Beat this for a patio.
200 Marina Park Way, San Diego
“Let’s go fishing! I’m at the South Embarcadero. You can rent poles for $5 and buy bait and eat hot dogs and watch Huey sink into the West, all at the same time!”
“Where are you?” Annie asked.
“Near the new symphony sound shell. Stop when you see the poem.”
“What poem, you sassenach?”
I’ve learned sassenach is a Scots term for the English. Came from the word “Saxon.” Not the greatest complement, but non-Scottish folks kinda like it anyway.
Beat this for a pastrami burger.
“Just look for it on the sandwich board. Says ‘Take a short walk to the pier/And enjoy Burgers, Bait, and Beer.’ A poem!”
But does it mean it? I’ve already walked out past the Crab Shack and towards the Symphony’s almost-ready sound shell by the bay.
“You start,” says Annie. “I’m already eating.”
All this fresh air, sunshine, water, trees, and space sharpen the hunger. And who isn’t looking for eateries that cut down the covid risk? Pier, beer, and it’s right here!
The sign’s on a sandwich board that’s been propped up where the cement trucks turn in to the construction site.
I come up past a kind of food trailer, to a patio with tables and chairs, and two five-sided store-rooms, except one’s fitted out as a small cafe. And here, waiting behind a counter, stands Esmeralda, waiting to take orders. Plenty of other customers mill around. I’m amazed, because this isn’t exactly on the road to anywhere, except the fishing pier, ten yards further. Turns out most of the customers are guys from the construction site.
Adrian the chef and my Kraken.
Ooh. For starters, beer. Plenty of local-ish craft brews. And I see they have Lagunitas. I like Lagunitas, honestly, because of the address they put on their labels. “Petaluma Calif., Chicago Ill., USofA, Earth, Sol. Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, Space.”
Pretty good IPA too. Not sure where in the Supercluster they found it. Costs $7.50. A blue-and-white wall slides between us and the rest of the world. Wow. G. Poseidon. It’s a huge car-transportation ship sliding out towards the harbor entrance, just yards away.
Of course you’ve got to order food with your cerveza. Not a probbo for me. This is breakfast. It looks like most items are hot dogs and burgers. Also tacos (the carnitas costs $5.75, the shrimp tacos are $6.25), ceviche tostada’s $7.25. A TJ hot dog’s $7.25. Cheapest is the Ball Park dog, $3.50. Grilled cheese sandwich is $6.25.
And flowers: Esmeralda takes a lot of trouble.
“What’s most popular?” I ask Esmeralda. “Dogs? Kraken,” she says. “Burgers? The Pastrami. It has beef and pastrami, and it will fill you up.”
Hmm. But now I am definitely thinking dog. The Kraken is an “all-beef sausage with grilled shrimp, caramelized onions, corn and black bean salsa, creamy chipotle dressing, and red cabbage in a gourmet bun.” Costs — wow! — $13.50. “It’s a monster,” says Esmeralda. “And the sausage is handmade, in our kitchen.”
Maybe it’s the beer, but for a moment I turn into a wild and crazy guy. “I’ll take it!” I say. “And a fishing pole.” I intend to catch something big as I chew before Annie turns up.
“Got four hands?” says Esmeralda.
“Will in a little while,” I say. Of course I have to buy some bait. (Anchovies cost $6.) And until Annie arrives, Esmeralda’s right, I can’t do it all at once. Natch, I ain’t gonna release the Kraken. I’m going to eat it.
Esmeralda takes the order out to Adrian the cook standing beside the food trailer. And guess what? This combo in a folded-out hot dog bun is outstanding. And monster? I have to use the plastic knife and fork to cut it down to size. I’m doing this at the little patio they have. The sautéed shrimp are too wicked. Chipotle dressing’s salmon pink and a nice mild add to the peppery rich dark sausage. Add the garlicky shrimp and I swear it’s the perfect mouthful. This is one of the best hot dogs I can remember.
Sigh. Sloping sun bounces right off the Bay. In the last of the warmth, I’m suddenly feeling nice and drowsy. If Annie wants to go fishing, she’d better move it. Or, maybe we’ll do the fishing next time. If Esmeralda will let me return the bait.
In the end, Annie never does turn up. But I do. The dog was so good, I call back the next afternoon. I want to try that pastrami burger, because it’s not just the salty brined beef, it’s mixed with regular sirloin beef.
I call just in time. “We close at 4:30,” says Esmeralda, “because that’s when it starts getting dark. So really, we stop at four. Give me your order on the phone, and I’ll have it ready when you come.”
Can’t argue with that. When I arrive the sky’s already a rich orange over Coronado. Esmeralda collects the silver foil-wrapped pastrami burger from Adrian at the kitchen trailer, and I pay for it ($12.50) and a St. Archer Hazy IPA ($7.50). Oh, dang. Super good. Juicy, and not too pastrami-salty. Onions, tomato, lettuce, Swiss cheese, thousand island. So-oo good. And so totally filling. I swear, these two days have been some of the best eats in a while. Plus some of the best seats too, to catch the daily sunset show. All we need is the music to start from that new sound shell.
One of the hard hat guys comes for a beer and a snack. He looks back at the sound shell. It’s glowing green in the dusk. “We built it, but we won’t ever see it happening,” he says. “Kind of concerts they’re planning, not our scene.”
Man. That’s sad. Someone should talk to the symphony boss. Like, how about some blues in the green shell under the orange sky?
- The Place: Burgers Bait and Beer, 200 Marina Park Way, South Embarcadero, 619-672-5578
- Winter Hours: 9am - 4:30pm daily
- Prices: carnitas tacos, $5.75; shrimp tacos, $6.25; ceviche tostada, $7.25; TJ hot dog, $7.25; Ball Park dog, $3.50; grilled cheese sandwich, $6.25; carne asada taco, $7.45; nachos, $6.20; shrimp taco, $6.25; grilled cheese breakfast, $8.25; The Kraken (beef sausage, grilled shrimp, caramelized onions, corn and black bean salsa, chipotle dressing, red cabbage), $13.50; pastrami burger, $12.50
- Ferry: 5th Avenue (Convention Center, Marina Park Way)
- Trolley: Green Line
- Nearest Trolley Station: Gaslamp Quarter Station, 31 Fifth Avenue, downtown