Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Where’s the best patio downtown?
“Right here,” says Tom Chifari.
Tom and me jes’ got to talking here at The Brickyard. It’s easy to. You can see folks sitting, staring at the trees, listening to the wind sift through the line of poplars that march right through this brick patio.
Tom’s a retired probation officer. Lives downtown here in what you might call West Village, around Kettner and G. He comes to The Brickyard (675 West G Street) every day. It’s his local. Years of tension to unwind from, I guess.
The place was started by Robert Hawley (pictured), who people used to know as the coffee cart guy in front of King Stahlman's bale bonds, by the old jail on C. He has turned what really was a brickyard into an arty, comfy, mostly outside place that feels more country than town.
Of course, trolleys trundle by, as well as the Coaster, and sometimes those tootin’, mile-long freight trains. And right now jack hammers thump away, improving crossings so trains don’t have to toot no mo’.
“Actually, I don’t mind the tooting,” says Tom. “I find it romantic. And I’ve lived down here 8 years.”
But I’m still stewing: who gets the prize for “Best Patio”?
"There's that great patio at Lou and Mickey’s steak joint, bottom of Fifth,” I say. “But who can afford that?”
Looks like Brickyard's an early leader.
As we chat, I chew, at a “bagelegante,” one of The Brickyard’s main offerings. And how dee-lish it is, a toasted split bagel (mine’s an “everything”) loaded with cream cheese, tomato slices and red onion circles. Normally bagels signal "blah" to me. Not today.
Cost? With a mouth-spritzing slice of water melon, $3.75. Mug of coffee? $1.75. The breezy, dappled “whew!” feel of the place? Priceless.
Tom Chiafri (closest) relaxes as trolley keeps the scenery moving.
Pictured at left: owner Robert Hawley