Thai-style red curried mussels with salty chorizo and leeks compel Ed to slurp the sauce at the end. “Of course, when I tip the bowl, it spills over down my face and onto my shirt.”
  • Thai-style red curried mussels with salty chorizo and leeks compel Ed to slurp the sauce at the end. “Of course, when I tip the bowl, it spills over down my face and onto my shirt.”
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SEA180 Coastal Tavern

800 Seacoast Avenue, Imperial Beach

The chat stops. Everybody watches, tries not to blink.

It’s that moment again.

The last glowing pebble of the sun has blipped out. The big fish that swallowed it — okay, the ocean — goes from aquamarine to kinda ruffled blue. The horizon clouds get a pink glow. Any moment, any luck, green flashes.

On the other hand, got to take a slurp of this coffee.

I look down, pick up, slurp.

“Wow,” says Becky.

“Oh no! Don’t say I missed it!”

“What are you all talking about?” says the guy to my left. He’s from Ohio.

“Green flash, dammit,” I say. “Hey, Becky, did I just miss it?”

“Green flash?” the guy says.

“The green flashes you sometimes get after the sun sets on the ocean,” I say. Getting impatient now. “Becky: Did I miss it?”

“I was just kidding,” Becky says. “Saw you look down. You’ll know when you’ve missed them. The whole patio breaks out in applause.”

Guess I’m in Green Flash Central. Place is brand-spanking new. A Marriott. Pier South Resort.

Say what? A Marriott in…I.B.?

Okay, the bar-eatery’s got a forgettable name, “Sea180.” But, have to admit, you do get a 180-degree panorama of the ocean, from Mexico to the Coronado islands to the I.B. pier and on to Point Loma.

Best of all, they have a happy hour, and it’s cool to eat it and drink it out here on the big terrazza. Not like most places, where they corral you in around the bar.

Actually, I sat up to the bar when I first came in, just to get my bearings and catch my breath. Happy hour is on seven days a week, but only goes from 2:30 to 5:00. Raced in with three minutes to spare after running a mile up Palm Avenue.

Sergio the barkeep waits for me to haul my tongue back in, then points out the most popular items.

“Lamb sliders,” he says, “the Kobe TJ hotdog? That has bacon and kimchi. And the brussels sprouts are always big sellers.”

Hmm... Gotta hurry. See they’re either $5, $7, or $9. The five-buck items include an arugula and beets salad, herb fries, and “Fire-roasted Brussels Sprouts with balsamic glaze, house-smoked crispy ham.” Mmm... That sounds good.

In the $7 range there’s roasted garlic hummus, mac’n cheese, croquetas with ham, potatoes, cheddar, or that TJ hotdog. And for $9, we’re talking the lamb sliders, gingered pork empanadas, mussels, or tuna tacos.

Okay. Thirty seconds till the hour and counting. Feeling the pressure. Like George Bush must have felt as “chief decider.”

“D’agh, gimme the sprouts and the mussels.”

“And to drink?”

Ah. There’s the rub. I’m desperate for one. They have beers like Modern Times “Black House” Coffee Stout. And everything’s half price, from what I can see, including wines and cocktails. So that’d be $3.50.

Sigh. Night of work ahead.

“Coffee,” I say. It’s $2.95. “Did we make it?”

Sergio looks up from the computer-cash register.

“We made it.”

Whew. Now I can relax and start to enjoy this thing.

I keep meaning to decamp and set up outside, but I get talking with this other gent on my left, Paul. Works for something scary called the Defense Logistics Agency. The man’s a faithful customer here.

“Everyone has waited ten years for this,” he says. “People said, ‘It’s I.B. It’ll never happen!’ But it did. And now Coronado Brewing is moving in across the road. Things are definitely moving here.”

He looks incredibly fit, bronzed.

“It’s because I play with the Senior Softball league. Top Gun team. In tournaments we sometimes play two, three games out there in a day.”

He’s just finishing up what I’ve ordered. The brussels sprouts. “Really, really good,” he says. “They cure their own Canadian bacon, ham, whatever. The balsamic reduction and sugar and ham chunks give a salty-sweet flavor under the sprouts. Awesome.”

By now Becky’s working with Sergio behind the sexy curved bar. Guess I’m staying here because she’s layed out the rattan mat and handed me heavy silverware wrapped in a gray cloth napkin.

Then Sergio brings my stuff. Whoa. Big plate loaded with sprouts and chunks of ham. And then a nice big stainless-steel bowl filled with gleaming golden tongues, looks like, sticking out through shiny black shells. The mussels, all clunking around in an orange soup, with two big chunks of french garlic bread laid across the top. Plus another bowl for clanging the shells into.

The sprouts are totally delish, but the roasted black mussels really are extra-delicious, mainly because of the Thai-style red curry in the soup. Plus the salty chorizo. And they have melted leeks in there, too. Interesting combo. At the end, I have to slurp some of that red curry sauce. Of course, when I tip the bowl, it spills over down my face and onto my shirt. Cool.

Whatever, I head out to the Pier View Terrace with my coffee. Must have been here a couple of hours already. Because it’s green-flash time. Folks out there say you also see dolphins and sometimes whales spouting in the early evening. And once or twice, even a shark fin.

So, yes, with tax, I have just spent $18.31. But I think of it as an investment for a night of romance under the stars with the lovely Carla.

Uh, okay, better make that an evening watching for green flashes.

Gotta make sure it’s happy hour.

  • Happy Hour Prices: For $5, arugula and beets salad; herb fries; fire-roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze, house-smoked crispy ham; for $7, roasted garlic hummus; mac ’n’ cheese; croquetas with ham, potatoes, cheddar; Kobe T.J. hotdog; $9, ground-lamb sliders; gingered pulled-pork empanadas; roasted black mussels; tuna takoshimi tacos
  • Happy Hour: 2:30–5:00 p.m. daily; restaurant also open for breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Buses: 933, 934
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