• No categories

Cheap Eats

Private revolution


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I found out on Christmas Day morning that I was a nihilist. Cool. I had always wondered what that meant, and now I didn’t have to wonder anymore and could move on to something else. Nihilists are witchy, weird chicken farmers who love everyone, hate every single thing that anyone believes in, and would much rather lie down in pine needles and watch the way bugs move than fight oppression.

I learned this from a real live anarchist, a kind of political hero of mine, when I tried to express my discomfort with anarchy because it has way too many rules for my liking. It was the sort of conversation that tends to end in only one way: with both parties bonking each other on the head with suitcases — generally speaking, of course. In some instances there aren’t any suitcases handy, so they have to use fireplace pokers or cookware.

So I felt astronomically lucky to be walking away from such talk with our just-friendship — not to mention my cranium — intact. Gastronomically, I was not so lucky. It was lunchtime, but it was Christmas, and I wasn’t raised by wolves, much as I might wish it otherwise, so I couldn’t help knowing that it was Christmas, and what that truly meant: restaurants would be closed.

No one was out on the streets except for homeless people and nihilists. I walked down 16th Street, lost in thought and dazzled by the abundance of available parking spots. The streets seemed surreally wide, and if my little body hadn’t been all tangled and tucked into scarves, sweaters, coats, gloves and hats, I might have sworn I was in Tucson. Instead of … what? Chicago? Cleveland?

It’s a wonder anyone ever recognizes me this time of year — I’m such an overdresser. Or maybe that’s how they recognize me. In any case, I turned the corner onto Guerrero, and there were my friends J and J, and they somehow knew me under all my Great Lakes–wear and greeted me warmly with big smiles and hugs.

"I’m a nihilist!" I said.

"We’re going to get Chinese food," they said. "Are you hungry?"

Am I hungry? Does the pope poop in the woods? I’m starving. Always. For everything. (Without mayonnaise.) Even if I’ve just eaten a whole ham by myself and am lying on the floor, comatose, I’m hungry. I just don’t know it just then is all. And another thing is that I’ve always wanted to eat Chinese food on Christmas.

"Where are you going?" I said.

"Big Lantern," they said. "It’s open."

I’d just walked past it and hadn’t noticed it was open because I was so lost in thought and clothing and deserty amazement. So I turned right around.

Big Lantern! I already knew it was my new favorite restaurant even before I bit into one of their succulent shrimp dumplings from the dim sum menu and slurped my first spicy slurp of hot and sour soup and made love to my favorite dish of all, on a table of favorite dishes: the ginger and onion lamb. I knew it was my new favorite restaurant because I was eating there. On Christmas Day! With friends.

Earl Butter gets takeout from Big Lantern, and he’d told me it was great. But J and J said you have to eat it there. They’ve gotten it to go, they said, and it sucked. So … you see why I write like this?

I don’t believe in hyperbole any more than, say, critical thinking; but I do find it a fun and friendly alternative to intelligence. And I don’t think I ever said so here, explicitly (or maybe I did), but my New Year’s resolution last year was for every place I ate at to be my new favorite restaurant. I did it!

Be warned though that 2007 is another year. If I don’t say that a place is my new favorite place, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means I was distracted from food and ambiance by the bathroom.

I have learned to love indiscriminately. Now, in order to impress my fellow revolutionaries and hopefully make them love me back and let me lick them, I am going to shake off the pine needles and take an actual political stand: in the bathroom, of course. We choose our battles, and this is the one for me, because more than anything right now I need to pee.

Does your restaurant have safe, comfortable, unisex bathrooms? Big Lantern does! *


Sun.–Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight

3170 16th St., SF

(415) 863-8100

Takeout and delivery available

Full bar



Wheelchair accessible


Identity politics


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Where were we?

Oh yeah, I was a menace to society — unintentionally, to my credit — and lots of innocent people were going to die or go blind on account of my lack of window-opening prowess. Or did I dream this? It sounds like a dream. Except I couldn’t have dreamed it because everyone’s shirts stayed on and there weren’t any Day-Glo chickens running around or big yellow onions with legs.

I’m so confused. Sometimes I have to go read last week’s column just to find out where I’m at in the world. So this was real. I know because I read it in the paper: the chicken farmer broke a window and spear-shaped shards of glass were raining down on the sidewalk all over Mod the Pod who, being superheroic, managed to escape without a scratch. I still don’t see how.

No one else got hurt either! Just me, and the damage was all to the head. I was traumatized. I haven’t been the same since. I’m twitchy, touchy, and even weirder than my weird cat Weirdo the Cat. I jump at the sound of a leaf landing on the roof. I have to drink out of sippy cups. Every little thing is the crack of glass to me: voices, footsteps. And all I can think about without screaming is Jane Austen novels and soup.

