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Frank Sinatra is everywhere.

When you walk in the swing band’s howling “Luck Be a Lady Tonight!” Pork pie hats bob at the bar. Clusters of guys act out their Rat Pack routines in front of their girlfriends. And, talking of the Rat Pack, me and Matt and Ernesto are kinda getting the spirit too.

“Gotta be Martini glasses, or highball,” says Matt. He’s the expert. Sat at this bar before, choosing between Old Fashioneds, Infidels, Blood and Sand, Art Snob and a whole bunch of other cocktails with names that echo Frank's more Technicolor time.

We’re at the Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room (7777 University Avenue, between Lee and Maple; 619-713-6777; www.rivierasupperclub.com) on a — can you believe? — Tuesday night, around nine. Place is packed like it was the weekend.

This is Sam Chammas’s baby. He started Turf Club in Golden Hill, with the same retro grill-your-own-steak heartbeat. When he lost that, he moved east to La Mesa, and boy, looks like the world moved with him.


The DIY grill table

We have two cocktails each. Or was it three? Truth is I’m new to this cocktail world. Thank goodness for the bar food. Ernesto went and grilled a little rack of ribs, and got some onion rings and potato wedges.

Not cheap. But this is what you save your sheckels for. Night out with da boys.

As the band hits “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” we put our first orders in. I start with the Sangria (brandy/orange liqueur/citrus/topped with house red); Ernesto has the Art Snob (bourbon/bitters/orange twist/ginger ale) and Matt orders the Infidel — Hemingway’s libation (rum/lime/syrup).

“An ephemeral drink,” he writes on a napkin, “lighter than anything. Goes down and disappears before you realize it’s in your mouth. The rum is totally invisible.”

He tastes my sangria. Scribble scribble. “The wine lends a piquancy to the fruit of the sweet lemon and syrup…registers only as a gentle worth, a tinge of grainy prickle at the bottom of things…”

“Wow. Deep. Beautiful,” I say. “Ever thought of becoming a writer?”

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