Walter Mencken 10:05 a.m., April 30
Chula Vista: Skins + artichokes = dinner
Happy hour at the BullsEye Bar can get messy
“Try one,” says my bar buddy.
He shoves the chalice with half a dozen shrimp curled around its rim. A ketchup bowl sits on the bed of ice inside, along with the slice of lemon.
I do. The little guy’s perfect.
I thought of ordering one. It’s the shrimp cocktail, $5.50 at this time, happy hour. Jerome – let’s call him that. He doesn’t want to give his real name – also got a steak quesadilla ($5.50), along with a glass of rum and coke ($3.50).
This is the Bullseye Bar...
...inside Black Angus Steakhouse (707 E Street, Chula Vista, 619-426-9200).
Fact is, I don’t usually darken the doors of this kind of franchise steakhouse. It’s usually too slick, too chain, too expensive.
I mean, these guys have 44 locations in six states, from Alaska to Hawaii. It’s a well-oiled machine.
Who comes to eat here? Check the parking lot . It’s rich with F-150s, 250s, 350s …you’d have to be a high-jumper to get aboard without your pogo stick.
I’m here sniffing round because it’s pretty much across from the Bay Front/E Street trolley station. Jes’ had half an hour to kill, and needed to fill up for the night. Hauled across E Street and into this big wooden barn, then down a slope under the “Bullseye Bar” sign, and right onto the last spare seat along this 30-foot bar.
Next seat along from Jerome.
“Five minutes,” said the gal. She slips me the HH menu.
Oh yeah. Five to seven.
HH choices come in three price levels. For $3.50 you get garlic bread or onion rings. Uh, thanks but no thanks. For $4.50, it’s fried zucchini, pretzels, skins, or chicken tenders. Top o’ the line ($5.50) is buffalo wings, steak nachos, steak quesadilla, shrimp cocktail or fire-grilled artichoke.
So yeah. Standard fare. All except the artichoke. Love artichoke. It’s great peeling the leaves off one by one, dipping in some sauce and scraping the meat off with your lower teeth while you think Deep Thoughts, and sip your drink. Tastes and feels a little like avocado.
Two minutes to go.
“Uh, potato skins and the artichoke,” I blurt. “And a pint of Bud.” It’s also $3.50. So I guess with tax I’m at around $15.
Janell, one of the servers, brings the potato skins.
Golden. Big boats brimming with golden cheddar, lighter jack cheese strips on top, along with bacon bits and chopped green onions and a pot of sour cream that doesn’t have nearly enough sour cream for the six skins.
But they do tell you how many calories the spuds have: 1850. Ayee! Double what the artichokes have. But what happens is Jerome and I pool our pickin’s and actually make one heckuva filling meal out of it. Good thing is you can talk here. All the sports screens aren’t too loud. Jerome knows all about Baja California. Works down there sometimes. He has kids. They’re all bilingual. Guy’s certainly building for the future.
So skins, great, and Jerome’s quesadilla would probably be enough for two on its lonesome. But for me, the star of the evening is those artichokes.
They’ve been roasted on a grill, cut in half and face down. The burning adds a whole lot of flavor. Each leaf peel pulls off easy, and even though it gets automatic as we talk, the dipping and scraping and each fresh little taste pleasure makes for a good time.
They have two kinds of sauces: lemon aioli and basil pesto mayo. The green-flecked lemon aioli is the killer dip.
I come out fuller than full. Yes this kinda place basically isn’t my style, but it sure has taken care of business. And only 100 yards to the trolley?
Somebody’s thinking of us at last.
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