Speaking of which, I scored a scrap pile ham bone from Yard Sale’s holiday party last week at the Rite Spot (thank you, Denise!), and I gotta go stir the pot of split-pea heaven gurgling on top of the wood stove.

Man, it smells good in here for a change.

So anyway … the Pod superheroically came up with a bag and a broom, cleaned my mess, threw a blanket over my shell-shocked shoulders, and led me very slowly to my new favorite restaurant, Just Won Ton. I’ll never understand how we got there because it’s way the hell out in the Sunset on Vicente, and the glass storm happened in Laurel Heights. But isn’t that just like a superhero?

Maybe we drove.

Whatever the case, it happened. Soup happened, and I was on the road to recovery. We had a bowl of wonton noodle soup and another bowl with dumplings, and we passed them back and forth, and both ones were wonderful, but I forget which had fish balls and which had chickens.

I remember a big plate of roast duck on the table between us, and roast duck is another thing that just makes life entirely livable and loveable, no matter what: You’re sick. You suck. You just broke windows over your best friend’s head…. Roast duck!

"Pod," I said, in a small shaky way, between slurps and slobbers, "what do people mean when they talk about ‘identity politics’?"

Mod is a recent escapee from academia. I’m a chicken farmer.

"Who’s talking about identity politics?" she said.

"It was on that radio show you sent me the link to. KPFA? Something about something, Suzy Vacuum Cleaner?"

"We’ll talk about it later," she said. Good superhero. "Eat your soup. ‘Suzy Vacuum Cleaner’?"

"Something like that. And some other people," I said, sinking into my soup, which was delicious, in case I didn’t already say so. So we didn’t talk about identity politics. But later, days later, between wontons and ham bones, when I was feeling a lot better about almost having killed one of my favorite people ever, I called one of my other favorite people ever, my old pal Moonpie, and I said, "Identity politics. Start talking." And she did.

She’s a teacher. I’m a chicken farmer.

These are words, and I still don’t know what anything means. I mean, there are eggs, and there are all the words we use to describe an egg. Like egg. I’m trying, but even though I’m a writer in addition to a chicken farmer, words fall short for me. They don’t do justice to reality, which I find to be almost infinitely complex, tasty, and entirely unpoliticable.

Just Won Ton, for example, serves more than just wontons. A lot more. Duck. Chinese tamales.

It’s a simple, calmingly out-of-the-way place, and it’s a great name for a restaurant. But it both is and isn’t what it is.

Again it comes spiraling to this! And I almost get it, again, and am full of soupy amazement. The ham bone is connected to the ham bone. It wouldn’t fit in any of my pots, so I had to saw it in half with a hack saw. *


Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

1241 Vicente, SF

(415) 681-2999

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible




› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS My new favorite superheroes are my old pal Mod the Pod and her social-working podner, the Kat Attack. Together they comb the streets and psyches of the Bay Area, looking for people to help, and in many cases that turns out to be me!
If I had a nickel for every time one or the other or both of them together have untied me from figurative railroad tracks or snatched me up in midair as I was falling into snaky pits or the abyss or … well, in this case, I was bummed about having been Just-Friended, yet again, the night before. Not a lot of sleep, and morning found the chicken farmer kind of crying into her coat collar down at Java Supreme.
My coffee was this close to being cold, literally, when out of nowhere our superheroes swooped down in their superminivan, and Earl Butter helped load me into the back. Wasting no time, Mod the Pod gave me a squirt of our favorite perfume, and the Kat Attack told a great joke in which a bear walks into a bar and says, “Gimme a shot and a … beer,” and the bartender goes, “Why the big pause?”
After about a beat, I laughed real hard and rolled on the floor, mostly because there aren’t any seats in the back of this van.
Earl Butter, still choking over my squirt of perfume, was groping around like a mime in a box, trying to open real windows that didn’t really open. (Note: this seemingly innocuous detail is what we writers call “foreshadowing,” so don’t forget to remember it later, OK?)
Well, Jelly’s was “closed for the season,” whatever that means. As if San Francisco has seasons. So we had to go to the Ramp. And we had to sit outside, even though it was practically raining and cold. All the inside tables were taken.
I was thinking: coffee. Hot coffee. But before I could say so, Mod the Pod ordered us four Bloody Marys, and I went with it, reasoning: she’s the social worker.
Sure enough, the sun came out! And food! Huevos rancheros ($10.95), a bacon avocado omelet ($9.75), bacon and eggs ($8.75 times two), and more Bloody Marys (way, way too much money to even think about) … and I told my sad story, and the Attack was her supersweet self, and Earl Butter made jokes and poked me, and the Pod, you know what Mod the Pod did, being a superhero?
She gave me some of her bacon.
To think, to think that earlier in the week I’d almost killed her! But that’s another story.
Did you hear? I shattered glass during my very first session of speech therapy! We were sitting at a long wooden table, Coach Freidenberg and me, and I was saying things into a microphone and she was monitoring my pitch on a computer screen, like the opposite of the limbo: how high can you go? My eyes were mostly closed, not in concentration, but because it was of course excruciating to hear my own voice being played back to me.
“Many men making much money in the month of May,” my voice said. “The murmuring of doves in the memorial elms.”
It was worse than excruciating. It was traumatic. It was psychologically damaging. Stanley Kubrick could prop toothpicks in my ears and make a movie out of it. I was this close to losing my will to live, and then I opened my eyes to see what time it was — because it seemed like an important moment to mark, the losing of one’s will to live.
But instead of seeing clocks I saw, down below on the sidewalk outside, loitering, looking for someone to save, guess who? Mod the Pod! Me, I thought. Save me.
To get her attention, I tried to open the window, which was one of those old out-opening ones with a crank. I wanted to say, “Lunch?” That’s all. And I turned the crank ever so slightly, but it broke. At 11:41 in the morning. The window, glass, shattering, crash, bang, boom, and time stood still for idiot chicken farmers and for pedestrians pushing perambulators filled with gurgling children, and for loitering superheroes.
Would she save the day? Could she? How? With bacon? This being the story of my life and my life being basically a comic book, time stands still for you too, dear reader, until next time, while foot-long shards of glass hang in thick air like enemy arrows.<\!s>SFBG

Mon.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>3 p.m.
Sat.–<\d>Sun., 8:30 a.m.–<\d>4 p.m.
855 China Basin, SF
(415) 621-2378
