Looking inside from outside
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Croce's Park West

2760 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill

It looks kinda like a sheikh's tent from across the street. Cabana-style brown and black drapes and awnings half conceal the big sidewalk terrazza.

We're at the "Fifth and Olive Building" up here at, well, 5th and Olive.

This is where Ingrid Croce moved to when she got levered out of her original location at 5th and F in the Gaslamp.

Gaslamp's loss. Here, 18 blocks north up 5th in an area called Cambridge Square (who knew?) there's less character but more room. And a much better patio. And you're surrounded by a strangely elegant part of town you never notice when you're zooming through to Hillcrest and Mission Valley. There's St. Paul's Cathedral across the road at Nutmeg Street, and The Abbey, kitty-corner from here, looking like an an ancient Greek temple, which you can hire out to party at with 500 of your best friends.

I've sat down at a granite table outside, well within Happy Hour (from four till six, as well as ten till close).

Inside they have bunch of rooms, all browns and creams, ending in the comfy-chair "Expatriates Room" at the back, where the live music happens. Dunno. Seems a pity it's that far away inside. Maybe the new neighbors objected to noise, even beautiful noise.

Whatever. Chris, the waiter, is at the table pronto and laying down a H. H. menu for me. So okay, not the most inspired selection this galaxy has ever known. Basically fries ($4.50), olives ($4.50), cashews and almonds ($4.50), spicy Crackerjacks ($4.50).

Wow. That bunch must have taken a degree in culinary arts to invent.

My ribs

My ribs

The two real things they have going are glazed chicken drummets with a "harissa and creamy valdeón [Spanish] blue cheese dressing," (six pieces cost $7, twelve are $11); and maybe the only really interesting item in the section, the Jamaican jerk baby back (pork) ribs ($8) with "creamy polenta and mango/papaya mint salsa."

I ask Chris for this, and then head down-menu to their beer section. Have to say this is excellent. Mainly for the value. But also because all of the cervezas are craft and all go for $3 (Okay, the North Coast Brother Thelonius Abbey is $3.50.) I ask for the Alesmith Nautical Nut Brown, a kinda safe, non-hoppy choice. And dammit, just when it's too late I see they have The Lost Abbey's Lost and Found (also $3 pint).

But after being seriously underwhelmed at their H. H. food choice, have to say the ribs are great. Richly marinated pork ribs with the sweet touch coming from the chunks of mango and papaya, and a creamy thing going on with the polenta. Only three ribs, but they're big and tasty and filling.

Getting dark. I want to hang around 'til the musicians start turning up and tuning up, but that's not till seven. I also want to hang around because I'm the guy who's always complaining about cafés not having generous terrazzas on their stretch of sidewalk, and here at last is what I'm talkin' about. But us Happy Houristas know when our time is up.

I'll be back. If only to work my way through their 13 ales on tap. And also do what I love best (apart from yakking and chomping), watching da woild go by.

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