Walter Mencken 2:08 p.m., Aug. 27
Bassam’s: A glass of wine, a baklava and thou…
Five bucks for a glass of port, $3 for a baklava, your sunset hour is complete.
“Ah. The baklava. Good choice. They have the best here.”
The merry-faced lady in purple watches me as I put down the plate with the greeny-topped baklava and the bulging glass of port onto the wooden-slat table. The port’s $5, good price for its quality, and the baklava’s $3. This isn’t happy hour or nuttin’. Just regular prices. Deal, if you ask me.
We’re sitting in history here. Bassam’s (3088 5th Avenue at Redwood, 619-557-0713) calls itself the “first real coffee house in California.” I believe it. It opened in the Gaslamp back in 1991. Bassam the owner came from the French-Lebanese culture of Beirut, and you really feel it here. Even though this is in a big black condo tower, he has filled the inside with everything from antique furniture to collections of ancient guns.
But he also has terrazza space outside, and that’s where I’ve brought my port and baklava. It’s sunset, and here it feels like the Magic Hour. I swear this is the perfect combo. Port, and baklava. This one has the lightest pastry in da woild, lots of honey, but not too gloopy, and pistachios crumbled along the top.
“This is my local,” says Lara. “I live across the bridge. The footbridge. I love Banker’s Hill. I teach art to homeless kids at the Friend to Friend clubhouse on El Cajon. It's a way of giving them hope."
She looks at my plate.
"But eat, eat. Don’t waste the baklava while it's fresh!"
I do, along with regular mini-glugs of this dee-lish port.
I mean, as sidewalk patios go, yes, it’s a little cramped. On the other hand, it throws people like me and Lara together. Half an hour later we’re still talking up a storm.