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I’m kicking myself.

That I didn’t get in here and try it.

I was outside El Patio de Old Town (261 San Diego Avenue, Old Town, 619-260-8389) one night where a mariachi with a beautiful voice was holding forth under the California pepper trees.

The delicious smoke of carne asada wafted out across the path where you walk under flowering giant yucca plants. The rancho timber fence was jes’ made for leaning on and listening.

That’s what I did for fifteen minutes.

But never went in and tried the carne asada.

Woulda coulda shoulda.

Last February 20th, a fire burst out in El Patio at around four in the morning.

Early drivers on the 5 freeway first spotted the flames at about 4.30 a.m. The Fire Department got there promptly enough to limit the damage to the kitchen and a storage area.

It’s not that the building is super-historic. It was built in 1945. But I talked with Tracy Ford, who works across the way at Miner’s Gems and Minerals. Tracy says the blaze also burned the roof and back wall of the little Chinese import store Gum Saan (“Land of the Golden Mountain,” the old Chinese name for California).

Both buildings will have to be rebuilt to historic standards, so the repair operation will cost about $1 million – an SDFD estimate, according to the U/T.

For us eaters, the worst news is we’re talking at least 3-4 months before we can chomp carne asada again under the pepper tree and listen to those warm mariachis in the cool evening air.

Pictured: El Patio before the fire

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