Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Bring Back the Manila Café!
Am I the last person to see this?
There I was, wandering down Fifth in the Gaslamp the other night, and stopped outside Trattoria La Bocca (515 Fifth).
Actually the place was above my pay grade, but I always liked the look of it.
Or maybe it was because of the building it was in:
The Manila Café building.
Old, but not that old: 1930. But romantic? It's that romantic.
Of course, the interesting thing is we’re in Stingaree territory, and this is one of the few places that still feels like it. (We know it was called "Stingaree" after all the stingrays in the mud flats at the bottom of Fifth, back in the day, right? This was the red light district where you really got “stung” if you didn’t watch your wallet).
Just look at this ol' building and you can imagine all the noise, the dust, the hustle.
...And one of the few places where you really see Chinese architecture. In the Stingaree era, the Chinese were big time here. Their fleet of fishing junks (San Diego-built, ocean-going) supplied fish to the en-tire city and beyond. Step across the other side of Fifth and you’ll get the whole curved, tiled roof effect.
Hey, we could be in old Peking.
I see the plaque says it even starred in a couple of movies.
So yeah, sorry to see La Bocca go, but what next?
How’s about someone bringing back a real Manila Café, to its home, right here? There’s something smoky and romantic in the name, Manila Cafe.
Just so long as they don’t make it a rich folks' pale imitation of the real thing.
And psst! What I wanna know is: what’s with the Owl Room upstairs? Was that what I think it was?
Anybody else heard of it?