Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Downtown: Sliders in Salvation Alley
B.B. Blues Bar H.H. delivers musiculture, cheap booze, and pulled pork to die for
“This joint is dedicated to the memory of Jake Blues.”
It’s a gold-lettered sign above this bar, the B.B. Blues Bar.
We’re in the belly of the beast here, the venerable (okay only eight years old in San Diego) House of Blues (1055 5th Avenue, at C street trolley stop, 619-299-2583).
Happy Hour, natch. Troops of black jean-black tee-black shades musicians stumble by, hauling their amps and axes and skins down to the lower music hall, or maybe the upper. Or one of the lounges. It’s a labyrinth.
Sitting at this bar around six at night, and Eric the barman...
...has brought me a $2 Bud Light. Deal. People here seem to be eating before they go watch one of the bands. I see they’ve got Turbo Negro on tonight. No, not Latino rock. Uh, Norwegian death punk.
Think I’m in Salvation Alley right here. Great heavy Spanish lanterns, Frida Kahlo mural...
...another featuring Ray Charles at the piano, and, live and in living color, at the Voodoo stage, a DJ named Mike White, who’s corralling a bunch of songs that go from the Beatles to Anthrax, sounds like.
So I’m checking the happy hour menu: It’s a nice surprise. You’d think they’d rip you off for the privilege of being here in the company of Turbo Negro. But no. Chef Aarón Sanchez starts his HH specials with $2 French fries or cole slaw. Three bucks buys sweet potato fries or mashed potatoes, $4 gets grilled cheese with fries, or chicken tenders without. I know. Cholesterol city. But this kind of place you let your belt out a notch anyways. A Lincoln buys you cornbread with maple butter, a dip and chips, or a quesadilla (but $3 extra to add chicken, $4 steak).
The real stuff starts at $6. Chicken tenders with fries, chicken wings with coleslaw, or pulled pork sliders. Ah. Now we’re talking. Top dollar - $7 – gets you, whoa, “hand-stretched" flatbread with basil pesto and tomato, no meat. Or two meatball sliders.
Really no contest. Sliders or sliders. Pulled pork or meatball.
“Pulled pork,” I tell Eric.
“I’ve had the burger here,” says this guy at the next stool. Al. Wearing a Stars and Stripes bandanna, and ID tag, and belt, and shades. I’m figuring him for a band member. “No," he says. "I come for the music, and the burgers. Ask for well-done. When they’re pink I get zits.”
So next I get a nice red cloth napkin and flatware, and then Brian, Eric’s assistant, brings me my two sliders.
Uh, okay, first glance is a little like “Honey I Shrunk the Kitchen,” because the buns are about 2-1/2 inches big. But, turns out, they’re totally squelchy, delicious and surprisingly filling. The sliced pickles help.
Plus, seems like I’m in famous company, chowing here.
“Everybody comes, after their show,” says Eric. “From Billy Idol to Britney Spears. Also we have good acts right onstage here after seven. Free most nights. Specially early in the week.”
So hey, guess the trick is, get your chow and grog right before seven, happy hour prices, then linger while one of these shows pops up on the Voodoo stage before your very eyes.
Oh, and Jake Blues? I totally wilt when Eric tells me what I shoulda known. “One of the Blues Brothers. John Belushi. Died in 1982.”
“Actually Dan Ackroyd turns up here every now and then,” Eric says. “He came down on his bike, with bikers from Oceanside, for the opening here eight years ago. He’s a really nice guy.”
Gotta go. I raise the last of my glass to Frida, over there on the wall. "You and Diego would dig this scene," I say.
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