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible

The kitchen sink


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS There’s this thing in sports and therefore maybe life where you’re supposed to “act like you’ve been there before.” But how are you supposed to act like you’ve been there before if you’ve never been there? What if every single thing is news to you?
You strike out the big hitter, score a touchdown. Or let’s say you’re not into sports, so you, I don’t know, close the deal, or achieve the … thing. What do people do in life? Or what do you do if you’re me and the whole world is suddenly one big end zone? How am I supposed to not jump around and make a fool of myself, for example, while buying my first bra? At the tender age of 43.
Act like you’ve been here before, said the voice in my head. I’d never been to San Mateo, let alone Lula Lu Petite Lingerie shop.
“Do you know what size you are?” asked a voice outside my head. The only other customer had left and my tiny friend Sockywonk, the famous Godzilla artist, was already in the other fitting room, trying stuff on, so finally our friendly salesgirlperson could turn her attention to me.
I peed my pants.
Unfazed, Ms. Lula Lu whipped out her cloth tape measure. “Hold your arms out like this,” she said, making like an airplane.
I asked if I could do Superman instead because airplanes wig me out.
“Like this,” she said. The airplane. I closed my eyes and tried to think of it as doing Jesus, and that was a little better. Jesus being fitted for a bra … eerie look on His face, like He knows what’s being foreshadowed, oh shit.
Forty inches, that’s the circumference of My chest. The cup size, well, I don’t think there are enough As in the alphabet to describe my cup size. But I do have boobs, I swear.
And so does Sockywonk, and they’re beautiful, I’ve seen them. She can’t keep her hands off them, not even in restaurants. I don’t blame her.
Chemo starts tomorrow, and then, down the road, she loses one. She told me over noodles at Pho Little Saigon 3, across the street, that she’s not going to go for no chest reconstruction surgery. So this bra she’s deciding on in the next fitting room might be the last nonmastectomy one she ever buys.
The food was great! For some crazy reason it was Sockywonk’s first time eating Vietnamese. Barbecued chicken over rice vermicelli ($5.95) and a seafood combo soup with egg noodles ($5.95). We shared and slurped and swirled and it was my way of returning the favor, firstswise. Lula Lu being her idea.
Pho Little Saigon 3. You can’t miss it. It’s the only place in San Mateo that isn’t a sushi place.
When Sockywonk first found out about the cancer was around when I found out I was a witch, so naturally I promised to use all my spells and powers on her behalf, which means basically that I will write like I write and try to make her laugh and want to eat food. Those are my powers, and I think she might need them because chemo ain’t funny, or appetizing.
I love all my friends, and they’re just going to have to get used to that. But I feel like I have extra chambers in my heart right now for Sockywonk, and not just because she wanted to take me bra shopping after coming down with breast cancer. And not just because she’s a freaky and freakin’ amazing painter of monsterish beauty. And not just because she showed me her boobs, either, although of course that helped. It’s all of the above, plus she invited me last summer to that rooftop paella party I wrote about, which kind of kick-started me socially at a time when I needed a kick.
I met some of my other new friends, like Orange Pop 2, on that same roof, and these are Sockywonk’s people and they’re lively, weird, rockingly good-cooking folks. And she knows but I want her cancer to know too that it ain’t just chemo: we’re all coming after it with everything we’ve got. And I don’t mean good vibes and health food, either.
I mean, yeah, good vibes and health food — but I also mean beers and guitar solos and horn sections. Fresh eggs. Funky restaurant reviews. Funny dances, dessert, impossible hats, pretty bras, everything. Good books. Scary dogs. Strong coffee. Combat boots. Bicycle kicks. Everything, and the kitchen sink. The dirty dishes. Big slow curve balls and fast, freaky serves. SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.– SFBG9 p.m.
147 E. Third Ave., San Mateo
(650) 685-6151
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible



