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Loews Coronado Bay Resort

4000 Coronado Bay Road, Coronado

Mistral

4000 Coronado Bay Road, Coronado

This place you've gotta come to. Except, be prepared to hike, if you're coming by bus. When you get here, the nearest stop is a quarter mile further south, so you have to walk back up a bike path (pretty lethal in itself at dusk with bike fanatics tearing past, trying to beat their time records).

Are we in deepest desert country? No sir. We're on the Silver Strand, just north of Imperial Beach, loping towards the little peninsular that holds Loew's Coronado Resort. Why? Because they have a happy hour. Like, one hour. Five to six, every day except Monday and Tuesday.

One hour! Never known such a tiny HH. Guess they don't want too many of us Cheapos taking advantage of their generosity.

Whatever, you walk up this causeway with the bay on the left, and yacht-loaded cays on the right. Nearest yacht is called "Arctic Ice" The thing must have sailed down from Anchorage.

Entrance is buzzing with Marines. It's their annual ball, celebrating 238 years since they were formed, in, wow, 1775. And I mean this place, sticking out of the bay like some sheikh's palace, looks pretty magnificent, have to admit it. Specially in the dark.

The marble-floor lobby is awash with Marines and their partners. The medals clink, the gold buckles on the white belts shine, the blue dress tunics glow. A lot of those wearing the uniform are women.

Me, I leap up the grand stairway, three at a time to the, like, mezzanine, and the Mistral bar and eatery. In a hurry. Only ten minutes before the witching hour of six.

I jump onto one of their high chairs, panting and hot. Lean over the deeply polished semi-circular bar.

"In time?" I ask Bob the bartender.

He checks his watch. "Oh sure."

Korean short rib slider

Korean short rib slider

He hands me a thick little book of menus. Inside, on the first page: the list of Happy Hour Appetizers. Wow. Prices are good.

"Tastes" are $3 each. They include bowls of nuts, from sweet pecans to smoked almonds; an olive selection; and a bunch of slider options. Shrimp, chicken, meatball, Korean short rib, and shredded beef.

Or, for $6, curried sweet potato tots with Thai chili yogurt.

I get so giddy about the $3 tag to most of them I order all of them, nuts, olives, the crispy shrimp slider with chimichurri aioli, the Korean short rib with pickled veggies.

That's twelve bucks I'm down. Should have just asked for water. But can't resist the $7 house red, merlot. (I could have had a cab.)

Crispy shrimp slider

Crispy shrimp slider

Whatever, it's a heck of an array. The olives range from little black ones to medium black to large green. The nuts go from smoky marcona almonds to rosemary-candied hazelnuts to roasted chile pecans. I mean, no big deal, but I like the sweetness of the pecans and hazelnuts and the smokiness of the almonds.

You only get one slider per order. (Compare that to say, Bertrand at Mr. A's' Happy Hour. There you get three Kobe beef sliders for $7, and that's with truffled fries.) But they're good, specially the short ribs one, with that vinegary veggie add.

But I like the crispy shrimp slider too. Rob says its chimichurri aioli has rosemary, oregano, parsley, garlic and sherry vinegar in it. It sure kicks up the taste.

Everybody around the bar is joking about how safe we all are, with 1,000 Marines dancing and eating away below. One couple's talking about the crab they're going to cook tonight aboard their yacht. They've just sailed down the coast from Washington.

I eat every last nut and olive. And actually, they fill me up good. Tab comes to $20.52. But worth it, if only to see how the Other Half lives. I head out, gearing up for the forced march south to the 901 stop.

I mean, come on, MTS: you guys need to create a bus stop opposite the Loew's Hotel entrance. Bus customers and all the hotel staff who take buses to get to and from work have to walk a dangerous half-mile a day, specially in the dark. Yes, the Little People. They deserve a bus stop. We deserve a bus stop. Want that happy hour to be, well, happy.

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