Jeff Smith 10:30 a.m., Feb. 21
Ali Baba’s in Sorrento Valley: Fast company, fast fish
Ed discovers a bar in the middle of nowhere, packed with the IT in-crowd
I guess it’s because I’ve been dreaming, looking over the bridge rails of Los Peñasquitos (“The Little Cliffs”) river, watching the white heron watching for fish in the sunlit pool among the reeds.
When I come in here, I’m thinking fish.
This is Ali Baba’s Cave. Sorrento Valley.
Raced in here when I realized I was starving and I had fifteen minutes before the southbound Coaster was due to turn up. So I crossed the footbridge (ducks, more fish below!) and then across Roselle Street towards a row of shops with no neighbors, the last sign of civilization before the hills soar upwards and head for the coast.
It’s funny, because this shop row is about as boring as you could possibly build. But open the doors into Ali Baba’s (10920 Roselle Street, Sorrento Valley, 858-784-7515), and the place is rockin'. It's filled with alcoves that look like Ali Baba and his 40 thieves had made themselves a pretty cozy hide-out here. At the back they have a crazy U-shaped bar.
Crazy because wow: tons and tons of people are here all talking like they'd just come out of a football match, shouting across groups, trying to get the two bar gals' attention.
Where did they all come from? It’s like discovering a rave scene on a plain on Mars. I collapse on to the last free stool at the bar. “We’re from hi-tech, all those glassy offices,” says Scott. He’s sitting nursing his beer and his laptop. “Valley’s full of them. I work at Pfizer, right up the hill. You should see this on a Friday night. You in a hurry?”
He must notice me twitching.
“Got to catch this Coaster or life’s not worth a plug nickel,” I say.
“Kristie. Kristie!” Scott’s calling to the tall blonde gal behind the bar who looks a bit like Anne Coulter. Her hands fly as she talks to customers.
“He needs something quick,” says Scott.
I look at the menu. Ask for a Pepsi ($2.50). Gotta work tonight. And, what thu heck, fish and chips, $6.95.
“Can you do them in time?”
“Can you do them in time!?" shouts Kristie over the hubbub. She’s looking at another blonde lady standing in front of the kitchen. Stacie.
“What time’s his train!?”
Kristie looks at me.
“5:40,” I say. “Fifteen minutes.”
“Fish and chips? No problem,” says Stacie, and disappears.
Scott says he works in research into cancer, creating drugs that narrow-target different types. “Our building's right at the top of this cliff,” he says. “If I just lay down and let myself roll I’d be here in three minutes.”
Kristie brings me two cans of Pepsi. “That’s because he’s nicer than you,” she says to the two guys on my left. “He doesn’t make my life difficult.”
“So what causes cancer?” I ask Scott, like I had the next fifteen hours to work this out.
“Stress, the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead. Look at the Okinawans…”
I start wondering if they eat a lot of fish there.
This is when Stacie scoots up, with my fish and chips.
Three golden slabs of cod, lots of fries, a pot of tartar sauce, and a tomato and vinegar-tasting red seafood cocktail sauce.
’Course, now it’s 3:37. I see that blue and green monster pulling in across the creek, bell donging. .
“Plastic bag! Says Kristie.
“Plastic bag,” says Stacie like this was an operating room.
“See ya,” says Scott, as I’m grabbing everything, slapping down two Lincolns, and heading for the door. “Careful of the bones.”
Get home, and Carla and I add a bit of salad, and split what turns into a danged good light meal.
“Where’d you find this?” she says.
“In the wilds of Sorrento Valley,” I say. “And I mean wild.”