CHEAP EATS I should say a few words about Weird Fish. Not that I didn’t thoroughly exhaust the topic in last week’s restaurant review, but because it’s just so fun to say the name of the place. Weird Fish.
Weird Fish is a new nice little Mission-y restaurant at Mission and 18th Street. On the basis of its great name alone, it’s my new favorite restaurant. The food was good too, but if I tell you how small the plates were, my faithful fans will all write to me and say, like they did when I wrote about Café Gratitude, “Come on! Be true to your roots, man.”
I think roots are great, for trees and, you know, Christians and such. But what can I say? In addition to not having a spiritual bone in my body or bark or branches, I don’t eat like I used to. I just don’t. I don’t anything like I used to.
Now, I know not everyone reads these things as meticulously as I right them (yes, that’s a joke), but I would think by now it would be clear that I’ve come entirely unhinged. I don’t have no roots, man. I live and lie down entirely on top of my planet. And I just love Weird Fish. To eat at and to say.
I met a guy at a party who had just eaten dinner at Weird Fish, and our mutual friend, who was introducing us, said, “Dani just wrote a review of Weird Fish.”
And I said, being a brilliant conversationalist, “Mm-hmm, yes, that’s right, I did.” Or something to that effect. Then I suavely spilled a small sip of wine down my chest and asked, to secure the continuation of our acquaintance, “Wha’d-ya-get?”
“Fish and chips.”
I nodded thoughtfully, as if to say, “Ah, fish and chips,” but for some reason I didn’t say anything. I was trying to remember what I’d had at Weird Fish. Blackened trout? Mango salsa?
Oh, it was yummy, whatever it was, but a lot of good that did me now.
After an awkward silence, my new friend handed me a napkin and while I dabbed at my chest, he became involved in a passionate discussion with our introducer about teaching and I think maybe pedagogy (depending what that word means).
I turned to the woman on the other side of me and engaged her on the topic of poop.
Yes, the dates are rolling in! I have to have a calendar now to keep it all straight — which days I’m doing what with whom and eating where with what. Soon I might have to get a watch or a cell phone. Anything is possible, life remains interesting, love flows. And while you’re shuddering at the thought, let me remind you that I use the word date loosely and love even looselier and that in any case my new pattern is to fall for wonderful, fascinating folks who are ultimately unavailable to me, at least in any kind of horizontal fashion. Luckily, I love to kiss people standing up, preferable with my back pressed against a wall.
So, OK, so: what does this tell me about me, my initial relationship to my overwhelmed, unavailable mom, who passed me off to an aunt and uncle while she cranked out her fifth, sixth, seventh kids? Being now a self-aware, psychologically-minded, in-therapy type of person, I have to think about these things. But because I am also still very much a fool, I get to “persist in my folly” — hooray! — and continue to chase after rainbows and windmills in the meantime. I have permission. From Blake and Cervantes!
I’m not giving up just yet on the queer wimmins, cause I just love the bejesus out of them, whether they want to ever git me nekkid or not. My luck, on that front, may well change. To ensure it doesn’t, I think I’ll switch my focus back to straight men. Speaking of windmills. Yes, question?
Yes. Thank you. So why, when presented with the opportunity the other night to put your weird fishy body into a hot tub with a sweet straight stoned dude who people said was flirting with you … why did you wash dishes instead and then drive the dark, winding drive home? Hmm?
That’s a very good question, and in fact, I’m still bashing my head into the wall over it. If a fool persists in her folly, as the saying says, she shall become wise. Like all good philosophies, this raises more questions than it answers. Mainly: when?<\!s>SFBG
Sun.–<\d>Thurs., 9 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.–<\d>midnight
2193 Mission, SF
(415) 863-4744
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Full noodle frontity


