Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 12
The Lobby: Happy hour in a museum?
This must be the most historic room downtown, and I’m munching $3 fish tacos in here.
You kinda hesitate before you come in here.
The building’s this big-arched monumental pile of stone with brass historic plaques, and revolving doors to get in, and a small army of valet parking guys who you're sure are checking you out to see if you qualify.
Because, hey, this isn't just the Marriott Courtyard Hotel at Sixth and Broadway (530 Broadway, downtown, 619-446-3000). It's also the historic San Diego Trust and Savings Bank headquarters, designed by William Templeton Johnson in 1928.
The fantastic lobby he created is the same now as it was then, a few stories high, lined with Italian marble, and crowned with a ceiling exactly like Mexican churches of old, every bit hand-painted. Think Mission San Diego, or San Luis Rey mission in Vista.
So yeah, I stand with my neck craned back for two whole minutes, looking at the high Romeo and Juliet arched balconies, the huge old chandeliers, and the awesome marble pillars that hold it all up.
Then, finally, I noticed this white, faux marble cocktail bar way down here at ground level, over to the right. Huh. Wonder if they have a happy hour.
"Oh sure, we have a happy hour," says the barkeep, Jillyin. “Happy hour’s 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. We always have one choice per night. The only set nights are Tuesday, Wednesday...$2 tacos on Tuesday, of course, 50-cent wings on Wednesday.”
I sit up to the bar. A single woman at one end, two guys at the other. That's it. “Other nights we may have mini quiches, coconut shrimp,"Jillyin goes on. "It depends on the chef’s whim. Tonight's fish taco again.”
So I ask for one (they're $3 tonight), and a Stone IPA draft ($3 happy hour).
Have to ask: How come these guys don't have any advertising outside? A sandwich board or something? So us ordinary folk could know about this deal inside?
“Well one, we ’ve just gotten through a major renovation,” Jillyin says, “so we’re old, but everything is new. And two, you wouldn't believe how strict the authorities are when you're a designated historic building. We can't stick anything out on the street. So being historic's a double-edged sword.”
I get my fish taco...
It’s cod, in a small flour tortilla, with a little bit of heat from chopped-up green bell peppers, along with cilantro, red onion, cabbage. And tang from the lemon wedges I squirt on it. You get a cream linen napkin and heavy silverware, and soon enough you're starting to feel like the VIPs you see coming in with bags, heading over to check-in.
It's all pretty scrunchy, delish, and nice and fresh. But I guess the best thing is jes' sitting here, a world away from the craziness of Broadway and the House of Blues right outside.
That's worth the six buckeroos alone, just the time to, uh, drink in a bit of history…
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