of poke, Japanese wrestling and Miller High Life
Even though he had never even waited a table or pulled a shot, Clay Summers followed his intuition and ditched his job as a graphic designer to open up a hybrid coffee-and-beer café in 2013. The gamble paid off for the Oklahoma native. Young Hickory has become a welcoming North Park hangout for those who love to linger over a laptop with a cup of joe, a can of craft beer or a light meal. Young Hickory—which derives its moniker from the nickname for President James K. Polk (the café is located at the corner of Polk Avenue and 30th Street)—has been such a hit that a second location is scheduled to be up and running this month in the East Village’s new IDEA1 live/work building.
Top choice for Mexican food?
“My go-to taco place is ¡Salud! in Barrio Logan.” Apparently he’s not alone—¡Salud! is just about to unveil an expansion of its historic 1910 building as well as opening a new space on Midway Drive; brunch and a full bar will be highlights at both locations.
Favorite place for lunch (other than Young Hickory, of course)?
Clay can’t stay away from casual Poki One N Half, where Hawaii meets San Diego with a selection of fresh seafood poke bowls and burritos. “I’m literally here two or three times a week,” he says. “I have a poke problem.”
Favorite spots for some cow?
Clay’s nomination for best burger—and best happy hour—goes to The Balboa Bar and Grill in Bankers Hill. “It has a dive-bar vibe; it’s no-nonsense.” For a steak, he goes classic with Golden Hill’s retro Turf Supper Club. “It’s an industry staple for late-night food and drinks,” he says. “There’s a fun, vintage atmosphere with a cook-your-own grill top.”
Favorite place for a beer or cocktail?
Despite owning his own watering hole, Clay prefers to pull up a stool elsewhere. “I don’t like to drink beer at my own work, so I have my beer bars that I like to go to.” His top choice is Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park, with an honorable mention to Bottlecraft Beer Shop North Park for some grab-and-go sixers. For cocktails, he likes to mix it up at Kindred, with its surprisingly whimsical occult trappings and vegan cuisine.
Who’s your favorite visual artist?
Clay is a big fan of Oregon-based graphic designer Aaron Draplin, who has worked for clients ranging from indie bands to the Obama Administration. Clay even got to help him out on one of his series of posters depicting U.S. states—appropriately enough it was Draplin’s homage to Clay’s home turf, entitled “Oklahoma Overload.” “It was pretty cool—he put my name on the poster. He hid it within one of the designs. So my hometown and my name are on the poster.”
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Shh…don’t tell anyone but this purveyor of craft beer enjoys the occasional Miller High Life. “It’s easy to drink when it’s hot outside,” he says. Another guilty pleasure is pro wrestling. He grew up watching Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior and he’s rediscovered his love of the action, although now he prefers the Japanese version. “They get away with doing a lot crazier stuff where they could totally break their neck; it’s amazing to watch. It’s a lot more entertaining than regular American–style wrestling.”
What’s the most Oklahoma thing about you?
“One of my tattoo sleeves is a full Oklahoma landscape, so I’ve got a tornado, a windmill, some wheat and a scissor-tailed flycatcher, which is the state bird. So that’s probably the most Oklahoma thing about me, literally.”
Tornadoes or earthquakes?
So much for clichés…Clay has felt more earthquakes in his home state than in California. “The worst earthquake I’ve ever experienced was in Oklahoma about a year ago; it’s because of all the fracking. It’s almost an everyday thing there now.” And tornadoes? “It was always a thing you knew was a potential problem…but thankfully I never saw the inside of a tornado.”
Fave place for a road trip?
“I really like driving out to Palm Springs,” he says. “You can get there and come back in the same day if you need to, but I like to stay overnight, when it’s really hot and just be at the pool all day.” He also favors the mountain town of Idyllwild as a great getaway. “They’re completely different but those are my two that I do most consistently and enjoy the most.”