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS THE CHICKEN FARMER IS HOT. It took several tries to get the big block letters to stick, but finally I had stated my case — in homemade egg noodles inside the lid of an egg carton, where normally you might expect to read nutritional facts about eggs.
Where normally the eggs would go, I put 12 pretty stones.
The Chicken Farmer is not normal. One of her favorite things to do is to lie face down in the fog for hours at Sonoma beaches, the ones with tiny stones instead of sand, and sift through the pretty colors, taking home a handful of favorites. I’ve been doing this for years and years. Now I have someone sort of odd to give some to.
I was coming to the city to play soccer, and then I had a date with this new Nancy Drew I’ve been trying to tell you about. Instead of an apple or flower or poem or butt of a burrito, I was going to present her with this … piece? Well, Saturday morning arts and crafts project. Well … egg carton.
She would think they were eggs, because that’s what I usually give people instead of flowers, and then she would notice it was too light and kind of rattly, like beans or something, and with a quizzically delicious smile forming on her lips — it was all mapped out in my mind — she would slowly open the carton, know that I was hot, and have to take my clothes off.
I sure do love dating! You can go into a thing with no real expectations, in fact knowing — knowing — with like 99.9 percent accuracy, that that’s not going to happen, not tonight, no way. And yet still you will bathe more carefully, shave more closely, fantasize more prayerfully, and put on your prettiest panties, which you washed in the sink and dried over the wood stove just for the …
Uh-oh … or is this just me?
Anyway, for now I carefully load in to the passenger seat of my pick-up truck this precious cargo, this key to my new improved love life and future nudity, making a mental note not to drive as hard as usual. I consider buckling the carton in and even go so far as to wish I had a child’s safety seat for it.
Already running late for soccer, I linger, close the lid and open it. No damage — the homemade letters will hang on for the ride, I think. THE CHICKEN FARMER IS HOT.
Then, wait …
The chicken farmer is hot? The chicken farmer?
In the movie version of my life (starring Penelope Cruz or OK, Holly Hunter or OK, OK, Crispen Glover in drag), the soundtrack screeches to a stop and all of a sudden everything is wrong. It’s basics! It’s Dating 101! You can’t give someone something saying, explicitly, that you’re hot. It has to say that they’re hot.
She knows I’m hot. She already said so weeks ago when she first found out I made my own pasta. “That’s so hot,” she said. It’s like I was answering, albeit in fettucini, with, “You’re so right. I’m hot.” Instead of “Baby, you. You’re hot! I’m just Crispen Glover. In drag.”
In real life I ran back into my shack and fumbled for the phone. There was no time for a revision, and the actual eggs in the actual carton tangled with my cleats in the back of the truck were already earmarked for another friend whose birthday was on Sunday. “Pick up pick up be home be home,” I chanted into the receiver.
“Hello?” said Moonpie, my oldest girlfriend in the world and most trusted romantic adviser.
In 10 seconds and 1,250 words I stated (or spat) the dilemma of my nature (or vice versa) and asked more slowly, in conclusion, “Can I give this egg carton to her? What do you think?”
“I think it’s funny,” she said.
“Yes.” Right: funny. I knew that and took a breath. “But,” I asked, “at my expense?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Excellent,” I said, and I gave it to her. I did.
Well … back to the drawing board, or rolling pin, for the chicken farmer. Nobody took any clothes off, let alone mine, but it was a wonderful date! Sean Dorsey’s Outsider Chronicles was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. (He dances for the most part to words!) And, oh yeah, Ms. Drew and I have a new favorite restaurant. SFBG
Sun.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 9 a.m.–midnight
2193 Mission, SF
(415) 863-4744
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Time changes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS In honor of my French sister’s birthday I ordered a chicken pesto crepe with fromage and how-you-say, toasted almonds, hold the mushrooms ($8.50). It was eight in the morning.
The waitressperson looked at her watch.
“Is it too early for crepes?” I asked. “Do I need to get an omelet?”
She looked at her watch again, shrugged, looked toward the kitchen. It was five in the afternoon in France, but luckily I didn’t need to argue this point, because she let me have my crepe, pesto and all.
Earl Butter wasn’t eating. I’d offered to buy him something, but he just wanted coffee. I don’t know why he wasn’t hungry, but I do know (because sometimes I sleep in his closet) that he wakes up at four in the morning, has breakfast, and then goes back to sleep. Anyway, he did have a cup of coffee and a lot to say while I was chewing things over.
“Colma has more dead people in it than live people,” he said.
“Is that why you always want to go there for breakfast?” I said.
“Not necessarily,” he said. “I just like being in cars.”
I offered him a taste of my crepe, which was fantastic, because you can’t go wrong with chicken and pesto and feta, I think it was.
“Good,” he said, and he said it again after I offered him a taste of the potatoes, which were fantastic. They were cooked in some kind of a ramekin and then plopped onto the plate, crispy outside and creamy underneath. Fantastic.
So good that 10 days later when I woke up in Earl Butter’s closet again, needing something to eat, I said, “What about that place?”
“In Colma?”
“No,” I said. “On Divis. With the upside-down potatoes. My new favorite restaurant.”
“With the crepes?”
Yes. It came to me: the Bean Bag Café. I remembered because when I sleep in Earl Butter’s closet, I’m sleeping on beanbags, and my body I think retains the information. This doesn’t sound comfortable, I know, but these are my favorite nights’ sleep. Closets are dark, and my chickens have me trained to spring out of bed at the first creak of daylight, no matter where in the world I am.
Except in Earl Butter’s closet, where daylight dares not tread, I get to sleep in, and as a result it was closer to lunchtime than breakfast by the time we were in the Bean Bag, placing our order. Baja omelet for him ($7.50), La Mancha omelet for me ($8.50).
Again: fantastic! Well, mine was, because it had grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, and provolone, hold the mushrooms. Earl’s Baja, which I didn’t taste and didn’t want to, featured soy chorizo with avocado, black beans, salsa, and sour cream. I don’t think he saw the word soy before he ordered and was expecting the real thing.
So he was disappointed about that and disappointed because this time there were people there. It was late morning on a Sunday. We got the last open table, in the middle of the café. There’s also a kind of a closed-in patio and a couple tables out on the sidewalk.
“Turn around,” Earl Butter said, with a scowl, halfway through our meal.
I turned around, and there was a line winding out the door.
“You didn’t tell me you were bringing me where people were,” he said.
To make it up to him, I washed about a month’s worth of Earl’s dishes, swept his kitchen floor, took the garbage out, then drove him to West Oakland, and put him in a car with my brother, so now, while I’m writing this, he’s somewhere in Nevada or Utah or Wyoming, where people aren’t. He gets to spend Thanksgiving with my family, in Ohio. And I get to cook in his clean kitchen, sleep in his big bed if I want, and go to Guerneville and play cards with Choo-Choo and Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling and all their fabulous friends.
I’ll probably also go back to the Bean Bag at least once, because I do love their potatoes and people and because besides eggs and crepes they also have burgers, bagels, smoothies, salads, and sandwiches with names that make me feel at home: Sonoma, Petaluma, Bodega Bay …
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? SFBG
Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
601 Divisadero, SF
(415) 563-3634
Takeout available
No credit cards
Wheelchair accessible

