Famous pig sits on roof above The Friendly Tavern’s take-out counter.
It’s that super-chilly Monday last week. The sun has just set and temps have dropped with a clang. Knife-edge breeze. At the corner of Upas and 30th, I’m standing trying to decide where to chow down.
3404 30th Street, San Diego
Hey! Bluefoot Bar & Lounge. Dive Bar. But, uh-oh: “We don’t do food,” the door guy says. “But you can bring stuff in. Well, outside. No dine-in.”
Oh man. “Any ideas?”
“There’s the taco place across 30th on Upas, ‘The Taco Stand.’
“Not tacos tonight,” I say.
He gets out his iPhone. “Lefty’s Pizza? One block up.”
“I’m pizza’d out.”
“Okay. Or, hey: The Friendly’s second place. Friendly Tavern. On University. Awesome burgers. Like, the simplest, old-fashioned burgers. Just a mile up the road, man.”
Ulp. Mile? Feels like a country mile to me, but eventually I haul up 30th to University, and left down to Oregon. First thing I notice is a ghostly pig standing on the roof of a li’l green stucco place. Below, a hand-written sign says “Cocktail Special, Friendly-Loko, w/vodka tequila, gin, rum, Chambord and lime, $12.” Inside, a couple of guys are working the hot plate in a cramped space. Smells are starting to waft across my nostrils.
Entrance to The Friendly’s garden bar. “Now” has become “Not.”
On the other side of the “Pick Up Here” window, they’ve got the actual food list. Right at the top, “OG Dirty Flat Top.”
“‘Original Gangsta,’” says this guy waiting for my order. Patrick. “Like, old school.” Oh yeah.
More people are turning up. Better get my kit together. The Flat Top costs $6 and has “2 smashed patties,” American cheese, jalapeños, butter-braised onions, and garlic aioli.
The rest look like variations on the theme. The Hamburguesa adds jalapeños ($6), the Shitkicker adds an onion ring, bacon and BBQ sauce. All that for a dollar more. The Bacon Mushroom Swiss ($7) adds, well, bacon and shrooms. Or you could go simple with the $6 Meat Cheese bun. Or cut the cheese and have the Slim ($5). Fries are gonna be $3 extra, onion rings, $5. Extra sauces like BBQ, ranch, aioli are two for a dollar.
“We politely decline all modifications,” says a note at the bottom.
Night cooks - Wil (left) and Patrick during a pause.
I get the Shitkicker — seems the best bang for the extra buck, what with bacon and onion ring and BBQ sauce, plus I get a box of fries.
Only problem: By the time I hump it down the hill to Bluefoot, the whole shootin’ box is as cold and stiff as a body on Rue Morgue.
But I don’t have time to get all sorry for myself. This is Monday. And guess what? Pub’s abuzz on the sidewalk. “What peace organization was created in 1919?” says the guy at a mike on a stool outside the open window counter. Turns out we’re in the middle of a quiz game. Sunset Trivia. “Oh man,” says this guy next to me. Mike. “I’d like to put eight points on this but...”
So happens I had to write a school essay about the League of Nations. Mike looks hard at me. “Sure?”
OG Dirty Flat Top burger, with fixin’s. Old-fashioned American cheese, cool again.
And yes! It was right. I get me a nice hazy IPA, which somehow seems to bring life back to the fries and flattened burger. And arguing about the next questions keeps the freezing wind at bay. “What is the oldest brewery in the US?” asks the quiz guy. “Easy,” says Mike. “It’s where I’m from. Yuengling and Son — you say it ‘Yinling’ — since 1829, Pottsville, PA. Can still get their beers.”
He’s right. I get the next question, about the “land-locked South American country with the highest population.” “Bolivia,” I say. “Oh no. Probably Paraguay. Yeah, Paraguay.”
I should have stuck with Bolivia. Mike looks, well, disappointed. He’s just lost a prize. I’m feeling that chill wind biting my bones again.
Hot dog, hazy beer.
Whatever, next day I’m on the #7, trundling up University towards 30th. Hmm, 4 pm. Sun’s still bright. I jump off and come right back to The Friendly Tavern. Now, it being daytime, I see that they have a garden with its own bar and heaters and trees, the whole nine yards, but closed for covid. “We’re just waiting,” says the server, Kasey. “Saturdays and Sundays, we normally keep open crazy hours. It’s quite a scene.”
So note to self: come back when things are up to speed! Meanwhile, I grab an OG Dirty Flat Top this time. I couldn’t forget those two smashed patties, American cheese, jalapeños, butter-braised onions, and garlic aioli. Plus a hot dog special — think it’s $5. Then I practically run the whole mile down to the Bluefoot Bar with the warm food to my chest. Now the pub’s Upas street side, scene of last night’s freeze, is the warmest spot. Sun’s shafting right onto the roadside patio. Rodney’s the barkeep. British. Helps make this a soccer fanatic’s holy grail. “We also have a whole other crowd come to play pool. We’re still only 50 cents a game, and free on Mondays, in normal times.”
I wolf down the dog, not bad, and the burger. You can see Old Gangstas getting sentimental about this blast from the past, but it really is squishy good, and full of flavor, melted American cheese and all. Like someone said, “Beam me up an old-fashioned burger, Scottie, no frills.”
I like this place too. An actual dive bar in such a gentrified location. Rodney says they have developers making offers all the time. “Don’t do it,” I beg. “No worries,” he says. “We have a special crowd. We’re not leaving them.”
I have to ask why it’s called Bluefoot. This should be a quiz question. Answer? For sure, after the Bluefooted Booby, a bird in the Galapagos which really does have big blue feet. And probably endangered, same as Bigfoot and dive bars everywhere.
- The Place: Bluefoot Bar & Lounge (drinks only), 3404 30th Street, 619-756-7891
- Bus: 2
- Nearest bus stop: 30th and Upas
- The Place: The Friendly Tavern, 2632 University Avenue, 619-294-7675;
- Hours: 11am-9pm, daily
- Prices: OG Dirty Flat Top (“2 smashed patties,” American cheese, jalapeños, onions, garlic aioli), $6; The hamburguesa, (with jalapeños), $6; the Shitkicker (onion ring, bacon, BBQ sauce), $7; Bacon Mushroom Swiss, $7; meat cheese bun, $6; the Slim, $5; fries, $3; onion rings, $5; extra sauces (BBQ, ranch, aioli) two for $1
- Bus: 7
- Nearest Bus Stops: University and Oregon (westbound); University and Pershing (Eastbound)