June 2, 2005
By The Salmon
801 Shoreline Drive
The Actress is concerned. Her boyfriend of over a year has recently taken up with a 22-year-old Swedish photographer while they were experimenting with a brief “trial breakup.” She has us enraptured with this tale of infidelity, and movement at the table occurs only when someone needs to apply guacamole to a slightly stale tortilla chip.
The Actress takes a pull from her Red Stripe and continues: “Then I met the South African doctor and he’s fabulous. But, he has his whole life planned out five years in advance, and most of those will be spent on a cruise ship. I can’t make that kind of commitment.” She lifts a chip to a face known around the world and locks on with the bite-power of a large snapping turtle.
We are seated in the sand at the Shoreline Café, just across the street from that bastion of higher education, Santa Barbara City College. In the parking lot there are rows of Jettas and Civics gleaming in the sun, just waiting for their scholarly owners, crowding the line at the take-out counter. A few of them even find the time to, uh, study on the beach.
All this academia gets my mind interested in the funky math going on at the ol’ Shoreline. For example, the bucket of four mini Coronas, aptly known as Coronitas, is $14.75. A regular Corona is $4.50. The Coronita, however, is only 8 fluid ounces. That’s 45 cents an ounce. Purchase it as God originally intended in a twelve ouncer, and the price plummets to 37 cents. Guacamole, on the other hand, is a steal, oddly priced at $1.17 per serving.
Somewhere along the line (probably in the ’90s) the fish taco got healthy and grilled rather than fried, but I opt for the original Baja style. I believe the battering/deep-frying method was developed to mask the cheap fish typically used, and that’s fine with me. The Actress seconds my choice, but her brother, known in some circles as the Rooster, chooses the Fish Burrito.
I don’t know how they get away with serving on the sand while most food establishments are regulated down to the color of the grout, but I’m not complaining as I kick off my cumbersome flip-flops and bury my toes beneath the surface of the warm sand.
“He’s left twenty messages in one day,” the Actress continues. “Twenty.”
“Which one?” I inquire. “The doctor or the Loser?”
“The Loser,” she says flatly.
Food arrives and everything seems to be in order, although not quite appealing enough to justify the high prices. I, like most of the afternoon patronage, am eating on someone else’s dime, so I don’t let it worry me too much. That beer scam they run however, that’s really a stone in my proverbial sandal…
Still, there is something about eating with your bare feet in the sand that makes this place impossibly alluring. Especially when you have out-of-town guests, and want to impress upon them that all Santa Barbarians, even college students, dine at the beach every day.
The Actress sighs and rests her taco on the napkin. I prod her for the result, but she hesitates and bites down on her lower lip.
“I know,” I say. “Tell me their drinks.”
“Everyone has a drink. I’ll decide for you based entirely on their beverage preference. The rest of the table nods approval of the proposed method and we wait as a passionate jury.
“Beer. They both drink beer.”
“Bottled or draft?”
We collectively groan and the Actress makes her silent decision.