380 K Street, Downtown San Diego
Usually I'd walk straight past.
I mean Fleming's? Steaks muy caro. Thirty bucks? At least, probably. This is expense-account land. Plus when you do walk in, into the dark, where you can just make out burnished wood paneling, smart women, guys in suits with blue shirts, white collars, yellow ties and big power laughs, you know this is not for you.
Except wait. "Yes," says the girl at the reception booth, "we do have happy hour. Every day, five to seven. It's on now. At the bar."
I'm still suspicious when I mosey up to the clubby bar. Woody, with warm, classy tortoiseshell amber lights dangling from on high. Maroon banquettes behind, mostly men's butts sticking out from tall stools at the counter itself. The glam blonde bar gal with arms so fast she looks like one of those many-armed Hindu goddesses, and a couple of guys holding cocktails high, shaking them like they really, really needed confessions. I find about the last seat. Kinda squeeze in, and face a menu with steak prices the size of a mortgage, and steaks the size of your luggage. Guy with a ponytail must see the panic in my eyes. "Happy hour?" he says, and hands me this much smaller card.
Huh. "5 for $6 til 7," it says. So they have five cocktails, five wines by the glass, and five appetizers. Everything costs six bucks.
'Course I'm scanning the five appetizers. And some pretty good stuff. Pan-crisped pork belly, roasted mushroom ravioli, tenderloin carpaccio (thin-sliced raw meats), baked brie, or sweet chile calamari. Plus two more, from their "Bar la Carte Menu:" The "prime burger" with cheese and bacon and fries, or salt and pepper shrimp, with crispy French green beans.
I'm pinching myself. I mean, this could be a real deal. "Guess the burger's the most, like, filling?" I ask the bar guy. Because the pork belly sounds good, and so does the baked brie. I just need reassurance. He nods. I nod back, like okay I'll take the burger. "Any beers in the happy hour deal?" I ask. I only saw cocktails and wines. "Oh yes," he says. "Our shandy. Three dollars."
Wow. I check the HH menu again. And there at the bottom is Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, $3. So hey, take that. Settle back. Things are definitely starting to look up. Specially when they bring a bowl of free chips, and a black linen napkin with heavy silver flatware inside.
Have to say, the burger, when it arrives is...a lot. Patty's seven ounces. Half a pound! Plus two nice thick slices of bacon, and cheese doing a nice golden ooze out from under a seriously golden bun. Plus fries, and fresh lettuce. And ketchup.
And this frosty tall $3 glass of Leinenkugel's summer shandy. From Wisconsin. Beer and lemonade mix. Actually owned by Miller, but whatever. Totally refreshing.
I mean this is a complete meal. At Fleming's, nine buckeroos! And they do this every night of the week. This could easily become a habit, because, hey, we're just a hop, step ,and jump from the Gaslamp trolley stop.
So, okay, find out that this is part of a 1400-strong worldwide restaurant chain called Bloomin' Brands. Bunch of different restaurant chains. Started out in 1988 in Florida with the first Outback restaurant. First Fleming's happened in Newport Beach (California) ten years later. "Generous hospitality" was to be their byword. Guess with this boiga at least, they're living by the byword.