Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Joan Crawford's Bar -- at Brian's
“The dents in the wood,” says Brian. “There. There! Dime sized. Here’s another one. That’s her stilettos when she danced, right here, on the bar. Her bar.”
Two of Joan Crawford's stiletto dents that she danced into her bar
Talking Joan Crawford, Mommy Dearest. Actress in all those black-and-white movies, 30s, 40s.
Joan Crawford's picture at her bar
She owned this bar. She danced on this bar. Though not in this bar.
This is Brian’s 24 (828 Sixth Avenue, between E and F street, downtown, 619-702-8410), the all-night, all-day bar-restaurant that’s part of the St. James Hotel (now owned by Ramada), which was put up in 1913, ten stories high, downtown’s first skyscraper hotel.
Brian? He's the bar guy, not the owner Brian.
And Joan owned the counter and backboard. It was part of a house she had in Italy. Seems they shipped it over to the States, and since she died, it has been in a bunch of bars. Ended up here.
Boy, that big beautiful backboard must’ve seen a few things in its day.
So yeah, the bar is one thing this place is famous for. The other is their peanut butter burger. “Don’t be afraid,” says the menu. “Our 1/2-pound patty is topped with peanut butter, bacon, and cheddar cheese, $11.99. If it wasn’t great, we wouldn’t serve it.”
And man, I’ve had it. It’s oozy, sloppy, bacon-salty, sweet, almost like a Thai burger with that peanuty thing going on.
But tonight, it’s late. Gonna slip into something light. Order the “light eaters’ fish and chips,” a single cod fillet, fries, tub of tartar sauce, $6.99.
My (single) fish and chips
It’s fine, and by the time we’re done talking about Joan’s wild parties (she had a few), it’s gone.
This place is definitely old school. Has a 40s vibe you can’t imitate. And what I like is they do breakfast all day and all night, including an “absolutely everything” omelet with<! >-- check this out<! >-- six eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, onions, all topped with cheddar cheese, $14.99. My fave, last time I downed a breakfast, was the Italian frittata ($12.99), loaded (of course) with Italian sausage.
While you eat, look up at the chandelier above you.
And before you leave, go through the door into the hotel. Check out its two elevators. They’re the same li’l ol’ elevators as were installed in 1913. Back then, the hotel claimed they were the “fastest in the world.”
Today, same elevators, same speed. It’s the world that’s gotten faster.