Spicy San Mateo pub closing 

It took San Mateo native D.J. Bickel 26 years to take his first bite of a world-famous habanero burger at the Prince of Wales pub on 25th Avenue, and after a few bites, he could just shake his head at how hot the meal was.

"I’ve always wanted to try one, and this was my last chance," Bickel said, eating on Friday at the pub, which closes its doors tonight after 36 years — 32 of them under the guidance of owner Jack Curry. The owner of the property plans to open his own bar at the location.

"It was the last hurrah," Bickel said.

The pub has been a popular hangout for locals and business travelers for more than three decades, and since the rise of Silicon Valley, it’s been the scene of a hazing ritual for new tech employees.

S. Suresh from Redwood City’s Informatica said he has eaten 24 of the spicy burgers since his first in 1997 and has regularly taken new hires from work.

"Every now and then we would have a bunch of newbies and make them go through the ritual and stand up to it," he said.

Suresh is currently at Informatica’s offices in India and was unable to make it back to San Mateo to have one final burger. He said he’s going to miss the pub, and not just for the sweat it caused while he ate there.

"It’s the place, the people and the fact that you get to have something that is extremely spicy that will clear your sinuses and your mind and you come back refreshed," Suresh said.

Curry — who said he has never eaten one of the burgers and can’t handle spicy food — said he has looked for other locations in San Mateo but has yet to find one that can hold a restaurant. If he isn’t able to find a new location, Curry said he might consider retiring from the job he has held and loved for so long.

"I’m just going to miss all the people here — they’re our customers, but they’re also our friends," Curry said. "I just want to say thank you to all our customers for all the great years, and we hope to see them soon someplace else."

The owner of the building, Warren Chapman, who could not be reached for comment, has a liquor license pending for a bar called The Swinging Door.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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