I'm more of a geek than it seems, which is why it pains me that I didn't get my act together and get tickets to this week's Comic-Con. Why am I beating up my little geeky self for this oversight? Well, there's Thursday's science-fiction-writing seminar and Friday afternoon's Q&A with the creators of Spaced, a fantastically funny BBC show which starred Simon Pegg, pre-Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Then there are the panels featuring editorial cartoonists and the voices behind the original Peanuts cartoon. Or that evening's session on Cartoon Network's The Venture Bros., a goofy guilty pleasure. Saturday, would find me waiting in line with my friend Bryan for a sneak preview of the next season of Lost, though I'd leave him when he headed toward the Battlestar Galactica room. The MAD magazine circa-1960 discussion would be fun to sit in on, and I'd love to get a print of one of my favorite comic strips, The Perry Bible Fellowship, signed by the artist.
Even though I won't be among the fans at Comic-Con, I'll still wander down to check out the scene in the Gaslamp, where, for once, the nerds might outnumber the shiny people and the streets will be filled with intentional costumes instead of ill-advised club clothes. For you lucky folks who get to indulge your inner geek, here are some easy-to-walk-to, easy-on-your-wallet places to refuel before, during and after the 'Con.
The Tin Fish (170 Sixth Ave.) is a casual seafood spot serving fish tacos, both fried and grilled, that are a few notches better than Rubio's. They do nice waffle fries and onion rings, and you can enjoy your grilled fish sandwich while people-watching from the good-sized, comfortable patio.
Tucked between a dance club and a fancy restaurant, Sultan Shawarma (543 Fourth Ave.) is a little hideaway offering affordable Middle Eastern sandwiches and other dishes. Kabobs can be had on a plate with hummus, rice and salad or wrapped in flatbread (the kefta, composed of spiced ground beef, is boss), and it's open until the wee hours on the weekend, perfect for post movie-screening snackage.
First we got Bondi, with its lineup of Australian beers and Aussie-inspired gastropub food, and now it's the Kiwis' turn. The second location of Bare Back Grill (the first is in Pacific Beach) has opened in the Gaslamp at 624 E St., and though the decor is of the sports-bar variety, the burgers are better than most plasma-screen-loaded places. The lamb burger is made with New Zealand lamb and topped with pickled beets. All the beef is organic, ground fresh daily, and the vegetables served are locally grown.
Part greasy spoon, part retro Chinese-American joint, the two-decade-old, family-run Lee's Café (738 Fifth Ave.) is all about nostalgia, dedication and breakfast for dinner. Three dollars and change gets you a full eggs-with-the-works breakfast, and none of the prices on the menu hit double digits. The diner's counter and bar stools have seen better days, but I'm sure they have some stories to tell.
Head to Basic (410 10th Ave.) early to avoid the happy-hour crowd, but do go—the pizza is worth it, done in the New Haven, Conn., style: thin crusted and shaped in a large, rectangular baking pan, then baked in a brick oven. Go for the New England tradition: a white pie topped with parmesan and garlic and fresh little-neck clams.
As far as Downtown's Irish pubs go, The Field (544 Fifth Ave.) is more mellow and friendly than most. The food's not bad, either: The Boxty—a fluffy potato pancake, wrapped crepe-like over various fillings, does a good job of soaking up Guinness and Irish whiskey. And, on Saturdays and Sundays, The Field serves a hearty traditional Irish breakfast, sure to fortify you for the rest of your day.
And for a moment of Zen amid the throngs and noise, Kiyo's (531 F St.) provides a quiet escape. This homey Japanese restaurant serves traditional sushi at relatively modest prices, always fresh and dependable. There's nothing flashy about it and that's a wonderful thing. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.