Kielbasas taking up the grill
“Honestly,” says Carla. “This is the best damned dog I have ever had. Ever.”
1441 L Street, San Diego
Is somebody paying her to say this? Not possible, because I’ve just brought this baby back to her from a pop-up tent on the edge of Barrio Logan. Right next to the entrance of Mission Brewery. Decided on a quick detour to the old Wonder Bread factory for a quick swig of their scrumptious Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout.
Except just before you get to the entrance, here’s this green canopy sending out sausage smells to die for. And a guy I vaguely recognize, flipping sausages upfront. He’s turning a dozen orange kielbasa, each a foot long, I swear, on a smokin’ flattop grill.
“Want one?” he says.
It would certainly help the Dark Seas go down. He points me to the little blackboard menu. They have a choice of three dogs: Bush’s Best, which means Bush’s baked beans, pickles, diced onions, Jack Daniels BBQ, and bacon crumbs; Spicy Jalapeño, with grilled red and green bell peppers, pickles, jalapeño, house chipotle aioli, bacon crumbs; and Polish Classic, with beer-braised sauerkraut, pickles, and bacon crumbs.
Each one’s, ulp, $10. Better be good.
“Those don’t look like your average wieners,” I say.
“Half-pounders,” says the guy, like he’s reading my mind. “Haven’t I seen you before?”
Now I remember. Joel. Met him in another pop-up, Drunken Grill. This one’s “Joel’s Jumbo Doggz.”
Then I see this security guard, standing, watching Joel. “Just had mine,” he says. “Jalapeño. You’ve gotta have it.”
Joel and Daniel
His name’s Daniel Morales. With Airtight Security. Guards this whole Wonder Bread building.
“It’s our most popular,” says Joel. He grabs one of the kielbasas that have split from the heat so it looks a bit like a mini French baguette. But toasted orange. Beside the grill he has a growler of Mission Carrack, an Imperial Red Ale. Come to find out “Carrack” is the name for those old Manila galleons that used to sail down this very coast on their way back from Asia, like, 500 years ago.
This Carrack is 10.2 percent alcohol. Whoa. “I grill the kielbasa,” Joel says, “then beer-braise it with the Carrack.” Why Carrack? “Because it retains its flavor better with its high alcohol content.”
While Joel works upfront, Olive and Kris are doing all the prep work behind. Guess that’s how they handle the ten-plus kielbasas he has going.
The secret’s in the mix of peppers
Then he plops a pile of diced green and red bell peppers on the grill, plus jalapeño “pecks” and the kosher pickles, and stirs them around. They smoke up a sabroso storm. He piles them on top of the kielbasa he’s just put in a bun. And, finally, squirts a curvaceous snake of creamy chipotle aioli along the top and scatters the bacon crumbs.
Joel hands in the finished product
Olive cuts it in half and adds a pot of mustard. “Stone ground,” Joel says. ”We put a lot of love into this.”
I take it inside and order up my Dark Seas. Not quick on the uptake — I shoulda gone for the Carrack, after what I’ve learned. Whatever, the Dark Seas plus this delicious combo is perfect. By the time I’ve gotta leave to meet the beautiful Carla, I’ve only gotten through half, but I am sated. Yes, the dog cost ten bucks, but what price paradise?
How good is it? I get home late, but within five minutes Carla’s claws are back in recess. “I’m going to send you out to get more,” she purrs.
Except, that’s the problem. Joel told me they can’t predict where they’re going to be. “We’re in transition,” he says. “I’m looking for a brick-and-mortar, because there’s so much more I want to cook.”
All he can tell me is that he might end up downtown, and he may call the place “Gorilla Grubb.”
Sigh. Stay tuned.