The barbecue bacon cheeseburger
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"Welcome to the G-Spot!”

“Come on in!”

I’ve just stuck my head around this dun-colored door on Grand Avenue. Door was closed, solid ply, ill-fitting, like it’s been slammed once too often. No sign on it to tell what might be going on inside.

Fun for Carlsbad cognoscenti since 1992

But wrench the thing open and it’s like a birthday party your buddies secretly organized. This is midafternoon, with the sun beating down outside, and Carlsbad getting toastier by the minute. I was feeling hollow-belly anyway, so I head on in to this island-bar with mostly guys, eating, drinking, shouting, laughing.

Pretty soon I’m up on a stool and Jenny the barkeep has a beer mat laid down in front of me. “Two-dollar PBR cans, Monday special,” she says. “Or our Fireball.” She points to an ad that says “Tastes like heaven, burns like hell.”

“It’s a cinnamon whiskey,” she says. “Canadian. Want the menu?”

Mario, Sean

She slips me some plastic pages. Guys who yelled the welcome are joshing away. Sean, Mario. Looks like they are the heart of the party. Sean’s talking about New Zealand. “’Course the guys down there are great. Rugby? Unbelievable! They’re tough. I played. But off the field? No gift of the gab when it came to women. Being a Yank, you could roll over them. Heh-heh.”

“Shy guy like you?” says Mario.

I pick up the specials page. This is Monday, right?

“Mondays… We Miss Football!” says the Specials page. “Popcorn shrimp $3.50, grilled chicken strips $4, OR original Johnsonville brats, $2.95 each.”

Johnsonville? Wisconsin. Land of beer and brats, as they say. Tempting.

Other “special” days are good, too. Taco Tuesday has two tacos, with any meat, fish, or shrimp, for $3, $1.50 each. Wednesday’s Burger Night. You can get a mini “G Burger” with grilled onions and pickles for $2. Two bucks! Or $2.50 with cheese. ’Course, depends how mini it actually is.

But, first glance, today’s main menu specials look like the way to go. Even though they’re not totally cheap, they look classier than basic bar food.

Six items: The grilled teriyaki glazed yellowtail with rice pilaf and salad goes for $12.95. Grilled salmon with Caesar salad’s the same price. They have a chicken cordon bleu sandwich for $9.95, a turkey pepper jack cheese melt with Ortega chilies for $8.95, and a philly cheese steak for $7.95. And, oh yes: a barbeque bacon cheeseburger at $10.49.

And if you wanna spend less, they have a peel ’n’ eat shrimp special ($4 for a small basket, $8 for a large basket). Also, soups: anything from tortilla to minestrone, lobster bisque, or Italian-style wedding soup ($3 small, $5 large). That sounds like a deal. Also posole ($6 small, $8 for the large).

But, guess I’m in a burger phase these days. Gotta have that barbeque bacon cheeseburger. Especially after Mario says it’s worth the Hamilton — okay, Tubman soon — it costs. Even though he himself is ordering a Johnsonville brat and some chicken strips.

“But whatever you do,” he says confidentially, “don’t eat crabs from Southern California.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’re suffering from the effects of Fukushima, the nuclear disaster in Japan. That’s how big its reach is.”

Turns out Mario knows about this stuff. He goes everywhere, chasing toxic spills. But, wow. Crabs here are suffering from Fukushima fallout? That is rad, like, radiation; heavy, like, heavy water.

Luckily, I don’t see crabs on the menu. I order the burger, then decide to save a little cash by asking for, uh, a glass of water. Jenny doesn’t object.

Jenny

They reckon there are 23 HDTVs strung around these walls, but nobody seems to be watching them. It’s just chat, laughs, ribbing, some Padres talk, arguments about how old this place is.

Jenny says it’s been going since 1992.

“This used to be a private house, I know that,” says Mario. “I’ve been coming in for years. More, lately, because my son is giving me a hard time at home.”

“Kids today,” says someone. “They love luxury. They have bad manners. They have contempt for authority. They disrespect their elders. They’re tyrants! Who said all that?”

“Bernie Sanders?”

“Socrates. Lived in 400 BC.”

Plenty of fat fries to fill the far corners of the gut

Guy from the kitchen turns up with my burger. And, oh yes. It may cost 11 buckeroos, but this is one lush meal. That has to be a half-pound burger patty. Glistening tentacles of thick bacon curl around it, and melted white cheddar cheese glues it all together. Two big fresh slices of tomato and curly lettuce top it off under a sesame-seed bun hat set at a jaunty angle. Couple of pickle slices and a little army of fat fries fill up the rest of the plate. I have to stop talking so I can get stuck in, before the magic moment of this smokin’ heat passes.

Actually, it all goes by too fast. I hate to leave. These guys are fun, and now, around four, things look like they’re ramping up to one heck of an evening session.

I stand outside for a moment. Who’d know, walking past this anonymous door, what they’re missing inside? Forget Socrates. Me, I’m thinking of that other old saying.

“Good wine needs no bush.”

Grand Avenue Bar and Grill

752 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad

Prices: Daily specials (e.g., popcorn shrimp $3.50); grilled chicken strips, $4; Johnsonville brats, $2.95; two tacos, any meat, fish, or shrimp, $3; peel ’n’ eat shrimp, $4 (small basket) $8 (large); lobster bisque, $3 (small), $5 (large); grilled teriyaki-glazed yellowtail, rice pilaf, salad, $12.95; grilled salmon, Caesar salad, $12.95; chicken cordon bleu sandwich, $9.95; turkey pepper jack cheese melt, $8.95; philly cheese steak, $7.95; barbeque bacon cheeseburger, $10.49 (regular bacon burger, $9.50)

Kitchen Hours: 8 a.m.–10:30 p.m., daily (till 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays)

Buses: 101, 325

Nearest bus stops: Carlsbad Village Drive and Harding (325); Coaster station, 2775 State Street at Christiansen Way (101)

Train: Coaster

Nearest Coaster Stop: Carlsbad Village station, 2775 State Street at Christiansen Way, Carlsbad

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