Lifestyle & Culture > Paradise, Post Fieri

Paradise, Post Fieri

Published: October 3, 2010

Being discovered used to work in a straightforward manner. Step 1, you were born gorgeous. Step 2, you walked into the Top Hat Malt Shop. Step 3, you are Lana Turner, star of stage and screen. Oh for the days… Now you are born Guy Fieri. You love food, you spend years getting good at your craft. You win a contest on the food network. Then you get a show where you go out and “discover” great eateries. Whoa, nothing against Guy. He really is a genuine American success story of hard work and passion. All good there. The problem is this. When Lana Turner got discovered, the story was re-written to be Schwab’s Drug Store. And that place was suddenly populated with wanna be movie stars. No pain there, a boring drug store now is decked out in aspiring starlets. I can live with that. But this? Ah… I’m sitting in a dive bar, Live Wire and I overhear a couple guys talking “Only a complete moron goes to Ho-Dads anymore!” And I had to think that was true. I’ve never been there, but I use the surf shop across the street from there. Every time I’ve been there I see 30-40 people lined up waiting to get in. The reason? Yes, you know… “I got nothing against Guy, but this happens every time he reviews a place. It’s not all bad, that is how Luigi’s was able to get the money to open a place next door.” And true, the best Pizza in North Park is there precisely because Guy reviewed the place and the owners made a smart move with the money they made from the increased business. But Ho-Dads didn’t expand. They just had people wait. It’s now 2010. Almost exactly 2 years since I started my house hunt in San Diego. Guy is also a Northern California type who happened to win his contest two years ago. So at the time I started scouting out Paradise, it was still in the Pre-Fieri phase. Meaning I could find a good eatery and not have to risk the Ho-Dads effect. But soon after buying my house my daughter started coming down. She found Luigi’s in South Park and endured long lines for their pizza. Then he did Crazee Burger and they became standing room only. Now he’s done Mama Testa’s. I’ve been eating at Mama’s since my first trip down here. I fell in love with the place next door to Mama’s, a place called Bite. But the prices at Bite were such that I rarely went back after I started paying a mortgage. But Mama’s was quite reasonable and the food was nearly as good. I became something of an irregular regular there, at least until I became a regular at The Ritual. It’s January, January 23rd to be exact. I start walking to Mama’s with my daughter. As we go to cross a street, an SUV rockets across the intersection. I kind of get that, we just got a year of rain in one week and I think that past week wore the mellow off of SoCal. Nearly every intersection we approached was like this. Drivers everywhere were jumping the gun. I was about to officially declare this Asshole Day in San Diego. But we made the walk safely and find our way to the eatery. I see a crowd inside and think “wow”. Used to be there were only ever three tables occupied there. Me and two other groups who had sussed this place out from under the shadow of Bite. Time and again the “hipsters” opted for loud noisy places down or up the street where you could eat outside, be seen, be part of the scene, whatever they were doing. I open the door there are three people in front of me apparently heading for the exit. There is some eye contact made, but I’m focused on the mess inside. Holy moly, every table seems to be full except the one the threesome just left. As I’m trying to figure out what to do, the guy in front of me says “You’re welcome”. I had the good sense to ignore this fellow and what I took to be some kind of snarky comment, not sure if it was about him waiting for me to fully enter the room or did I not hold the door for his party? Whatever, it fit the Asshole Night theme. And that comment was quickly erased as no sooner did this guy leave as I have a wench bumping behind me. She has the patience to wait almost a half second before asking “Are you waiting for a table? Because the sign outside says its seat yourself!” “Yes” (of course I knew that) I say “but all the tables are full of people or dishes” “Well there are two tables that are full of dishes, are you going to take this one or that one when they are free. Because we’re taking the other one.” “Ok, well, uh, probably this one as that one only has one chair at it.” “Ok we’re taking that one!” she says to the guy who she was dragging behind her as they rush across the room to claim the worst table in the house. It only has one chair there, so of course she sits down and commands her serf to go steal a chair from another table. Which he dutifully does. I’m thinking this guy lost a bet or perhaps she has some of his family members held hostage. Because really, she isn’t what you would call easy on the eyes. Or the ears. Or the skin. We sit down at the table full of crud and of course the cleaning guy comes by and has us stand up because you can’t clean a table with people sitting at it, but this being Asshole Night, we were really in the spirit of things. Eventually, we get the table cleaned and work through the process of ordering some food. They do have the best salsa’s anywhere here. I go to get some and see they are out of the little volcano bowls that you use to get salsa. Ugh. I sit down and my daughter says “Yes the Yelpers are saying that the owners are not doing enough to deal with the Post Fieri reality.” That was true. By then I see some people are getting salsa so I start to stand up, but clutch a second. I see something frightening at the salsa bar. I pause a second and briefly recall an earlier visit here. I was house hunting and stopped here at the end of the day. A friend who was very interested in how the house hunt was going called while I was trying to eat. I think this was the day I had been at a place with a house inspector all day and hadn’t eaten lunch. So I was famished. But I was trying to multi-task, eat and talk. It wasn’t working for the listener who got very pissed off and told me that I should hang up and call back when I’m done eating. Seemed like a good idea to me as really, I could give a care about talking real estate to someone who is going to get pissy at me for you know, obtaining sustenance and such. So after that brief remembrance of things past, I looks at the salsa bar and say to my daughter “Oh it’s OK, it’s a different ugly lady.” My daughter laughed “Oh yeah, I was going to ask that guy if he was married to her and if not, I was going to tell him to bolt through the door, start running and never come back!” “Yeah, she really was a pushy little psychobitch alright.” Though in truth she wasn’t that little. She had very much the Eastern European washer woman physique that is really popular in places like Wisconsin and Ohio. Places where people like her would feel more comfortable than in a beach town in socal. So you know, you can figure she was probably out of her element a bit. The rest of the dinner was quite uneventful. We got our food fairly quickly, that was one of the good things about this place. It was a quick prep time place. And the food was just as good as ever. It was just the wall to wall people that were different. Probably 90% of whom were there for the first time based on a TV show or a Yelp review. I can’t say they were all pushy little morons who should be living in the Midwest, but I was only standing between one of them and a potential table. Perhaps they all could have repeated the washer woman’s bums rush for a table. I may have been in a room carpeted with assholes, the more I thought about it. So I figured that was a good time to stop thinking about it, pay the bill and head for the door. And no sooner had we stood up, did I see two people move towards our table and hover their assholes over our chairs…

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