I'm leaving Ocean Beach in a few months to do something prudent for a change—buy a condo. It's in the San Carlos neighborhood, which is a good 25 minutes east of O.B. and all its funkoid, hard-won charms. Ocean Beach is a great, great neighborhood, but it's time to start acting like the big people, if for nobody's sake but mine. I've been sowing my wild oats just about all my life—and now that I'll be 61 next month, maybe it's time to sit down and eat 'em while I still can, thanks a whole big fat bunch.
In anticipation of my departure, I've been taking in O.B. from a different perspective, in the form of long, long walks along the 'hood's iconic fishing pier. It's easy to forget that the structure (at 1,971 feet supposedly the longest concrete ocean pier in southern California) is also home to Ocean Beach Pier Café, because the eatery sits so far from land. It's as rustic and cute as a little peanut on the outside, and its down-home appeal extends to the interior, with its captain's chairs and windows for days. It's just the setting for chowing down on the flappiest flapjacks in the history of the universe ($3.70 for two gigrundous pancakes), so light they've been known to stick to the ceiling. And how can a simple oceanside eatery do such an exotic job on the lowly fried potato ($2.70)? Slap a little sour cream on these hummers, and you'll think you're at some snooty place in Rancho Santa Fe. But the walloppacking espresso ($2) from the nice lady in the back will bring you back to Earth in a serious hurry.
Ocean Beach Pier Café is located at 5091 Niagara Ave., but don't let the address fool ya. Just head for the pier and be prepared to walk about a quarter-mile or more; the café will be on your right. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinny seven days from 8 a.m. to whenever the hell it closes (between 7 and 9 p.m. depending on business); phone is 619- 226-3474. The menu doesn't say anything about wild oats, but at my age, it doesn't matter. I've got an old man's birthday hanging over my head. This year, getting out of the car is celebration enough for me.