CHEAP EATS I write to you from Dot’s Diner in Jefferson Parish, La. Hedgehog is getting her knee looked at down the road, and I thought I would find me a place to sit that wasn’t the waiting room. Or a pool hall. Or bar. Or fast food joint or automotive shop. Or warehouse, thrift store, or — but only because it’s 9:30 a.m. and I ain’t the slightest bit hungry — a fried seafood shack or po-boy shop.
Jefferson’s got good eats in its own right. Crabby Jack’s is here, and at the French Canadian Quarter Festival this spring they fed me the best boudin I ever had, but at 9:30 a.m. the only way you can get a table, apparently, is if you’re an upside-down chair.
If it were 10 a.m. or even three hours later, I would have been in heaven. All’s I really required was a good strong cup a coffee and a seat, but this ain’t California or Seattle or even New Orleans. It’s the parish, as the locals call it, where you can’t exactly sit down without having a meal.
But how pretentious of them to refer to their parish as “the parish.” Don’t you think that’s pretty arrogant? Louisiana has a lot of parishes. They’re like counties everywhere else.
Whatever, I’m sure you’re more interested in what I’ve been eating San Franciscowise than Dot’s Diner’s biscuit with a fried egg on top, smothered in crawfish julie.
I will tell you: duck soup.
As always I have been on the prowl, trying to find the city’s best bowl of cold medicine and antidepressant.
It ain’t at Big Lantern here in the ‘hood, I can promise you that. Me and Hedgehog went there the last time we were in the city together, and I was fighting a cold. A fight, by the way, that I lost.
I’m human. I get sick. In fact, I get sick more than most people, being not only human but a hypochondriac. (Not that I’ve been diagnosed with hypochondria. I can just tell I have it.)
Anyway, I had wanted to show Hedgehog something special like Zuni, Delfina, or Slanted Door, but I felt too much like crap to eat anything but duck noodle soup, pea sprouts in garlic, and string beans with smoked pork.
There were dumplings, too. I forget what they were called on the dim sum menu. Some kind of “little buns,” I think. The ones that were soupy inside, they were great, but some weren’t so soupy. They had lost their juice. Not so great.
I can’t really complain about the duck soup because it wasn’t technically on the menu. Nor was it all that half bad. But the pea sprouts needed a lot of doctoring to taste like anything, and the beans with smoked pork were some of the worst things ever. About half of the beans were lifelessly old tough shriveled ones, overcooked. And the pork was like pork jerky. Very dry. Very tough. Which — granted — maybe that’s what smoked pork means in Chinese restaurants. I don’t often order it, and won’t often order it again, to be safe.
To their credit, the garlic pea sprouts and the beans and pork got better the next day for lunch, and better still the day after that, because I doctored and doctored them back to life.
The soup hit the spot, but as long as I’m healthy enough to get on BART and buses, I will be having my future duck soups in Chinatown, at Great Eastern Restaurant, thank you.
The legendary Jackson Street standby, it turns out, has a rich, flavorful dark broth with perfectly succulent roast duck and great homemade noodles. Or wontons. Or both. For $9, it’s the reigning duck noodle champion, in my book.
I would like to thank John’s Snack and Deli for being out of kimchi burritos again, or else I might never have found this out.
Oh, and Great Eastern also has crocodile soup and soft-shell turtle soup, by the way. In case you’re not sick when you go there. *
New favorite restaurant! *
GREAT EASTERN RESTAURANT
Daily: 10 a.m.–1 a.m.
649 Jackson, SF
Beer and wine