Guaca: Meet Mole

It's one of those historic downtown buildings. Hundred years old. Gutted, filled up with bars and investment businesses. You figure the bars are here to capture the ballpark crowd, but you wonder how they make out for the other 200 days in the year.

So, just to help them out, I wander in and ask if they have a happy hour. It's called El Vitral, (The Stained Glass Window, 815 J Street, 619-236-9420).

The gal, Thalia...

...says sure, from 5 to 7,and it's only six now. She hands me a menu. This place is woody, clubby, heavy timbers in the ceiling, redwood, looks like, and a luminous translucent blue bar stretching along streetside.

But lookee here. The happy hour menu is definitely affordable. Like, tuna, shrimp or salmon ceviche go for $5. "Guacamoles," whatever they are, do too. Turns out they fill big blobs of guac with things, just to make it interesting. The "frutas" has pineapple, grape, honeydew melon and Serrano mixed in. The "azul" has blue cheese, chipotle and bacon.

Then again, you can get two tacos for $5, and Mexican beers for $3. So heck, I ask Oscar the bartender for a Negra Modelo, nice and dark, two "costilla" tacos ("slow-roasted short rib + avocado salsa + onion + cilantro"), and the guacamole with "frutas" mixed in.

What $14 buys: two lush tacos, stuffed guacamole, chips, Negra Modelo beer

Have to say, the tacos are the greatest. The meat melts and is really rico suave, and fruit in guacamole is totally new to me, and scrumptious with the chips they brought.

And it all works well with the dark, sweetish Modela Negro.

This was supposed to be just a pick-me-up, but it turned into a fill-me-up. And refreshing. Okay, I come out fourteen bucks lighter. Would have made it under ten if I'd stuck to one app. But I'm happy. The taste of the tacos and the guacamole alone was worth it.

Harrison the manager guy says they've been going three years here.

Harrison with barkeep Oscar

The owner, Pablo Becker, is so happy with the way things are going here, he's opening two more of pretty-much the same, but this time in his home town of Chula Vista. The idea: upmarket Mexican, getting away from the street taco image.

From what I've tasted in happy hour here, boy they've succeeded.

Harrison also says they have a huge number of tequilas here, 220 different brands. And a price range to match. Like, from $5 a shot to $385 a shot. (That one's called called "Dos Lunas Grand Reserve.")

A vitral of tequila bottles

Uh, think I'll stick to happy hour.

Happy hour goes from 5:00-7:00 pm Monday to Friday, with extra hours in the weekend.

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