Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 9
It's been a little while since I've been down to the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner. I thought I'd take my girlfriend to a nice place as a treat. When I got downtown I discovered a few things had changed. The first thing I noticed was that pretty much all public parking was a flat $20. Even Horton Plaza, which has long been a great place to park if you are going to the Gaslamp. The next thing I noticed was that several of the nice restaurants I remembered were gone and replaced with clubs. I remember when the Gaslamp was a great place for dinner because there were so many really good restaurants within just blocks, parking was not too bad, and a valet parking was under $10.
Not now. The streets were crammed with 20 somethings, girls dressed in platform heels and very short, tight outfits, guys in goofy costumes and everywhere pedicabs with pretty girls pushing the pedals. OK, this is all fun, but not what I was looking for. We had decided on Rama Thai since a review described it as romantic with very nice decor. We pulled into a public parking area nearby but moved on when we saw that the price was $20. We went to Horton Plaza to park, and discovered that the price was also a flat $20. We walked the several blocks from Horton Plaza to Rama Thai, pushing through very crowded streets and intersections, noticing along the way that virtually all parking was a flat $20. When we got there, we were shown to the back where there was a DJ, a very loud table with raucous young guys drinking, and it took about 40 minutes to be served. It was so loud that conversation was difficult.
We sat there eating and discussed the change in downtown. We wondered how in a struggling economy so many people could be out spending so freely. We wondered how the parking structures had come to a $20 flat rate all over the Gaslamp area. We also decided not to return to the Gaslamp. We decided that driving up to Del Mar or La Jolla would be better than dealing with the absolute mess that downtown has become.