First customers? Jen and Tom don’t have to eat (and drink) at home!
Word got out this morning. “Today’s the day!” This was last Thursday. Everybody was talking about the reopening of restaurants for sit-down.
So hey, I decided just to hop on the Orange Line, ride it down to the Santa Fe, hike up to Little Italy and see what was giving.
At first, everything was closed, but there was lone hope at Petrini’s, on the corner of India and Ash. “We’ll be opening tomorrow for dining in,” said a guy shifting chairs about.
Distant seating? Who cares?
Great, but I need today. Tonight. First time in a couple of months! Feels like a couple of years I’ve been passing these husks of restaurants.
The lights are brighter further up India. Isola has people sitting inside, drinking drinks. But I don’t see any eating going on. Bunch of guys on electric scooters have stopped and clustered around one place. Sorrento. Everyone is extra friendly. “No sit-down food here,” says this tall guy. “But Bolt, just at the end of the next block, they’re dining in. And next block, there’s Zinqué. That’s about it right now. Hey, it’s first night off the leash.”
Now I’m worried places will start closing down. Past nine already. Good sign: Piazza de la Famiglia is all lit up, and tables and chairs have been spread out. I’m just kinda staring when my buddy Nicholas turns up, in his top hat and tails as usual. He is one of Little Italy’s bona fide eccentrics. And now he’s excited. “Cafe life!” he says. “Civilization!”
Dan (birthday boy), Crystal, Ryan
“We’ve just come from Bolt,” says his friend Robert. “Two hours!”
So yes, got to check out this new Zinqué. Opened here in Little Italy recently. I hump it up to Hawthorn. And wow. Brand-new-looking place in a brand new building, and open on the corner with Kettner. People sitting and noshing. Turns out it’s a small chain. Out of LA, looks like. Because I see it’s “also in Venice and Weho.” (D’agh? Weho? China? Oh. West Hollywood. Get it. Think Soma). People eating salady things and drinking wine like it was just another summer night. Long to sit down, but they say the kitchen closes really soon, tonight anyway. Server guy says they open 6:30 for breakfast.
1971 India, San Diego
So now, only chance is The Bolt.
I mean, I was there maybe 6 weeks ago, buying a takeout burger, fish and chips and a beer. In a plastic pint pot. F&C were supposed to be for my friend Annie. She wouldn’t allow “those smelly things” in her car. So, sigh, I had to eat the whole caboodle. But what was hell was balancing them and that squishy beer as well. So now I’m really looking forward to doing this properly.
Molly brings my (way too big) meal
Place is crowded but not crowded. Like a fresh-thinned forest. Ah yes. Distance seating. Everybody not eating or drinking is masked. Kinda looks like a scene from a Vegas Western musical. Specially with the corrugated iron walling, colored Christmas lights hanging from the black ceiling. I mean, who’da thunk you could persuade all these yuppies to dress up like this. Because most of them don’t have masks, they’re sporting bandannas, around their faces or around their necks. Also, thanks to First Night, and a little grog, conversation’s up, table crossing. People are excited, like “We’re ba-ack!”
Couple sitting outside sipping and chowing. Jen has a Tropical IPA, Tom’s onto a stout. All Bolt-brewed, natch. All $7 each. I remember now, Clint the owner saying Bolt was San Diego’s first-ever craft brewery. Clint opened it in 1987, when he was 19. I see Jen and Tom are also eating a grilled chicken club sandwich ($14.95), and a San Diego burger (with avo, bacon, $15.95).I have to take a moment. Just the act of doing this, eating, drinking on the sidewalk, together, feels like something you’ve got to use a big word for. Existential? OK. Let’s just say awesome.
Nicholas and Robert: setting the tone
“You may be just in time ,” says Molly who, oh yeah, is the owner with husband Clint. “Kitchen closes at 10.”
Ayee! Like, now I have to wait till someone leaves to get within maximum capacity, so Molly gives me the menu. Pub menu. Starters like Parmesan garlic fries, ($6.95), breaded fried pickle spears ($8.95), wings ($12.95).
Hmm. Like the idea of wings, mainly because they’re dunked in mango habanero. (You could opt for BBQ or Buffalo.) Plus a pot of ranch dressing.
Then in the mains: The ones I had last time were fish and chips ($13.95, and just fine. You get four pieces of cod. Had two meals out of that), and a bacon cheeseburger ($13.95). Predictably delish. And prices not bad for Little Italy rents.
So tonight? Go for the mango habanero wings, and a BLTA toasted sandwich ($12.95). Oh, and the luxury of one of their basic Bolt brews, Love Canoe ($7).
Takes another ten minutes’ standing at their corner door (you have to wait outside), but a couple of people finally get up and leave. Molly wipes down their table, and signals me in.
At the next table Crystal and Dan and Ryan are celebrating Dan’s birthday, which just happened to be today. “You, sir, were born under a good sign,” I say.
“It’s been tough, these two months,” says one of the guys wiping down stools and tables. “Tonight couldn’t have come soon enough.”
I grasp the cool one and take a long, slow slurp of my Love Canoe. Out of a glass, not a squishy plastic soup pot. These little things! On the system, Neil Diamond sings “Sweet Caroline.”
All is well with the world.
- The Place: Bolt Brewery and Eatery, 1971 India Street, Little Italy, 619-917-6082
- Hours 11am-10pm (till 1am, Thursday, Friday)
- Prices: BLTA toasted sandwich $12.95; six mango habanero wings, $13.95; beer and parmesan fries, $14.95; fried zucchini, parmesan, ranch, $9.95; wings (6), $13.95; three sliders (grilled onions, cheese), $11.95; Bacon Cheese Burger (half-pounder, cheddar), $13.95; All-American Burger (half-pounder, bacon), $15.99; Bolt Burger (no bacon), $12.95; BLT, $11; grilled cheese on toast, $8; fish and chips (fries, cole slaw, tartar sauce), $13.95; chicken tenders, $13.95; Caesar salad, $11.95
- Bus: 83
- Nearest Bus Stops: (Northbound) India at Cedar; (Southbound) Kettner at Grape
- Trolley: Green Line
- Nearest Trolley Stop: County Center/Little Italy