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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Belinda's Bar - 3202 Mission Street

As I embarked on Mission on Mission this past Friday, I knew my next stop would be Belinda’s bar. However, aside from the name I didn’t know what to expect from this dive bar perched on the corner of Mission and Valencia.

As I approached the entrance of the bar I couldn’t help but notice that the door and the windows were encased by decorative rot iron bars—protecting what, the liquor?

After entering Belinda’s I didn’t see much that required the extra fortification. The alcohol inside presented a valuable commodity for this area of the neighborhood. Sure, someone could climb through the window, open the door from the inside and carry away the pool table, juke box or a bottle of Alize but I didn’t see that type of Thomas-Crowne-Affair commitment or coordination on the part of the bar’s clientele.

Looking in from the street passed the pool table and the jukebox, my eyes met with a rectangle of light which made the promise of a backyard patio. However, as I entered the bar my dreams of an enclosed concrete backyard were met with the evitable disappointment of a halogen light bulb hanging “high-noon” over the 2nd pool table.

At 6pm Belinda’s was crowded and loud as Vicente Fernandez’s Estos Celos played on the juke box. Bonny (short for Bonifacio), an older gentleman to my right, enthusiastically harmonized with Vicente’s sentimental incantations as he simultaneously attempted to work his magic on the bartender. All this under the watchful eye of the Virgin Mary whose portrait was perched over the bar but obscured by an alter of candles and fresh roses.

Unlike the other bars that I have encountered, Belinda’s Bar didn’t offer the usual welcome that I’d grown accustomed to on my Mission; and I would even venture to say that I was greeted with more than a few dirty looks as I bellied up to the bar and burrowed my way onto a bar stool between Bonny and another guy (whose territory I probably encroached). While they had me in numbers I wasn’t worried because I had a solid 3 inches on every dude in the bar and outweighed my biggest contender by about 25 pounds.

In the short time that I’d been at Belinda’s Bonny had downed three shots of tequila and two Heinekens. So, while I was not sure how long he’d been at the bar, I was sure his beer goggles were nice and thick. All in all, it didn’t matter to me—he was friendly enough, interjecting his drunken duet with the Vicente Fernandez, he more than once asked me my opinion of the “enchanting” bartender. That said I’m not sure who’d have been better off in the deal, the bartender or Bonny—his substantial midriff left something to be desired and the cheddary fart he’d left in his wake as he made his way to the restroom nearly choked me to death as I took a swig of my Corona.

In addition to Bonny’s hospitality, I appreciated the flow of street merchants that made their way into Belinda’s. In addition to the somewhat typical girl-selling-roses, there was a jewelry saleswoman followed by a guy who pulled a watch and a crank flashlight from his coat. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to pawn either of these must-have items but did manage to make off with half a beer as he demonstrated the flashlight’s nifty battery-free charging system to an unassuming distracted prospect.

On the “street-meat” front there was a vendor selling pork tamales out of a portable blue cooler with wheels. As a vegetarian I had to pass but the young group of guys sitting next to me seemed quite satisfied with the bushel of tamales that they purchased for less that $5.

As my night came to an evitable conclusion a man walked in pushing a stroller. At first I had to wonder “who brings a baby to a loud dive bar?!” Bringing a tiny baby into the bar would have been ok if the music wasn’t so loud … I was concerned that he might be damaging the little guy’s (or gal’s) ears with Vicente’s crooning.

He made his way to the end of the pool table passed the entrance and dropped the stroller’s shade. As the canopy fell it revealed a small cooler and a basket hanging from the handles. In seconds, he was pulling tortillas out to the basket and taco fixin’s out of his cooler… GENIUS! First, I found backpack-taco guy at Tip Top, and now I had discovered the baby-stroller taco guy at Belinda’s, each offering an innovative and practical approach to street dining. Until now, I had never thought of a stroller as a mini- taco truck but there you have it, live and in-person.

And in case you’re worried about the baby, there was one of those too, but he was in a much smaller stroller with his mom outside as his dad handled the business inside. Only in Mexico… and apparently, theMission too.

Next stop Argus Lounge.

1 comment:

Margarita said...

Although starting out at 6p.m. gives you one perspective on the Mission (or "The Wild, Wild West" as I call it om my blog which is vignettesfromtheendoftheline.blogspot.com)
a different crowd comes out after 10p.m. You get a totally different perspective.