’Twas a dark and foggy night... Point Loma. Down where the ships leaving port on the tide slide by like giant black holes in the milky way of glittering San Diego Bay.
My mission? Find a place that has a happy hour at this hour. Problem: it’s 7:30 already. HH ain’t gonna happen. So maybe if I find a place cheap enough that you don’t need no happy hour. Or, at least find someplace warm, out of this icy breeze.
You hear distant foghorns, the nearby slap of halyards. I pass a shadowy huddle of men standing around a trolley. Smells of fish. Guy’s bringing up dripping bundles and calling out names. Must be the gofer from a day-boat just back in, handing out fish he’s scaled and gutted to the people who caught them.
I retreat from the inky water, across Scott Street toward Rosecrans. Places with lights seem to be liquor stores, mostly.
1310 Scott Street, Point Loma
Then: Avast! On Scott, what looks like an honest-to-goodness bar. Just a little gray cabin with a sloping tile roof and a’ 60’s-style rocky feature wall. And a worn-out pole sign: “Club Marina, Home of Semi-Live Entertainment.”
’Course, now I’ve got to go in. It’s a dive, for sure. Free pool table in the first bit and then a pure bar area with a few tables.
“Better be heading out, then,” this red-bearded guy’s saying as I arrive.
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” says the barmaid. “First I need to give you a good hug.”
I start looking for signs of food.
Nothing, really. Also no draft beer. But see they have Arrogant Bastard 22-ounce bottles, $8. I pop my question.
“You guys do food?”
“Oh, no, my love,” says the gal. Sign behind her reads “Your hostess tonight: Audrina.”
“But you can go get some, bring it in. We don’t mind.”
2907 Shelter Island Drive #111, Point Loma
So, sigh, back out in the cold. Head down Scott. See a Thai place, a Chinese place, and a sandwich place. “Stars & Stripes.” Hmm... Keep thinking of that warm bar with the hugging hostess.
“Specialty sandwiches,” says the sign. “Soups and sides.”
In a Point Loma moment I’m inside this spacious liquor barn and reading the list of sandwiches on the back wall. You get to choose your bread, your cheeses, and your meats. They also have “home-made salads — chicken, tuna or egg.”
“What would you like?” asks the busy lady with the friendly face. Agnes. Iraqi Chaldean. She shows me the menu, Scotch-taped to the counter.
Basic sandwiches go for $5.19. Genoa salami, roast beef, or chicken salad. Or you can get halves for $3.25. Or, even cheaper, breakfast sandwiches. Bagel with butter’s $1.99. Kaiser roll with egg’s $2.99. With cheese and bacon or ham, $3.99. Then there’s a bunch of “specialty sandwiches” around $6. Like, the “Bay” is hot pastrami with provolone and mustard ($5.99); the “Star” is roast beef, Havarti, avo, sprouts ($5.99); the “Stripes” is basically a BLT ($5.99).
I go for the “Harbor” on 12-grain because Agnes says she can do it hot. It has tuna salad with choice of cheese. I pick pepper jack. And while I’m about it, I get a soup, it being cold and all outside.
Tonight they have broccoli and chicken. Goes for $4.19; that’s the large, 16-ounce. Could have had a 12-ounce for $3.19. Also could have had soup and a half sandwich for $5.49.
So, ten minutes later I walk out with two warm bundles. Hope Audrina meant what she said.
I head back the two blocks to Club Marina. I hold the two bags up to Audrina.
“Oh, darling. For sure. I could have ordered you in a pizza, too. We get them from Alfredo’s, few blocks down. So, you were looking at AB [Arrogant Bastard]?”
And that’s how come I’m sitting in this super-friendly dive bar talking stock cars and semi-pro football with Dave (“I’ve broken every finger on this hand, both knees, ankle, neck twice, shoulder rotator…”) on one side; and Josh, who crews racing yachts. Noticed my AB. “They have a great craft brewery in Ensenada, the ‘Agua Mala.’ You think ‘bad water,’ but in Mexican Spanish it means ‘jellyfish.’ Jellyfish Brewery.”
Have to say, this soup is super-thick and tasty. I drink it straight from the polystyrene container. And the sandwich is loaded with tuna, still warm, and great with the AB.
“See this one?” This leathery skinny guy is showing Jorge a photo on his phone. “She was 40, but you couldn’t tell! Guam. Oh, man. The life. The life! And see this one…”
“Anyone seen Dime Store Dog?” says Audrina. Must be a regular.
She says the place has been going since 1967.
“So what’s this about ‘Home of Semi-Live Entertainment’? I ask.
“Oh, well, this bar top used to be a kind of runway. They had a pole. Look at the old photo above the bar.”
I do. Black-and-white. It’s got ladies in and out of bikinis talking with bar customers. But not in a staged, Pacers kind of way.
“Back when the tuna fishermen used to hang out, it was a different place,” says this guy outside to smoke a cigarette.
“Well, some nights,” says Josh, “it hasn’t changed much.”
I wanna stay. But gotta go. Last 28’s leaving. But I’ll definitely be back.
Sammies in hand, natch.
The Places: Stars & Stripes Mart, 2907 Shelter Island Drive, #111, Point Loma; 619-222-7827; Club Marina, 1310 Scott Street, Point Loma, 619-222-5932
Prices: Basic sandwiches, e.g. Genoa salami, roast beef or chicken salad, $5.19; half sandwich, $3.25; Kaiser roll with egg, $2.99; with cheese and bacon or ham, $3.99; “The Bay” sandwich (hot pastrami with provolone and mustard), $5.99); “The Star” (roast beef, Havarti, avo, sprouts), $5.99; “The Stripes” (BLT), $5.99; “The Harbor” (hot tuna salad with cheese), $5.62; broccoli and chicken soup, $4.19 (16-ounce; 12-ounce, $3.19; soup and ½ sandwich, $5.49
Hours: (Stars & Stripes) 6am-11pm daily (till midnight, Friday and Saturday); Club Marina, 7am-2am daily
Nearest bus stop: Rosecrans, between Dickens and Emerson