March 9, 4:57 PM (PT)
By The Salmon
Blue Collar Bistro
233 W. Montecito St
Santa Barbara, CA
I remember the summer that Uncle Carl lost his hand. It was 1985 or so, and propane was really starting to come onto the scene. Carl didn’t couple-up the fitting quite right and, while he fumbled with a box of strike-anywhere matches, a reservoir of highly-flammable liquefied petroleum gas formed under the carriage of the barbeque and made for one hell of an ignition source. Even though his old Pontiac and left flipper took the brunt of the explosion, he never stopped being The Guy Who Works the Grill. In fact, it assured his lock on this highly coveted position, but it was always Kingsford briquettes after that.
I thought of Carl holding that spatula over the Webber while I sat on the patio of The Blue Collar Bistro, gazing out over at the expansive view of the Stolen Goods Carwash. Everybody who frequents that West Montecito Street coin-op has been offered a “hot” piece of merchandise at some time. Not surprisingly, the vendor is usually savvy enough to specialize in automotive products. My cousin bought a great Alpine equalizer there for twenty bucks, back in the days when equalizers with lots of LED lights were cool.
A casual mention of The Blue Collar Bistro, I found, results in the following dialogue:
“Where is it?”
“Down on Montecito Street, by the railroad tracks.”
“Oh yeah, I love the Brewhouse.”
My old lunch accomplice, The Manta, was relieved, upon arrival, to see the ceramic Pabst Blue Ribbon tap handle. Frankly, so was I. It had been a rough evening, what with Hunter’s suicide and my taxes due at the accountant the next day. The Feds just don’t seem to understand the complex operations of Salmon Enterprises…
Although never confirmed, here is how I think The Blue Collar Bistro was founded: There was this guy, you see, who really liked to barbeque. And drink. One day after a lot of barbequing and even more drinking, one of his buddies said “Hey Man, you make such good friggin’ tri-tip, you should open a restaurant.” The Man, being of simple means but great aspirations says, “shucks. I could totally do that.”
He drags the grill down to an empty lot, gets a Beer & Wine license and Wha-La. You’ve got the Blue Collar Bistro. Imagine being in one of your best friend’s backyard with a cold beer in-hand, meat sizzling, and a few cute girls over by the keg, compliments of the DaySpa next door. There’s no real restaurant feel here, which is a relief. I felt like I could ask the bartender to spot me ten bucks for an hour and it’d be totally cool, bro.
The grill was still warming up when we arrived, but the logo-schooners of Pabst kept our writhing bellies at bay. I pushed an overflowing ashtray out of the way and The Manta and I got down to business on a case we’ve been working on. Out came some un-requested nachos, compliments of the house. Just like Carl’s wife used to make. Before the divorce.
There are only about six or seven items on the menu and they are all barbeque-based. Sensing that this might be a hint, the ever-vanguard Manta and I ordered the same thing- a barbeque lunch plate.
The waiter, or quite possibly, just some guy hanging out in the back, brought us plates of absolutely delicious ribs, somewhat boring rice, odd-but-greatly-appreciated triangles of tortilla, good beans and zangy salsa. Without asking, the Pabst mugs were suddenly full again. Cloth napkins? Here?! Even though you order at the counter, no bill arrives. There was never a mention of commerce involved in the meal. I hypothesized that maybe they just work on charity. Heaven.
Bloated and buzzed, we giggled as our host and chef, who was only a few paces away, intermittently burnt himself on the giant Kennmore grill and asked us how we were doing. Not wanting to look too pleased, we belched and silently nodded our approval. Next time Uncle Carl comes to town, I know where to take him.
Place Your Vote