“Poet, musician,” reads the little plaque.
It’s about my good-time buddy Frankie — Cisco — and I couldn’t put it better myself. He died early last year. We all chipped in the $1400 — sisters, friends, Carla, and I — to buy this bench and plaque for him. The City of Coronado, his hometown, chose this spot right outside the police station. Nobody’s gonna steal his bench. Not from here. Cisco would have enjoyed that.
“This wood will outlast all of us,” says Rudy, the Coronado city official who made it happen.
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s each sit here and have a picture taken with Frankie’s plaque. Then let’s go eat. Jimmy’s place.”
Jimmy and Cisco were good friends. They were both into music. Both knew Thailand. Jimmy took over the Fish Company a couple of years ago. It has a green canopy and a riot of flowers in window boxes and sidewalk tables with upside-down wine glasses glinting in the sun.
“I hope they have meat,” says Carla when we get here — it’s about three blocks south of Cisco’s bench. “Never been into fish too much.”
Inside’s in two parts. The original space is this small, curved sushi bar; the other is a covered enclosed patio. The patio’s full of big white wooden tables set on a concrete floor that has, like, octopuses imprinted into it. The ceiling’s covered in upside-down green-and-red-and-white Thai umbrellas.
There are seven of us. Carla says to everyone, “Uh, let’s all go Dutch.” She has a menu in her hand. “These look like good prices, but it’s Coronado, okay?” Bless her. What a weight off my shoulders.
On the menu I see they have ordinary stuff like fish and chips ($10.95) and fish tacos ($9.95) and grilled mahi-mahi with orange sauce ($11.95). But the rest of the food seems to be Japanese. “Lunch from the Land” — that’s where Carla’s focusing — has dishes like sesame chicken with teriyaki sauce ($10.95), chicken katzu ($10.95), and yakiniku (flamed grilled beef with vegetables, $11.95). Shrimp tempura (battered, deep-fried) runs $15.95. Seaweed salad is $6.95.
Good and familiar, foodwise, but when it comes to mysteries like tako sunomono ($8.95, octopus tentacles, with cucumber, seaweed, in a vinaigrette), nabeyaki udon (a pot of soup swimming with udon — thick noodles — veggies, shrimp tempura, and raw egg tossed into the soup, plus vegetable tempura), and all the different sakes they have here, I’m pretty unschooled. But ready to learn.
Sake? I feel the need because, truth be told, we’re on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. Cisco stories pop out that make you want to laugh, cry, or both. They have a hot sake, Shochikubai, for $5.95, and a cold one, Ozeni dry white, for $6. But the other cold sakes are up there, pricewise. The Hakutsuru Blue is $25 for a small and $50 for a large beakerful.
“If it’s heated, it’s cheaper,” says Cisco’s niece Magen, next to me. “The heat covers the flaws.”
“She’s right,” says Michael, Jimmy’s server. “Sake is like wine. Except, unlike wine, the younger it is, the better it is.”
So everyone does their own thing. Magen goes for sesame chicken, Tita has the chicken katzu, Carla orders teriyaki beef ($11.95), Linda chooses grilled tilapia in orange sauce ($9.95), Maria has shrimp cocktail ($9.95), plus, from the sushi menu, the dragon roll ($13, with eel, avocado, and imitation crab) — a beautiful wiggling creation of Sue, Jimmy’s main sushi chef. Maggy has the fish tacos. And me? Just to be different (and being the lone male in this crowd), I try that nabeyaki udon.
Oh, man. Great choice. It comes in this li’l ol’ traditional iron pot with a handle, the soup bubbling inside, and what look like six giant batter-fried shrimp tempura plunging in around the edges. Turns out, the batter’s hiding veggies too, like carrot and squash slices. The soup’s mild-tasting, as Japanese soups are, but rich and delicious. The thick noodles are positively sensual, and everybody wants to try my veggie tempura sticks. The taste of the shrimp is good but not that important.
This is when Jimmy appears. “We’re all here for Frank — Cisco,” I tell him. “His bench was delivered today.”
“Oh, wow,” Jimmy says. “He was a good man.” Then Jimmy disappears. Ten minutes later, he’s back with a couple of extra dishes. “These are for Cisco,” he says. “Everybody liked him.”
The standout is the Sarica Special Roll (normally $12). “We invented this,” says Jimmy. “It’s named after my sister.” Oh, boy. Cisco would have wolfed this down. It has crystal shrimp covered with spicy cooked scallops, green onions, and tobiko (flying-fish roe) that make small bursts in your mouth.
This has turned into a feast. Bottom line, it helps us all. The memories, the laffs, and now just knowing we can come back to Coronado and kinda visit with him anytime, on that bench. His bench. I raise my sake cup. “The Cisco Kid,” I say. “He was a friend of ours…”
We all start singing the song, as far as we can. ■
- The Fish Company Plus, 1007 C Avenue (in the Crown Shops complex), Coronado, 619-435-3945
- Type of Food: Japanese, American/Mexican seafood
- Prices: fish and chips, $10.95; two fish tacos, $9.95; grilled mahi-mahi, orange sauce, $10.95; sesame chicken, $10.95; chicken katzu, $10.95; yakiniku (flamed grilled beef with vegetables), $11.95; shrimp tempura, $15.95; seaweed salad, $6.95; tako sunomono (octopus tentacles, cucumber, seaweed, vinaigrette), $8.95; nabeyaki udon (soup, thick noodles, shrimp, vegetable tempura), $12.95; teriyaki beef, $11.95; grilled tilapia, $10.95; dragon roll (eel, avocado, crab), $13
- Hours: 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday (closed Sunday, Monday)
- Buses: 901, 904
- Nearest Bus Stop: Corner of Orange and C (northbound); Orange and Tenth (southbound)