Chaste and chaser


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS A picture begins to develop: dating, for the chicken farmer, is turning out to be a sort of exercise in quantum romantics. Things are happening and not happening at the same time.
I’ll start out being totally, over-boilingly in love with a complete stranger, and this gets gradually perfected to a sweet, simmering, and in a couple cases, cuddly friendship — miraculously without me ever getting my tits licked, which is all I really want, really. That and maybe a little something to eat.
Over pomegranate chicken and eggs at Aram’s in Petaluma my date says, “You know, I’m not a nonviolent person.”
It takes everything I have, but I manage not to climb across the table and bite her, toppling everything. Deep breaths help, plus I derive farmerly strength from the suspicion that suddenly cullinizing one’s date, no matter how heartfelt or sexy, would be disrespectful to the chicken, which was amazing.
Over spicy Thai cold-medicine soup at that place on Haight, she wonders with the humble self-awareness of a death-bedded grandmother (and a stuffy nose) whether she might not yet know her own heart.
This week she turns 29.
Coffee and French toast at the Squat and Gobble, and I can still be a witch if I want, no matter that I don’t believe in magic or spells or sorcery or goddesses or witchcraft or even eating children — although I’m not entirely a noncannibalistic person, consent withstanding.
If I understand her correctly, even in prepagan times, even before there was the word witch, there were strong, wise, weird women who lived in shacks in the woods with black cats and wrote restaurant reviews for their local weeklies.
In my shack in my woods we are eating her-made beet gnocchi with me-made fresh bread and salad, drinking wine and talking about lasagna, when she sets down her fork and says, “I’m so happy I could cry.” And she does, and I get to hug and hold her and totally empathize because lasagna makes me emotional too.
But it turns out that wasn’t it for her. It was the first few bars of the Paolo Conti album I’d just put on.
Oh oh oh oh oh, there are so many wonderful new favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, many of which I would love to tell you about, but this is for those who have written or asked or simply wondered what ever happened to that Queer Girl Nancy Drew, my Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Inspirer of Piles and Piles of Poetry who Tartined me over a month or so ago.
Well, the reason I haven’t written about her is because I can’t decide what her name is, not because we haven’t been hanging out. We eat a lot and talk a lot and even smooch and snuggle some, but no, no sex. Not that I would tell you if there was. (But you know I would, because I tell you everything, right?)
Anyway, this isn’t like that, as the saying goes. It’s not about sex, and you’re not going to believe this, but it’s not about food either with her. With her, between me and you, all I really want is to get her on the other side of a Ping-Pong table — since another thing I learned when she first opened her heart to me (curry goat, Penny’s, Berkeley) is that her grandfather is Ping-Pong champion of the Baltic states and that she trained as a kid.
She knows how I feel. I know how she feels. We talk about everything in the world but this. Is her reticence regarding playing Ping-Pong with me based on fear of winning or losing or something else?
In bed she says she’s starstruck and falls asleep with a smile on her lips and my hand in her hair. The moon between the redwood branches outside my window is what I’m looking at, until eventually I get out of bed, tiptoe to my file cabinet, and so so so so slowly open the third drawer, the one labeled THE MEANING OF LIFE. I’m starstruck. I take out my two nice Butterfly Ping-Pong paddles, hold one in each hand, and just hold them, so happy I could cry.
Of their own accord (or maybe it’s a trick of the tears), the two paddles almost seem to be fluttering toward each other, their motion barely perceptible. If I stay to see it happen, I might be up all night, and in any case their eventual connection would be at this rate noiseless, not likely to wake anyone or put anyone to sleep.
Lost in thought and moonlight, thinking witchy not-witchy things like waves and particles, I stare between the butterflies at my file cabinet, one in the morning.
PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY, AND ETHICS, says the first drawer. Inside: empty egg cartons.
CEREAL, says the second. Inside: cereal. SFBG

