I blame my friend Annie for this. I mean I’ve been around, but she zips about in dizzying circles, social circles, the kind you read about in the glossy magazines.
This day, I just had to show her an ancient schooner at the Southwestern Yacht Club in Point Loma. I mean, did anyone see Captains Courageous, that 1937 classic movie starring the kid Freddie Bartholomew and Spencer Tracy? Featured a fleet of fishing schooners off the Grand Banks. This boat looks just like them. Was built in 1932.
“Our next boat,” I say. “Let’s go halves on it. Sail to Tahiti! ”
“Three hundred and fifty dollars?”
“Three hundred fifty thousand.”
She looks at me. “My poor boy. You’re going delirious. Hunger. I’m taking you to eat. Right here.”
Turns out, she’s a yacht club member. Why am I surprised? Also turns out this night’s a special member-cooked dinner. The main dish is jambalaya, and it’s good. Spicy! Andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken, ton of rice. Turns out the commodore, Jeff, is Cajun, from New Orleans. He cooked it.
Basically it’s tons of melted butter, rice, chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp. Deeelish. Also fantastic: the N’Orleans-style bread pudding dessert the commodore really soaked in a “very good” bourbon.
’Course, next time I’m in Point Loma, no way I can eat here. Members and guests only.
Still have to eat, though. I wander lonely as a cloud around a dirt waterside path bordering La Playa anchorage. You pass trees laden with nesting Great Blue Herons. I head up towards Rosecrans. On Cañon, I hesitate outside a gray-and-cream place I wouldn’t normally look at because it feels way too classy. But there’s a sign outside. “Happy Hour, 4 - 6 pm daily.”
2910 Canon Street, Point Loma
“Best in town,” says this tall gent heading in. Looks like Joe Biden. Rick. I notice it’s exactly four o’clock. Guess he knows what he’s doing.
What the heck. I follow him inside, into this atmospheric place called “Old Venice.” Wow. Really cool, with a beautiful brick patio out back. Why haven’t I seen this before?
“You guys new here?” I ask the barkeep.
“Kind of,” he says. “Only 30 years.”
Uh, okay. Not a good start. I’m sitting up to the bar with Rick. I can see he’s done this before. We’re both perusing big plastic menus. And, okay, the normal prices can be, well, up there. Steamed mussels are $17, linguini calvario goes for $21, chicken Florentine is $29, Australian lamb, $33. I mean there is plenty of stuff cheaper, like pasta with meat sauce (or marinara or garlic oil) for $12, but still, we’re not talking greasy spoon prices.
“Stick to the happy hour,” says Rick. “And don’t forget the salads. They’re huge.”
I see the menu says “Happy Hour, half off select appetizers and Gourmet Greens.” “Select” means items with an asterisk. And there are quite a few. Baked artichoke with prosciutto normally goes for $14, so that would be $7. Deal! Meatballs or sausage are $10, which means five.
“And that’s big meatballs, with the marinara and parmesan,” says Rick. “It’ll fill you on its own.” “Magic mushrooms,” with snow crab, shrimp, and provolone, ends up being $7. Brussels sprouts with crispy prosciutto will be $6. And the soup (veggie tonight) will be $2.50 small, $3.50 bowl. “So if you have the meatballs and small soup, you’re paying $7.50,” says Rick. “If you’re having, say, the house salad, which is $3 in happy hour, and the soup, you’re out $5.50.”
Rick says he usually has the soup — you get bread with it — and one of the salads. “Like, tonight I’ll have what I usually do, soup and the walnut gorgonzola salad. Full price is $14, so $7. So I’m out ten bucks.”
Similar prices go for the Caesar ($7.50) or the chopped Greek ($7.50).
Sounds good to me. “I’ll have what he’s having,” I say. I also get my new go-to un-drink, lemonade ($2.50).
The great thing about the soup is the big garlicky swatch of bread that comes with it. And then the Gorgonzola salad! It really is big, fresh, generous. They drop a big snake pit of caramelized grilled onions on top, plus big chunks of gorgonzola cheese, roasted red potatoes, and walnuts, also caramelized. I pour the thick blue cheese vinaigrette over everything, and have at it. Really scrumbo. And good for you.
I notice people around me ordering from the same HH menu. Skip, to my right, fifth-generation Point Loman, gets the luscious-looking shrimp and artichoke dish, with capers, tomato, basil, and white wine. Normally $16, now $8. And Linda and Ed, fresh in from Henderson, Nevada, are splitting a focaccia pizza ($8, HH). “This is where we always come, soon as we get in,” says Ed.
Now Rick’s over at the window, talking with a couple of glamorous gals drinking wine, Ginnie and Joni. Ginnie sells BMWs. Joni, yachts.
“Hey, my new friend here wants to buy a yacht, right?” says Rick. Everybody looks at me.
“Pipe dream, but I was kinda pining for this schooner,” I mumble.
“I’ve got a yacht I could sell you,” says Joni. “Only twenty-four.”
“Twenty-four million. A steal!”
“I’ll bring the check Monday,” I say.
Man. I’m definitely coming back here.
- The Place: Old Venice, 2910 Cañon Street, Point Loma, 619-222-5888
- Hours: 11am-4pm, Thursday to Saturday for lunch; dinner, 4-9pm, Sunday to Thursday; till 10pm Friday, Saturday; happy hour, 4-6pm daily
- Prices: Steamed mussels, $17; linguini calvario,$21; chicken Florentine, $29; Australian lamb, $33; pasta with meat sauce, $12; baked artichoke with prosciutto, $14 ($7 in happy hour) meatballs or sausage, $10 ($5, HH); Magic Mushrooms (with snow crab, shrimp, provolone, $14 ($7 HH) Brussels sprouts, prosciutto, $12 ($6, HH); soup of the day, $5 small, $7 large ($2.50/$3.50); walnut gorgonzola salad, $14, ($7 HH); Caesar salad, $15 ($7.50 HH); chopped Greek salad, $15 ($7.50 HH); shrimp and artichoke, $16 ($8 HH); focaccia pizza, $16 ($8, HH)
- Bus: 28
- Nearest Bus Stop: Rosecrans at Cañon