Pub date March 23, 2010
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap Eats

CHEAP EATS My soccer team is good. They win without me by gaudy scores like 18-1. When I’m there we still win, mostly, but with better manners. And sometimes we tie or even lose, but only when I’m there. This makes me feel needed.

After games the guys drink beer out of Dixie cups then go grocery shopping, because they’re married, and the girls, being single, go out for brunch or lunch or breakfast and talk about the guys. We wonder what they said, since they speak Portuguese and we don’t. My assumption has always been that they are yelling at me.

They play hard, but then they seem so nice, with their Dixie cups and shopping lists. Of course I am in love with my city right now, and all the people, grocery stores, and restaurants in it.

Even Tartine, which is the view from my new window, and on weekends especially is loused with line-loving wahoos. I love Tartine because I ate a sandwich from there once, a few years ago, and as I recall it was pretty fucking great. But also I love them because they represent a very special challenge to me, and you all know how I appreciate a good challenge.

So: my long-term goal in my new go-round at 18th and Guerrero streets is to annoy Tartine out of business. Just for fun! And not by saying mean things about them either. Obviously some talented folks are putting out some cool beans over there, to line ’em up like they do. No, I have in mind a more neighborly way to undo them.

First, let me fire up my tiny shitty old studio-size gas oven, then I will have to learn how to make morning buns better than theirs. Check that, then I will have to learn what a morning bun is. Hold on a second.

(Insert sound of idle whistling here)

I’m back. OK, mmm, hold on a second, my fingers are pretty sticky. OK, don’t worry, this is not a review of Tartine. I’m not going to say a word about their morning buns, only that it might take me a long time to put them out of business. But that’s fine, because time is a thing I have. Time, a tiny oven, and the means to make a cup or two of coffee.

My plan, then: to swing my gated window open and play my steel drum so enticingly that everyone standing in Tartine’s line will cross the street to see what gives. Then … I will give. I will offer them morning buns, mugs of coffee, and semi-intelligent conversation, for free of course, and so dazzled will they be by my neighborliness that they will eventually forget all about why they came to the Mission in the first place.

It’s a dream, and a distant and misty one at that, I know.

Meanwhile, for the last couple Sundays while all of Chestnut Street has been lined up outside my Mission District window, I have been on Chestnut Street having brunch, lunch, and breakfast at the wonderful and empty Chestnut Diner.

My new favorite restaurant! It was turned on to me by Alice Shaw the Person, who, having a car, carts us to and from our soccer games, which have been conducted lately in the Marina.

The omelets are great. The hash browns are fine. The décor is fantastic: light-blue-topped chrome stools around a J-shaped counter, with booths on either side.

I just can’t recommend the burgers, because they don’t understand rare there. Listen:

Me: Can I have that rare please?

Waitressperson: Half?

Me: (thinking, half?) Huh? No, Rare.

She: Oh, well.

Me: No, rare.

She: Half?

And so on until I gave up and ordered an omelet. But she looked sad about this, so I explained what rare meant and ordered a bacon burger. That way, when it came overcooked (which of course it did), it would still taste good. Which of course it did. *


Daily: 7 a.m.–3 p.m.

1312 Chestnut, SF

(415) 441-1168


No alcohol

L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.