832 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach
(No longer in business.)
Pacific Beach is more mysterious at night. Silent runners materialize like ghosts along the boardwalk, murmuring couples huddle in shadows, the odd drunken brown-bagger holds up a lamppost, groups burst out of eateries like the Green Flash. Then you look west and you’ve got nothing but the Big Black. Next light, Shanghai, China...or is it Kyushu, Japan? A long swim, whichever.
Talk about the sublime and the ridiculous: a few paces away from all this heavy thinking and I’m in Bud Light–Britney Spears territory. Moondoggies.
Why? ’Cause it’s Tuesday night, and just about every eatery in this town has turned Tuesday into Taco Tuesday. It’s a phenom. And, hey, I’m not immune to a bargain.
Besides, once you get over the whole “this is just one big PBSB (Pacific Beach Sports Bar) meat-market thing,” Moondoggies is quite a cool joint. There are sports playing on screens everywhere (42 of them, Deanna the waitress says), and guys are cruising, checking out the talent. The talent checks them out right back. So I get to a table and it’s heads-down into the book of a menu. Stay out of trouble.
Wow. Lots of stuff. Like, pan-seared ahi for $14.50, or rib-eye steak, $19. But the deals are, like, everywhere. They’ve got those Taco Tuesday specials, starting with tacos, $2 each, served from 11:00 a.m. until close. They include chicken, steak, fish, or shrimp, and you can get flour or double corn tortillas. Then you’ve got $3 quesadillas. Cheese, chicken, steak, or shrimp. Also served all day. Plus, $2.50 Dos Equis (no amber), and Sol, and check this out: $3 house margaritas ($5 for “specialty” ones). All day. These guys even have a live comedy show happening tonight at 10:00.
“This used to be the Comedy Store, before Brett took it over,” says Kerry. Turns out she’s the manager. “Brett’s a San Diego State alum. He started off with the Dog, a bar down here. Then he opened Moondoggies. Now he’s opened Tower 23, the hotel on the beach, and he has Gringo’s, and he’s building in places like Lake Havasu. Quite a guy.”
I get things rolling with one of those house margaritas. And I order a fish taco. Ooh...shoulda come last night: Mondays, 5:00–10:00 p.m., they have $4 build-your-own half-pound burgers. There’s pretty much some way to eat and drink cheap every night, from a $4 hummus-and-pita plate to $6 nachos or fried calamari. Lunchtime, they have a mix ’n’ match $6 half-a-sandwich, wrap, pizza, or quesadilla, plus a side dish such as salad, pasta, onion rings, or soup.
The house margarita tastes great to me. Strong flavor and plenty of it. The taco comes with the double corn tortillas laid out flat, a pile of fish, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese mounded on top. It’s good, ’specially with the Cholula hot sauce Deanna brings. I’m already kinda full.
They’re amping up the music. Rap. Sounds like Eminem. Guess this inside-outside part here was the Comedy Store. Out on the way-big patio, strings of lights give it a romantic look. I glug down the margarita and start dreaming about a Dos Equis and a quesadilla. The Dos Equis promo card set up around the salt and pepper shakers catches my eye. It says: “Always have a trick up your sleeve.”
Huh. They’re talking table-tricks. Looks pretty neat. Like the one where you bet friends they can’t remove a dollar bill from under an upside-down empty beer bottle. (The trick? Slowly, tightly, roll the bill up, letting the paper push the bottle.) Or how to remove pepper sitting on top of salt. (Solution? Rub a plastic straw hard on some cloth to generate static electricity, then hold the straw over the pile. The pepper will jump up, the salt won’t.) This is when a bunch of ultra-cute blonde girls in cream head-scarves come around, stopping by each table. They ask if I’m drinking Dos Equis, say they have this $1 certificate. Hey. My lucky night. So, when Deanna again appears, I order a shrimp quesadilla and what’s now a $1.50 bottle of beer. Cool.
When she comes back with the cerveza, I have to ask what da heck “Moondoggies,” the name, is about.
“You never saw Gidget?” she says, staring like I’m a visitor from the moon. “Moondoggie was her boyfriend. James Darren.”
The shrimp quesadilla’s fine, though the fish taco was da bomb. Luscious, tasty, plenty of sauce and cheese and salad to sex it up. By now, the place is turning into a sea of turned-around caps, and women with a finger in one ear and a cell phone in the other, and guys texting. So, either I get Carla down here or I go to her. Feel my wallet. Guess I’ll go to her. I check the bill. Hmm... $11.42. What about that dollar off the beer?
Whatever, I ain’t complaining. It’s a good deal for two dishes, two drinks, 42 screens, and thumping music they can probably hear over there in Shanghai, China.
The Place: Moondoggies, 832 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, 858-483-6550
Type of Food: American
Prices: Weekend breakfasts like Simple Simon (three eggs with bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes), $7.50; three pancakes, fruit, $7; daily lunch special, mix ’n’ match half-sandwich, wrap, pizza, or quesadilla, with side dish (salad, pasta, onion rings, soup), $6; hummus and pita plate, $4; nachos, $6; fried calamari, $6; Taco Tuesday tacos (chicken, steak, fish, shrimp), $2 from 11:00 a.m. till close; quesadillas (cheese, chicken, steak, or shrimp), $3, Tuesdays; $4 build-your-own half-pound burgers, 5:00–10:00 p.m., Mondays only; pan-seared ahi entrée, $14.50; rib-eye steak, $19
Bar Hours: 11:00 a.m.–2:00 a.m., Monday–Friday; 9:00 a.m.–2:00 a.m., Saturday–Sunday; kitchen open till 10:00 p.m., Monday–Thursday; till 11:00 p.m., Friday–Sunday
Buses: 8, 9, 27, 30
Nearest Bus Stops: Mission and Hornblend (8); Garnet and Bayard (9); Bayard at Garnet (27); Mission and Felspar (30)