Saturday, April 08, 2006
The archangel Gabriel should be proud that it is in the San Gabriel district of Los Angeles that you will find the best beer bar of them all, a deli shop with the unpretensious name Stuffed Sandwich. It has to be said, in all earnesty, that the working-class (and in Los Angeles context that easily translates into Hispanic) district of San Gabriel holds few other attractions.
Such a heavenly place comes with certain commandments:
This is a deli where the regulations say you have to order food in order to drink. So fix your food order first- and the sandwiches are quite good (even if it is all served on plastic and is quite greasy).
Commandment no 2: Buy a beer glass
The deli owners hate washing up so here it is all plastic (or even blue-collared paper cups). Despite being a blue-collar area of the metropolis that is not what you would like like to enjoy world-class beers from. After ordering the food look to the right where the glasses are for sale. You may have have to go to the toilets- sorry, restrooms in American English- in order to wash them, but then again you have come a long way to enjoy the beers at this place anyway.
Commandment no 3: Bring a rucksack
Stuffed Sandwich has a great selection of beer (some hidden from the menu, behind more ordinary bottles) – it may well be the best beer shop in Los Angeles County. If you're found worthy, you may be allowed to buy some real rarities.
Commandment no 4: Bring an attitude (if you have one)
The owner, Sam the Beer Nazi, may or may not bring up some goodies. It is up to him- he decides what he wants to let go of, so if you are knowledgeable of (especially) Belgian and American beer, show it with passion! (But if you’re not, do not pretend, as Sam knows his beers). At the end of the day, and very unususual for Americans, Sam does not accept tips. Do not even think that thou can pay thou way into His favour!
There is very little chance that you will stay in San Gabriel after the closing time of Stuffed Sandwich at 8 pm. And it does not help that some US West Coast craft beers may feel like giving you wings. Unless you have your own private angel, called Designated Driver in US lingo, you'd better go public. And it is easier than you think, even if it surprises the Americans you meet and drink with. (Before pouring me the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, a hop-head's wet dream of 120 IBUs, and not to mention 21% ABV!, Marlene, Sam's wife asked me with a concerned voice: "Do you have to drive far to your hotel, sir?"
From downtown LA's magnificent Union Station, well worth a visit in itself, bus no 78 (in the weekdays also no 378) passes by no. 1145, E Las Tunas Drive every half an hour (or every hour in the evening). It may stop quite a few times underway- Americans are not too fond of walking- but in 40 minutes you should be there. Get off at the crossroads with Willard St., between San Gabriel and Rosemead.