4076 Bonita Road, Bonita, CA
"Even you can afford this," says my friend Joe.
I've been doing my usual moan about lack of lettuce in the pocket.
He turns off Bonita Road and into one of those '70's-style woodsy strip malls you see in the exurbs, vast parking lot with distant single-story shops surrounding it like covered wagons circling the cattle.
"So what's here?" I ask.
"Roast beef," says Joe. "Lunchtime you get it for five bucks! And other deals."
He leads me into this place with the, uh, real original name "All Stars Sports Bar."
It's about two, and yes, I'm hungry. Joe's been up since dawn, had brekky hours ago and now wants a late lunch. Me, I just want a late-late desayuno.
So we go through the dark bar and on to a glassed-in veranda that looks over the parking lot and the eucalyptus trees Bonita seems to have a love affair with. We sit down at a marble-type table. Joe orders a Guinness ($5.50).
Me? Not up to it. I ask the gal, Brittany, for a coffee ($1.50). She leaves a little lunch menu.
Joe's right: everything on it is $5. And "sandwiches come with French fries."
They have soup and salad, grilled chicken Caesar salad, meatball sub, turkey and provolone panini, ham and cheddar panini, open roast beef on bread with mash, gravy, a kind of au jus dip, and fettuccine Alfredo or spaghetti and meatballs, each with garlic bread.
Five buckeroos? Sure seems like a deal.
Joe's $5 chicken salad
"Actually, the beef's okay, but the chicken salad's way better," says Joe. He's been here before. A lot. When Brittany comes back he orders the chicken salad. I'm kinda tempted by the spaghetti and meatballs, just to get that garlic bread.
But the roast beef and mash win out. Just sounds cozier on a crispy day like today. That's what I ask for.
Within two minutes, Brittany has brought out drinks. Problem? Joe's Guinness looks so thick, black and delish, I end up ordering one for myself. Hey, if the main course only costs a Lincoln, we're not going to bust da bank.
But I don't cave on the food, even though Joe's chicken does look like a lot, and nice and golden-tasty to boot.
My beef's pretty fine. Bunch of thin, tender slices on a thick piece of golden bread. What with the mash and the au jus, it's a good deal. And you know what? The Guinness, the cawfee and the beef make a terrific combination.
"How can you do that?" says Joe. "Guinness and coffee, slurp by slurp? Don't you know you've gotta treat Guinness with respect? Why'd you do that?"
"Well, guess it's like what Bill Clinton said about Monica: Because I could."
But I tell myself: don't forget this combo. Coffee, Guinness, roast beef. Who knows? Could become the next taste du jour. Bonita diet, anyone?