It’s a little after four in the afternoon but Pacifica Seafood Restaurant in Palm Desert is jammed. There are so many people crowded around the bar that I ask the hostess if they’re hosting a special group or something. She takes a look around, shrugs. “Actually, this is kind of quiet for us,” she says. “Come back tomorrow night when we have Muscle Madness and you’ll really see a zoo.”
Muscle Madness? I have visions of dozens of desert rat Arnold Schwarzeneggers parading up and down El Paseo, shirtless in the heat, flexing their glutes and rippling their six-pack abs until the hostess sets me straight: It’s Mussel Madness, not Muscle Madness.
Never mind, then.
Maybe it’s the hip design, with stalactite spots over the bar or maybe it’s the long list of fresh fish from Hawaii to Maine. But then again, it is only four in the afternoon. On a Wednesday. How can they be so crowded?
Blame it on vodka. Lots and lots of vodka. For the bar at Pacifica Seafood carries over 137 vodkas from 19 countries—and if you drink it at the bar, as opposed to the dining room, it’s just $6. Imagine—they’ve got Poland’s Ultimat and Ireland’s Boru and France’s Ciroc and you can have them any way you want for $6.
Which explains the legions of bronzed cougars in sarongs and gold jewelry swilling pink cosmos and an equal number of sunburned and sweaty golfers, fresh off the links, in Panama hats and Tommy Bahama shirts.
To be honest with you, when I walked in, I was thinking of getting an ice-cold beer, but knowing that this place has 137 vodkas and they’re all only $6, how can I settle for a beer? So I order a Bombay Gin-Gin Mule from the bartender, Sandy, who looks at me like I’ve just asked her for Nicole Kidman’s phone number.
What was I thinking?
“Sorry,” I say. “Give me a gin sour.” And then before she can turn her back on my, I say, “Wait! Do you squeeze your own fresh lemon juice?”
Deal breaker. “Never mind. Just give me a dry martini up with Junipero.”
“Yeah, you know the gin made by the Anchor Steam guys in San Francisco?”
“We don’t have that.”
“You don’t have Junipero gin?”
“We do not.”
“But you have three thousand other gins?”
“A hundred and thirty.”
“But no Junipero?”
“Never mind,” I tell her. “Give me a beer.”
“What kind of beer?”
“What do you have?”
She sighs, looks around at the busy bar and says, “You seem to have a hard time making choices. So I’m just going to pick something for you. Is that okay?” And before I can protest, she is gone.
Fine. Be that way. But I hope Sandy doesn’t think I’m coming back here tomorrow night, Mussel Madness or no Mussel Madness.