This restaurant is closed.
"Skogging, man. You should be skogging." Say what?
"Everyone else is, down Mission Beach, PB. It's the Next Big Thing. Shake off all those carbs you're piling on right now, man."
I hold off on the next mouthful of waffle fries.
"Uh, skogging?" I ask.
"Combination of skateboarding and jogging. Landsurfing. It's like working out at the gym, but you actually get to see some of our beautiful country at the same time."
The guy's name is Chris. Chris Yandall.
"You know who Chris is," says his buddy John. "He was 1975 World Slalem Skateboard Champion is all. He's still into it. Cross-country skateboarding. Sometimes does 50 miles a day."
Wow. The guy's 53 and he looks 35. Samoan San Diegan.
Me, I don't need my guilt button pushed. Not right now. I ain't skogging, I'm scoffing. Maybe the most sinful, fatness-to-fitness ratio meal I've had in ages. A burger stuffed with onion rings, bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce, the whole artery-clogging ball of wax. Plus a pile of awesome, garlicky waffle fries on the side. Red onion, pickle, tomatoes, lettuce too, of course, but they won't save me.
This all started half an hour ago, around 9:30 p.m. Was gonna head for the #10 bus and home. But the south side of University was so poppin' I jes kept on walking up, past seductive sidewalk eateries like Taste of Italy, and coffee places, bars, lounges. Seemed like the whole town was, like, on the town. Sigh.
I knew I shouldn't. Carla was waiting. But by the time I got to Ichiban (Japanese, I went there once, a really good value), my resistance was flatlining. Passed alongside the railings of this burger-beer joint. Guy at the table out front had a giant burrito. He was doing the snake-extended-lower-jaw thing to fit it in.
"Good?" I asked.
He rolled his eyes so far back in his head I started to worry. "Better hurry," he said. "They're closing soon. Burger's awesome too."
That's all I needed. I whipped through the patio, inside to this corrugated-iron and concrete interior. A couple of stragglers sat at tables, cook was cleaning up at the back.
"Still time?" I asked the guy. Humberto.
"Oh, no problem," said Humberto. I checked the menu board. So OK, straight up. This is going to be a greasebucket meal. But greasebucket deluxe, from the pix. Lucky Buck's is the name, and like the sign says, "Eat, Drink, and Get Lucky." Another says, "Home of San Diego's Best Buckin' Burger." Elton John's wailing "Rocket Man!"
Had to think fast. I ditched the burritos (the veggie's $5.95, the chicken's $6.50) and nixed the salads, even though I liked how "Chicken Buck'n Caesar" ($7.95) rolled off the tongue. For sure, if Hank had been here he'd've clung to something like the Club Salad, a collection of lettuce, diced ham, and turkey ($6.95).
But I had me a craving for the worst, wickedest damned burger the man could concoct. Like, maybe the "Buck'n Bleu Ribbon Burger," with "bleu cheese, two strips of hickory-smoked bacon and onion strings" and chipotle sauce. Set you back $8.50. "Buck's on Fire" ($8.95) had pepper jack, bacon, and jalapeño peppers. "Buck's Lucky Mushroom" ($8.50) came with "tons of mushrooms, piled high with fried onion strings."
In the end I took Humberto's advice. Went for the simple "Texas Longhorn Buck" ($7.95), because, basically, apart from cheddar cheese and that hickory bacon, it had BBQ sauce and came "piled high with fried onion rings."
Onion rings in a burger? That's new. I got a Coke ($1.25) and headed outside. I sat down where, hey now: some guys had left, like, steins of beer still half-full. For a moment...but no. I ain't sunk that low. I cracked open my Coke, settled back, and crooked my arm on the railing to watch uptown's night world go by.
That's when two things happened. Humberto brought my burger. And I heard these guys at the corner table yacking about "skogging." But first things first. Lord, but the combo was good. The waffle fries were ripple-cut and vivid with flavor. The burger's mouth was stuffed with onion rings, and the gland-roiling BBQ sauce kept me coming back, chomp after chomp. I reveled in the beautiful mess.
But, uh oh. The guys were getting up to go. I had to ask about this skogging.
I do one of those awkward openers, asking as they passed, "What did you have?" Chris had the "Plain Ol' Buck" burger ($5.95), and John and his girlfriend Megan had Buck's Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.25).
"This is our favorite dive after Hodad's in O.B.," John says. Turns out he runs an outfit called "Galac Landsurfing." Makes longboard skateboards.
And now I'm back to where I started this tale.
"Skogging's Chris's invention," John says. "Half striding, half rolling. One foot, then the other. You can make 10, 12 mph doing it. We're clean, we're eco-friendly, and we're a San Diego sport, man."
Wow. We yack so much, I let my burger go cold. And by the time the guys take off, Humberto's closing down around me. That's okay. I'll take the rest back to split with Carla.
How good is it? An hour later, Carla and I are fighting like hyenas over a carcass for the last of the waffle fries. Then making up, with one fat, greasy smooch.
"We're gonna have a date," Carla whispers. "You and me. Night of sin."
"We just had one," I say.