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“Ask me when I first came here.”

“Okay. When did you first come here?”

“In 1942. I came in with my aunt. This was Ramona’s Kitchen then. They had a kitchen with a to-go window. That was it. Tacos and enchiladas cost 15 cents.”

Talking with Art. He and his buddy Don are chowing down at this yellow table in the bright-green-and-blue -- and old, but still fresh -- La Piñata restaurant (2836 Juan Street). He’s only been coming 70 years. It’s been going over 80, since 1928. That has to be a record for San Diego, isn't it?

Art’s eating a carne asada taco, and Don’s got rolled taquitos ($2 per). They’re Navy pilots. Don’s flown 28 different Navy aircraft in his time, from single-engine to four-engine prop planes to supersonic Mach-2 jets. Name a war and they’ve flown in it. World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Name a corner of the world, they’ve flown in it, dropping bombs, shootin’ bullets, rescuing people -- but often on photographic missions. Together, they aerial-mapped Alaska’s North Slope.

I found La Piñata coming back from my own big adventure (ha ha), walking to Mission Valley (see “Founding Fathers” blog), looking for a shortcut through Old Town’s plaza to the trolley. Discovering this was like finding an unknown little Shangri-Là.

I ask them how they like the food.

“Well, we come every Tuesday,” says Art. “That’s when they have their carne asada taco plate special. It’s $7.50, about two bucks off.”

"Yeah, but my rollitos are two bucks, period," says Don.

Pictures: The corral sign's claim; the restaurant; Art and Don




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