"Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”
Or was it, “Why don’t you come up sometime’n see me?”
Either way, Mae West, right? In She Done Him Wrong, 1933, propositioning Cary Grant. Turner Classic Movies.
Can’t help thinking about that line as I hit this kind of anonymous entrance to what used to be the Carnation Milk Factory. Hmm…look up the wooden stairs. Beer ’n’ burger joint now.
A Bellamy Brothers song’s playing as I climb up between cinderblock walls. “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” Dang. If only I’d thought that up, I’d be a happy man.
At the top I come into a kind of industrial-cool lofty-looking place, a bit like Basic, the pizza outfit up the street. Dark. Bar staff dressed in black. Signs about how we should all “take down a burger.” There’s a dark, mottled Formica bar top, a brown-stained bare-board floor, and brown furniture. Unpainted rafters and silver ducting above. A raised stage-like area with its own skylight lets you sit and look down on the crowd and out to Tenth Street. They even have a little fireplace you can gather around.
Up at the bar, a bunch of guys in their 30s and 40s, complete with shaved heads and trophy dates, are talking business. The hyper-hip crowd. Not slick. Hip.
“Happy hour?” I ask the bartender, before I take a seat. I’m worried about costs.
“For drinks, but not food, not tonight,” says Michael. “If you come Tuesday, you get two-for-one burgers. Or Wednesday, $5 grilled-cheese sandwiches or tater tots. Start you off with a drink?”
Uh, right. Got a Jackson down here somewhere. I choose a stool and come in for a landing. And I see they have maybe 20 beers on tap. San Diego’s own Stone India Pale Ale is one. Going for $4 right now, till 7:00 p.m. I get one of those while I hit the menu, Janis Joplin belting out, Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…
They have a collection of appetizers. Fries for $4.50, sweet-potato fries for $6? Must be mighty spuds. Fried pickle spears (“a southern favorite”) are $6.50. Three sliders go for $10, spice-crusted ahi for $12.
“Have this, man,” says a guy over the empty stool to my left. Gal’s handing him a plate of ahi, looks like, only on a salad. Aha. See the entrée section has salads too, with optional meat or fish adds. “Name’s Brian,” the guy says. “I’m in social media.”
“Like Facebook and Twitter and stuff?”
“That’s right. That’s the future.” Brian crunches into his spice-crusted ahi. “But right now, you can’t beat this dish.”
Menu calls it the Corner Salad, a pile of greens, kidney beans, red onion, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, bacon, bleu-cheese crumbles, and the fish. Cost $5 for a half-version of the salad (full-size’d be $9.50), plus another $8 for the seared ahi.
But I’m thinking burgers. The Stone IPA’s kickingly, bitterishly dee-lish. Need food that’ll take it on, direct.
Burgers range from $8.50 to $12.50. But there’s a good reason they’re not, like, McDonald’s-cheap: “All burgers…are made from USDA all-natural certified Angus beef — heirloom meat stock that is pasture-grown, all-vegetable fed, and raised humanely and naturally (with no hormones or antibiotics) on family-owned farms. It is fresh-ground, pattied here, and never frozen!”
(Brian could have added Jidori chicken breast instead of ahi, for $6 — and if it’s Jidori, it’s also antibiotic-free and fresh, meaning alive till a day or so ago, Japanese-style.)
Whatever, I’m happy. I like not having to eat hormones and antibiotics with my meat.
“Brian!” A vivacious gal takes the bar’s last free stool, the one between me and Brian. Her name’s Jenny. “We’re both in social media,” she says. “This is where we hang out.”
I’m still thinking: which burger? The basic no-frills model, the Corner Burger, is $8.50. The Jalapeño Burger’s $10.50 — that should have kick. It’s layered with pickled jalapeños and serrano peppers, spicy jack cheese, and chipotle. “Warning: Not for the light-hearted,” it says. Okay. I think we’re talking “faint-hearted.” Phil’s Burger, with chili and cheese, costs $12. The Hippie Burger (yes, with a veggie patty, and caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms) goes for $10.
“The best one?” says Michael the bartender. “Well, this place is owned by two brothers, Davin and Cooper. And Cooper lived in Miami before he came here. And he brought back this recipe for a pulled-pork burger…”
He points to it on the menu. It’s a grilled and pressed “Miami-style Cuban sandwich,” with serrano ham, Swiss cheese, homemade dill pickles, whole-grain mustard, “piled with slow-roasted pulled pork.” That one’s $12.50.
Don’t see nothin’ about humane treatment of pigs, but I order it anyway. And Lord, good it is. It goes excellently with the IPA. That meat is juicy, as they say, to the elbows.
By now, the place is filling up. “You should come Wednesday nights,” Jenny says. “The whole neighborhood’s here. And Friday and Saturday, the energy, it’s crazy.” Turns out she’s a political consultant too. Wow. Everyone here’s something, well, special. Me, I’m just trying to figure if I have enough lucre for another IPA. Spent $18.68 already. Sigh.
I head downstairs and out onto Tenth. It’s almost deserted. Who knew what energy and, well, fun is bustin’ out behind these ol’ Carnation Walls? A little cheaper, and it wouldn’t take Mae West to get me back up to see them-all sometime, oftentime.
The Place: The Corner, 369 Tenth Avenue (between J and K streets); 619-531-8804
Type of Food: American
Prices: French fry appetizers, $4.50; sweet potato fries, $6; fried pickle spears, $6.50; three sliders, $10; spice-crusted ahi, $12; the Corner Salad, $9.50 ($5 for half-version); add seared ahi, $8; the Corner Burger, $8.50; Jalapeño burger (with jalapeños, peppers, jack cheese, chipotle), $10.50; Phil’s Burger (chili, cheese), $12; Hippie Burger (veggie patty), $10; Cuban (pulled pork) Burger, $12.50
Kitchen Hours: 11:30 a.m.–10:00 p.m., Sunday–Thursday; till midnight, Friday–Saturday
Buses: 11, 901
Nearest Bus Stops: 11th and J (northbound); 10th and Island (southbound)