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Sneak Joint

3844 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach

(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)




It seemed like a good idea...a great idea. What can beat sunset, PB, and happy hour at a place where you’re gonna see the green flashes? At a place that’s filled with experts? Because, well, it is the Green Flash.

Carla’s working till 8:00 tonight. I have just enough time. So I beetle up Grand till it hits that huge puddle they call the Pacific Ocean. Small problem: clouds have gathered along the horizon. Still, they may break up. I lope south along the boardwalk till I come to the beginning of Thomas Street. There it is. “Armando’s The Green Flash,” says a green canopy. Armando must be the owner. I see a couple of empty tables on the patio facing the horizon. Great.

“When’s happy hour?” I ask Magali, the hostess.

“Three till seven,” she says.

“Do you have a happy-hour menu?”

“Well, tonight there’s just one item. Chicken tacos, $2 each. At the bar.”

“Can I take them out onto the patio?”

“I’m sorry — happy hour’s only at the bar, here at the back.” Man. Bar’s as far away as you can get from the sunset view.

Long and short of it, I sit at the bar anyway, order a chicken taco and a Coke and get them down pretty quick. Doesn’t seem much point without being able to see the green flashes. ’Course the taco’s tasty — chicken, cheese, shredded lettuce, and grilled tomatillo sauce. For two bucks, a good deal.

But I leave kinda dissatisfied. Still have half an hour to kill and half a gut to fill. I start walking south. Into an area where the bungalows get smaller and cuter. One of the houses has a deck built out to the street, with tables and flat-top fencing and guys drinking and chowing away.

Building’s dark green with a rusty metal sign. “Sneak Joint,” it says.

Couple of guys on the deck say the food is super great, so, what da heck: moment later, I’m inside. The place is crammed, music’s jammin’. Crowd seems to be a mixture of students, their alum dads and moms, foreign students, and…women in bikinis? The flat-screens roar sports, people are yelling at the baseball screen, and I suddenly realize that all the women in bikini tops are staff. I make it to the bar. This gal Jesi, in a light-blue two-piece, asks me what I’d like, and hands me a menu.

Wow. This must be where the rich students live. Appetizers like chicken and beef satay cost $11.95. A quesadilla is $7.50, $8.95 with chicken, $10.95 with steak. Fish and chips run $13.95; two fish tacos, $14.95; and burgers go for between $11.95 and $15.95. There’s a chicken-breast sandwich for $8.95 and a Philly cheesesteak for $10.95. You get the picture.

“You get what you pay for,” says Seth, who’s cleaning tables. “This is good-quality food here.”

He’s probably right. But…

“Do you have a happy hour?” I ask.

“We have daily specials,” Jesi says. “Today’s is all-you-can-eat pasta for $5.”

“Happy hour?”

“No, daily special. Served all night long. Well, till nine, anyway.”

Now she’s talking my language. Seth tells me about the specials: there’s a $5 Philly steak sandwich on Sundays, along with 25-cent wings. That wing deal continues on Monday. On Tuesday, they have, like, beef, chicken, or fish sliders for $2.50 each.

“Wednesday’s $5 burgers and fries,” says Seth, “as long as you buy a pint of any microbrew beer. There’s $5 pasta on Thursday. Friday we have $2 chicken tacos. Saturday is steak night — a $12 filet. Oh, also, Sunday mornings we set the kitchen up out front and have an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, drinks — like mimosas and Bloody Marys — included. ‘Kegs and Eggs.’ It costs $17.95, from seven to ten, then $24.95 from ten to two.”

This is Thursday, so I order the $5 pasta. Fettuccine with pesto sauce. Then I order a Buckler nonalcoholic beer from Holland. Five bucks.

“The group who started this place comes from Chicago,” says Seth.

I notice a couple of glossy magazines on a shelf pushing the legalization of marijuana. Uh, that perchance have anything to do with the name?

But Seth’s gone and my pasta has come. It’s, well, good. Maybe a bit tough as pasta goes, but full of pesto flavor. No meats, of course. Still, it’s filling, green, served on a nice plate. The Buckler’s not bad, until I look around and see guys drinking Arrogant Bastard and other hoppy local brews. Oh, man. No comparison.

Whatever, it’s a fun joint. And, they’re having their two-year birthday bash this Saturday, October 2, from 6:00 p.m., with a hosted bar from 7:00–8:00 p.m.

In the end, I get a second plateful of pasta from Jesi. Free, but big mistake. I suddenly look at my watch. Carla! She hates lateness. When I call, she says, “Late again! Green flashes? Your whole sorry life’s about to flash before your eyes.”

“Be nice,” I say. “I’ve found us a party for Saturday night.” ■

The Place: Sneak Joint, 3844 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach 858-488-8684
Type of Food: American
Prices: steak and eggs, $13.95; two eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes, toast, $7.99; omelets, $8.99; chicken and beef satay lunch appetizer, $11.95; quesadilla, $7.50 ($8.95 with chicken, $10.95 with steak); fish and chips, $13.95; two fish tacos, $14.95; burgers, $11.95–$15.95; chicken-breast sandwich, $8.95; Philly cheese steak, $10.95; daily specials include $5 Philly steak (Sundays); 25-cent wings (Sunday, Monday after 5:00 p.m.); $5 burgers and fries (Wednesdays, must also buy pint of microbeer); $5 endless pasta (Thursdays)
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–midnight, daily; Sundays, open at 7:00 a.m.
Buses: 8, 9
Nearest Bus Stops: Mission Boulevard at Redondo (8); at Sunset Court (9)

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