748 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
The view, the view…a man could faint from the über-coolness of this whole scene. You can see over the Gaslamp roofs to the Pacific. Heck, you can see to Mexico. Gotta hand it to them. Here, at the Eden bar’s roof garden on top of the Ivy Hotel, you do feel as if you’ve found a little Shangri-La all your own.
“I heard you did breakfast up here,” I say to the barman at the zigzag-shaped white bar.
“Not for the winter, sir. Just bar food.”
He swings a menu in front of me. “Burger 16, Caesar salad 13, Monte Cristo sandwich 16, Steak sandwich 18…” And that ain’t no calorie count.
Whew. Back down on F Street. Cut to Plan B. People still look Sunday-morning dazed. Me too. Gotta eat. I cross over to a mud-colored building with white bricks up top. Signs say “Deli.” A blackboard’s propped up outside. “Breakfast Special: breakfast burrito with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 1 sausage patty, 2 golden hash browns, cheese, $4.99.”
Wow. That’s more like it. I go in, continuing past the line of beer-and-soda coolers till I get to the kitchen in back.
And Rudy, behind the counter. “What can I get you?” he asks.
I do a quick scan of the wall-sized lists of sandwiches, some served hot or grilled, and salads.
Rudy says the most popular item on the menu is Number 1, the “Hub Club.” It’s turkey, ham, bacon, and Swiss, for $5.99. Not bad. Number 9, “The Plaza,” looks interesting. It’s ham, salami, provolone, with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, on an onion roll for $5.99 (everything costs $5.99 except the $6.99 chicken-salad sandwich).
Yes, I’m tempted by grilled roast beef and cheddar ($5.99), but heck, quantity-wise, I doubt anything can compare with that $4.99 breakfast-burrito deal.
It takes Rudy about ten minutes to cook everything up. When he’s done, he shows me the ginormous pile of stuff on a flour tortilla and then wraps it up.
“Hope you’re hungry,” he says.
“Yeah, but where can I eat it?”
“Most people go and sit at a table at Starbucks, on Fifth and F. They don’t mind, as long as you get your drink from them.”
The sun’s angling on to this east side of Fifth as I look for a place to set everything down on one of Starbucks’ outside tables — ’specially the tall coffee ($1.60) I just bought. Find myself standing next to a guy who is threading a thick leather lace around the edge of a moccasin he’s making. He has a bunch on the table, along with a couple of wooden clocks he says he made. Name’s Peter, and he’s accepting “donations.” He says Starbucks is cool, as long as he’s not actually selling.
“Here, like this seat?” He moves so I can squeeze through to the last chair getting sun. “Man,” he says as I unwrap my burrito, “that thing’s fatter than a first-grader’s pencil.”
“I got it at the Hub.”
“Good people. Next time you should try the hot pastrami sandwich [$5.99]. Best in the Gaslamp, I swear. I know. I’m down here all the time.”
In the end, he gets one too. Except, he doesn’t want to leave his moccasins, so I run over and pick it up for him. No problem — I hate eating alone when there’s company.
Pete teaches me something I should’ve known: what da heck pastrami is. Just corned beef plus peppers with extra curing (smoking) and roasting.
“See?” he says. “Their pastrami’s thin-sliced, but the whole wad is inch-thick! Smell how fresh it is? Still piping hot. And see the lettuce? They heated the rest up before they put the lettuce and tomato in, so they’re still crisp. They never get that right in other places.”
’Course, back East, you’d never have salad stuffed in a hot pastrami sandwich. “This is for Californians,” Pete says. The whole mess looks great inside the pumpernickel-and-rye bread’s brown-and-cream swirls. My burrito’s doing good, too, busting with crunchy bacon, melted cheese, sausage. Every dieter’s nightmare. Love it.
Pete’s a great talker. Says he was involved in the civil rights movement. “Jesse Jackson even helped bail me out of jail once.” And it hits me. Here’s a guy who’s likely a hero of the civil rights movement, sewing moccasins on the street to keep the wolf from the door. Meanwhile, back up on that roof garden at the hotel, slick willies — probably made their dough selling slippery mortgages to poor folk — are chowing down on $16 burgers. Pete says, “I ain’t rich, and I don’t mind saying so. Three things you can’t hide: the sun, the moon, and the truth. You can take that to the bank.”
I leave him so he can get back to turning buckskin into a buck. The Eden roof bar? Hot hipsters, lavish burgers, but no match for this giant $5 breakfast. Or for Pete and Rudy.
Take that to the bank.
The Place: Hub Market and Deli, 748 Sixth Avenue (near F), 619-544-1917
Type of Food: American
Prices: Breakfast burrito special, with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 1 sausage, 2 hash browns, cheese, $4.99; the Hub sandwich (turkey, ham, bacon, Swiss), $5.99; the Plaza sandwich (ham, salami, provolone), $5.99; chicken-salad sandwich, $6.99; grilled roast beef and cheddar sandwich, $5.99; hot pastrami sandwich, with potato salad and soda, $5.99; tuna salad, $5.99
Hours: 8:30 a.m.–11:00 p.m., Monday–Thursday; till midnight, Friday–Saturday; 9:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m., Sundays
Buses: All downtown
Nearest Bus Stop: Sixth and Broadway