The sunset crew waits for the visions of the night
1079 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach
A group of us sits, staring to the west.
“Is that one?” says Kelly.
It’s sunset. But we’re not looking for green flashes. We’re looking for white flashes in the blue teeth of the waves. At night.
Every time a rack of rollers breaks, the spume lights up like the Border Patrol had shone a light through it. And on the big ones it’s an explosion of light. Incredible.
Connie the manager: one woman band?
And edible, says this guy Joe. “These little guys creating the light are algae, base of the food chain. They have lots of antioxidants. Whales love ’em. Actually, plankton eat these algae, and whales eat the plankton, right? We should be in there!”
Hmm. Maybe not tonight. It’s moot anyway, because I have these three boxes of nice hot food I’ve just brought out from “The Most Southwesterly Bar & Grill in the USA.” IB Forum. They even give their exact latitude and longitude: “32 degrees, 34 minutes, 36.3 seconds N; 117 degrees, 07 minutes, 53.8 seconds W.”
This really is the last chance saloon. It stands right before the street extension that runs between the Tijuana River sloughs and the ocean. If you kept heading south, next stop would be TJ’s bullring. I want to recognize this place but don’t. Great burger joint I’ve been to before. But somehow, it looks different.
IB Forum’s claim to fame
“We’ve just put in this wraparound patio counter,” says Connie, the manager. I’ve met her at the desk they’ve set up to stop us coming inside.
Connie says The Forum has been open since 1985. “Before that, it was some kind of biker bar.”
I glance inside. Looks so empty. Breaks my heart. Connie points to the takeout menu on the pinboard. Reduced offerings, for sure. But still plenty here to choose from. Sports bar snacks such as potato skins ($11), chicken tenders ($10), fish and chips ($15), a six-piece rib “starter” with fries ($15), calamari and fish ($15), or Philly Steak sandwich with sliced ribeye, peppers, grilled onions, shrooms, and cheese for $12.75.
Perfect combo for watching a sunset phenomenon open-mouthed
I’m really tempted by the French Dip. It costs $13.75, but for that you get sliced prime rib and jack cheese, and au jus for dipping (and sipping), along with my fave unmustard, horseradish. And they offer grilled onions and shrooms for $1.75 extra.
Hmm. Best deal? Probably a cup of clam chowder for $4.75. Or the buffalo chicken taco ($5.50), or a grilled or fried shrimp taco for $7. Top taco dollar is surf and turf with carne asada and shrimp and white sauce and cheese ($7.25).
But the point is it’s just gotta be something nice and greasy and crunchy and warm to snack on while you’re out there in the chill watching the blue waves crash.
The Aloha burger to go. You should see - and taste - it assembled
“Any ideas?” I ask Connie.
“Well, our burgers were voted ‘best burgers’ for three years in a row,” she says, though she doesn’t specify by whom. “People love our grilled mushroom and onion burger ($12). Or the Sunrise, with the egg ($13). Or most of all, the avocado bacon burger ($13).” She says some tourists from the Midwest in summer have never had avocado. “It’s exotic to them.”
“D’aagh, think I’ll have your Forum Sampler, and the Aloha Burger, and, oh hell, a cup of clam chowder.”
“We’re out of clam chowder.”
Maybe just as well. Trying to balance that on a knee would be a mess.
“Cole slaw or fries with the burger?” says Connie. “Or for $2.75 more, onion rings or house salad.”
The art inside
Hmm. Go for the healthy one, I think. “Salad,” I say. Plus, I get an iced tea — even though they have everything from beer to take-out cocktails. But I can just see the interview. “I can explain it all, officer...” So I get an iced tea ($2.16).
“Where can I eat this?” I ask Connie.
“Well, they haven’t cordoned off those benches that look out over the ocean,” she says.
Mmm. Yum. Twenty minutes later, as the horizon turns a chalky orange and blue, here I am starting with the tater skins (with cheese, bacon bits, green onion), and couldn’t have asked for a less messy choice. In the “Forum Sampler” you get four potato skins, four hot wings, two chicken tenders, onion rings, plus — and these are vital — sour cream and ranch dressings. Fifteen bucks. Out here, picnic-style, they’re all delicious.
One or two people are still surfing, kids are chasing each other up and down the beach, grown-ups just saunter. A bunch of friends on the benches next to mine yak away, waiting for dark.
Pretty soon we’re talking. Andy, Sally, Abbey, Cyrus, Joe, Kelly among them. “We’re here every night,” says Javier. “We’re the IB Boulevard Club, right?” He’s just made up the name. The others agree to it.
In think of offering some of my food, but I guess sharing’s out. I’ve touched everything. I’m already staying at a kind of distance as it is.
But nothing compares to my Aloha burger. I know it’s sort of uncool to like pineapple in a burger if you’re a sophisticate, so guess I’m not, ’cause I love it. The pineapple is grilled, they’ve added a honey garlic glaze, and big fat bacon slabs surround the two pineapple slices. Oh yes. And the salad is surprisingly big and generous and fresh. I take a chomp into the patty just as Kelly pipes up. “Ooh, look. Over there!”
By now, it’s dark enough to the south for a big rolling wave to light up blue, green, and white, like a snake afire under a sheet.
I swear. IB magic. I take one more bite from this magic burger, catch one more luminous wave. Then I’m up and heading north. All stocked up for tomorrow.
- The Place: IB Forum, 1079 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, 619-429-7507
- Covid-19 hours: 11:30am-8pm, daily
- Prices: Clam chowder, cup, $4.75; buffalo chicken taco, $5.50; grilled or fried shrimp taco, $7; surf and turf taco (carne asada, shrimp), $7.25; potato skins, $11; chicken tenders, $10; fish and chips, $15; rib starter (6 pieces), fries, $15; calamari and fish, $15; Philly steak sandwich, $12.75; French dip, $13.75; mushroom and onion burger, $12; Sunrise burger, (with egg), $13; avocado bacon burger, $13
- Buses: 933, 934
- Nearest Bus Stops: Imperial Beach Boulevard at Seacoast Drive