Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Lime-Flavored Joy At the End Of the Road
This is the end of the road. End of Harbor Drive.
Here in National City it turns into Civic Center Drive.
End of the week, too.
But the start of my first true, real Mexican breakfast beer, along with a chorizo breakfast at one o'clock in the afternoon.
Love this place. Little dive just about under the 5 freeway.
Club 13, 640 Civic Center Drive, 619-477-2851.
Sign near the 5 freeway has seen better days
Wandered in here hungry as a horse. Walking a lot this mawnin', nothing on the gut.
In here, guys from the shipyards, and some of the fabulous car-tricking places that they have around the neighborhood. (Ever read Tom Woolf, "The Candy-Colored, Tangerine-Flake, Streamline Baby"?
Car from the Glory Age on the way to glory at Southland Transmission
It's about guys who transform cars like this.)
But right now, it's Norma who's got the guys' attention with her tight white short-short skirt. She hands me the simple green plastic menu. It's mainly tacos, tostadas, burritos, running from four to seven bucks.
And she says that Jose the cook - and "dueño" (owner) - is happy to do breakfast, even though it's late. Great news!
They have a choice of five. Chorizo and eggs, machaca and eggs, Spanish omelet, and huevos rancheros. Five bucks each. No question: Chorizo it is. I'll get some for the lovely Carla - she turned me on to chorizo in the first place - and, dammit, for myself.
Breakfast plate of chorizo
Plus, can't resist a taco. Two dollars for the hard shell, $2.50 for the camarones.
Now, question of drink. Coffee, normally...But this guy Jose comes and sits down with his buddy next to me and orders "Un vaso chelado con Dos Equis."
Norma grabs a glass out of the fridge, turns it upside down on a little plate with a pile of Tajin - basically a seasoning with salt and hot peppers - so that it sticks to the rim of the glass.
Then she cuts up two limes, squeezes them into the glass, adds ice, and only then goes and gets a bottle of Dos Equis beer, pours some in, and hands it to Jose. He pays $3.50.
"Now if you really want a hangover medicine," says Jose, "ask for 'Mi chelado,' and get it with carrots, cucumber, shrimp, lime and clams in the bottom, and then add your Dos Equis. Little bit hair of the dog, a lot of 'crudo' - hangover - cure."
Well, feeling fine right now. I go for the "vaso chelado con Dos Equis."
It all comes together nicely. I recognize the cook/boss, Jose Magadan, from last time I came here, soon after the Filipino ladies who used to run it gave the place up. Norma's fixing her make-up in the mirror, the singer Pandora's belting out "Por Tu Amor" on the juke box, bunch of guys are playing unbelievably hot pool at the table...
...and the chorizo's great.
And, hey, beer with the big lime factor and the salty heat from the rim for brekky is new!
Norma says come back Thursday nights for the karaoke. "People have fun," she says. "They sing their lungs out, and sometimes dance."
"I will if you'll teach me the Quebradita," I say. That's the Mexican break dance I long to learn so I can teach Carla.
Three of us at the bar talk about how the shipyards are dropping workers by the week, and the Superbowl.
In fact, despite the shipyard news, by now life seems pretty good, here under the freeway, at the end of the road.
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