Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prime Rib and Joan Crawford

Last night we went to dinner at a place I had never been to, despite having driven past hundreds of times. We used to live with my wife's mother in Southeast San Diego. This is a predominantly black and Latino area, and there really isn't much there other than the mom and pop liquor stores and taco shops (actually marginally better now than it used to be in that respect).

When we went shopping or wanted takeout food, we almost always went to National City, which borders San Diego to the south and was only about 8 blocks from where we lived.  The main north-south street in that part of National City is Highland Avenue. We used to call it eater's row, because it has every fast food known to man on it. About where all of the fast-food places start of give way to more normal businesses, there is a restaurant called Cafe La Maze, a place that looks like it's been there forever, because, well, it kinda has, at least by San Diego standards. 

I always assumed it was a sit-down Mexican place. La Maze to me sounds vaguely Spanish, and in San Diego, that usually means Mexican food. I would have never guessed that it was a steakhouse, nor that it was a haunt for old guard Hollywood. Cafe La Maze opened in 1940 and catered to Hollywood, stars such as  Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Johnny Weissmuller. Back then, that stretch of Highland Avenue would have been the road you took south to the horse races at Agua Calliente in Tijuana. According to the web site, they even had a secret gambling room upstairs.

Our friend Anastasia suggested we go when she found out the place was classic film related. The place is definitely old school, red velvet wallpaper and pictures of classic film stars above each booth. The food was excellent. I had a rib eye and everyone else had prime rib in a booth with a young Joan Crawford watching us eat. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night three days before Christmas. 

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