11:30 a.m., July 17
Gaslamp: Desperation eats at Ciné Café
When all else is closing down, you can rely on Haitham
The chairs are going up all down Fifth Avenue.
I’m in the bowels of the Gaslamp. It’s late. Like, okay, ten. But that’s the thing. Ten seems to be the magic hour for pubs' kitchens.
But I needs food. Now. Anything would do. Just a 'wich. Any 'wich way, heh heh.
Get to Toscana at the corner of K. Oh boy. Chairs being stacked here too. I look down K towards the Gaslamp Hilton. Only light comes from an elevated balcony.
Ciné Café, it says. Ah yes. They might. Think they're open till 2:00 a.m. They're at 412 K Street (619-595-1929).
I haul up the long sloping ramp, and guess what? Their kitchen is closing too. Dang. But then, from the kitchen, a face I recognize.
Haitham. Oh yeah. Nathan his boss has a couple of delis around town.
“We’ve just put everything away,” he says. “But we have ready-mades on the shelf there.”
Bottom line: I grab a big fat sandwich labeled “Ham.”
Costs $6.50, $7.02 with tax. Take it out with a cup of water to the little balcony. You sit under the red umbrella and look out over where the valet guys buzz around the Mercs cruising in and dropping off suavecito guests for the Hilton.
Chomp. Guess what? This sandwich is totally fresh and juicy. Full of good stuff. Ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and nice sweet dark pumpernickel bread. Honestly, nothing curled or old. Feels soft and tasty.
And all so simple. No waiting. No finding tables. Sitting out here, you actually feel kinda cool, looking out over the crowd. This might not be on Fifth, but it sure feels Gaslampy.
Ten minutes later I leave the ramp one satisfied hombre, with the energy to hoof it down to ye old stretch limousine at 12th and Imperial.
Sometimes the best places you find are the last places you’d think of.