Saturday, August 14, 2010

California Dreamin' at Cass Street Bar & Grill

Cass Street Bar and Grill
Pacific Beach, CA

There’s a street in Pacific Beach where you’ll find a hole in the wall . . . and I don’t mean figuratively.

Want to find the best spots for food and drink in town? Walk into the bar or restaurant of the nicest hotel you can find and ask the bar back or busboy where they hang out. Of course, you can save yourself the trouble and just read Suits in Strange Places.

And so it is, on the advice of a hardworking denizen of San Diego’s hotel industry that I find myself scurrying through the streets of Pacific Beach in search of Cass St. Bar and Grill.

Every now and then, when I find myself in throws of that rare luxury that is time to spare, I cast off chains modern technology. GPS be damned; I’ll find my own way.

Being a master orienteer, I find the place with ease. It’s not like it isn’t on Cass Street.

It’s a semi open-air joint with dormers drawn open – giving locals perch to command passersby – and neon signs. It beckons from a block away, seeming to say please come in, but remember this is our spot.

Which, given that California has one of the only “secure” portions of southern border in the United States, seems to reflect the native’s attitude.

This is indeed a local hangout. A spot the boys come to after a surf down at Crystal Pier. A place to throw down a few with buddies over a couple of rounds of pool or foosball.

In other words, my kind of place.

Entering Cass, I’m greeted with a smile by the cute girl stationed at the door. She proves to be the sole waitress on duty – she must have been one of the jobs “created or saved” – and it turns out she only serves drinks.

The walls are lined with fish, both taxidermies and black and white photos of patrons with their catches. Some of the fish in the photos are rather unimpressive, but they’re the ones being held up by scantily clad girlfriends, and that’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

Making my way to the bar, I find two old favorites on the TVs: baseball and an old surf film circa ’78 called Freeride. The beer selection is fairly impressive; there are about twenty craft and regional brews on tap, in addition to the familiar staples. I order an Alaskan IPA from the moderately attractive, if pregnant, bar tender.

Don’t know why, but pregnant girls working in bars always both pains and reassures me. While on the one hand, behind a bar isn’t an ideal place for an expectant mother, it’s nice to know another child is spared from the Planned Parenthood monsters. And you have to admire the determination to stay off the government dole.

Half way through my drink, I decide it’s time for a menu. Asking the bartender, I’m answered with a curt “we don’t do that here” as she points at the wall beside me. “Menu’s on the wall.” Indeed it is, and underneath is the aforementioned hole in the wall.

The options are somewhat limited. And, they’re somewhat common fare – at least in these parts. But, they’re done up with uncommon touches. I opt for the teriyaki steak sandwich.

With mild apprehension, I step to the 2’ x 2’ window; you never know what’s waiting on the other side. I’m taken aback when I find a raven-haired beauty rushing up with a smile to take my order. She’s not alone either.

Best I could count, there were 5 stunning girls running about the small kitchen. Which gives me the only complaint I can mount – they need a bigger window. Such assets shouldn’t be hidden. That and the girl taking my order asks if I’m from Jersey.

In about five minutes, one of the girls is out with my food. The sandwich is amazing. It’s like a Philly cheese steak on steroids – chunks of teriyaki-marinated beef grilled to perfection and stuffed into a hollowed out French roll with gooey cheese and grilled onions. Dill pickle and chips to boot.

Sandwich devoured, I order another Alaskan and kick up a conversation with one of the locals that’d joined me at the bar.

Before long the guy wants to talk politics; I can’t resist and hope for the chance to tell the guy why his state such a disaster. Surprisingly, and I admit somewhat disappointingly, I find we disagree on little. Seems Californians understand how they’ve damned themselves. The guy’s opening salvo was actually aimed at the NEA. There may be hope for the state yet.

I settle up and walk off into the sunset wishing I had more time to spend in Pacific Beach and at Cass Street.

I didn’t buy the Shirt – ‘cause they don’t have them. Even if they did, it’s not a place you want just one memory of and a t-shirt would be just a cruel reminder; there are meetings to make – cars, trains and flying things.

Rating:  Seriously Thought About Buying the Shirt

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