In the genes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Hold on a second. Let me call and ask her …
OK, it’s OK to tell you now: Crawdad de la Cooter is pregnant! I had to keep it a secret for a long time because that’s what pregnant people do to you — they tell everyone, and they tell everyone not to tell anyone. So we all go around bursting at the seams and looking at each other, wondering who knows what. But now I can write restaurant reviews and songs about it and everything. Crawdad’s going to be a mama! Her new guy, Crawguy de la Peter, is going to be a daddy! And I get to be the well-paid live-in nanny!
Well, right now they kind of have it in their head to raise their own child, and I can’t say that I blame them exactly, but I’d really rather do it myself. So my strategy is to make all the people around here go very quietly crazy, so that they lose their concentration and mess up their computers, and then they’ll all be calling on Crawguy all the time to fix them and Crawdad to fix their heads, because that’s what he does and she does respectfully. Business will boom, lots of money, no time. Enter the chicken farmer.
It’s a fact that kids love chickens and farmers, and although it’s also a fact that I’m a witch now too (because I say so), and everyone knows that witches eat children, it is not a fact that I do. I have never, for example, eaten a child.
On the other hand, I do remember how to change diapers, because don’t forget that I come from a big family, and I was one of the older ones. Wait — maybe I made this up. Let me call my mom.
Ah, she claims I didn’t change a lot of little siblings’ diapers — just my own, apparently, when I was a baby. Still, I do love poop, as my readers well know. Several of my brothers and sisters are or have been nannies and/or baby-sitters — possibly, in many cases, parents — so you gotta figure it’s in my blood.
Anyway, I thought I would talk this all over with the happy Craw Couple over Vietnamese food, and they wisely invited Ms. Trotwood, their fixer-upper and my new best friend. We talked it all over and decided to get imperial rolls, hot and sour shrimp soup, and some kind of chicken in a coconut curry thingy, except it was all white meat, and then that led to a long, intense philosophical discussion over whether we liked the white meat or the dark meat better.
Me and Trotwood: dark. Crawdad and Crawguy: white. Which made me marvel (unfortunately out loud) at how challenging their life together is going to be, the poor crustaceans, because even if you’re perfectly matched in every other way, as Crawdad and Crawguy are, the foremost factor for determining long-term compatibility, in my book, is one of you’s gotta prefer the dark meat, and the other light. Doesn’t matter which is which, but you have to have that as a foundation.
Unless … hmm, if you both go for the breast, yet you have a kid together, and that kid turns out against all genetic odds to be a leg-and-a-thigh kind of kid, then there may still be hope for your whole chickens and therefore your marriage. Since DNA is going to work against you, however, it will have to be a matter of nurturance.
Enter chicken farmer.
You know me, I would still be going on about my indispensability to their family’s happiness, even after our food came and was excellent, if it weren’t for the Interventional Wisdom and Distractive Powers of dear Ms. Trotwood. Brilliantly, she dug from her purse a little gift card for Victoria’s Secret and gave it to me.
This was the perfect thing. Not only did it distract me from making an even bigger fool of myself, but it happens that I am just about to almost actually need a bra.
I forgot to say two of the things we got: spicy grilled beef salad, which was probably everyone’s favorite dish, cause it had mint and cilantro and jalapeños and “smoke flavored dressing.” The other one, grilled pork over smashed together vermicelli, was probably the least popular, but I liked it.
By the way, have I mentioned the name of my new favorite Vietnamese restaurant? SFBG
PHO 84
Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m.; Sat., noon–9 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.
354 17th St., Oakl.
(510) 832-1338
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
What am I grateful for?
Bacon. Fried chicken. Butter. Barbecued chicken. Butter. Bacon fat. Eggs … None of which you will find by the way at my new favorite restaurant, Café Gratitude. I went to the one in Berkeley with my old blackberry pickin’ pal and new favorite massage therapist NFC, and even though I couldn’t find no chicken-fried steak on the menu, I have to admit to having had one of the Times of my Life.
Has the chicken farmer lost her mind?
No! My old pal NFC has, because I would have taken her to Chez Panisse or even House of Chicken and Waffles … and she picked this.
“No, no, I’m serious, anywhere you want,” I said. “My treat.” I owed her big-time, see, for fixing me up backwise in an emergency the week before. “Chez Panisse,” I said. “Chicken and Waffles.”
“Café Gratitude,” she said again.
So, OK, I didn’t even know what it was, but namewise it seemed appropriate for the occasion. Conceptwise, you know: “live” organic foods, no meat, no pain and suffering, locally farmed, environmentally friendly, vegan, “prepared with love,” and all that hippie dippy dong dong dicky doo I’m so, so into these days, so long as I get to go home afterward and lop the head off of one of my chickens.
I like dead food too.
Everything on the menu is named an affirmative first-person statement, and the idea I think is to make you say it when you order. Like “I am wonderful,” “I am lovely,” “I am dazzling,” “I am magical,” and all kinds of other flat-out lies. Personally, I am honest, so I scoured the menu for something true to say to our waitressperson, such as “I am all of the above and none of the above and clumsy and stupid and pissed off and oh yeah, my feet stink.”
“I am explosive,” NFC said, but that wasn’t on the menu either. Although … never mind. Well, no, never mind.
Well, I think she was maybe making a prediction, based on all the ingredients in all the stuff we were looking at, like grains and greens and nuts and flax chips. Give you an example: the salad called “I am fulfilled” contains mixed greens, carrots, beets, cucumber, tomato, avocado, sprouts, microgreens (whatever that means), Brazil nut parmesan, and flax crackers ($10).
Actually, that sounds delicious, but I settled on being “elated,” which meant I was eating an enchilada with corn, cilantro, and something else inside and a spicy green salsa on top ($10). This came with a side salad and Bhutanese red rice. All good, right on.
NFC decided to be accepting, which meant she was eating red rice too, only all tossed together with raw free-range organic vegetables, pine nuts, some other kinds of nuts, and some shit-talking mushrooms. All good, right on.
To drink: free-range organic wind-dried water (with a wink to Posh Nosh fans — hi, Chrissy), and we also ordered a couple things from the smoothies and nut milks, but I don’t remember what. But it was all good, right on.
You think I’m kidding but I’m not. I love this stuff! Anyway, I could have been eating sand and sea shells, and so long as I get to eat it sitting cross-legged on a couch with my old friend NFC, talking about her girls and my chickens and, you know, life and shit, with our knees sometimes touching … I’m going to be happy.
I was satisfied. Technically, this was breakfast, since we started eating around 10, but I didn’t have any lunch and wasn’t hungry for dinner until later than usual. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t run right home anyway and knock over one of my chickens. It was a beautiful day that day.
It’s a beautiful day today. I am sad and scared and loving life because I can’t stop making poetry out of it. This one I call “Hopeful Chicken Farmer Poem”:
Suddenly bugs make sense to me and lavender smells like lavender — finally! Who knew that a dried-up leaf would sound that way under a feral cat’s paw? So I planted a blueberry bush next to the blackberry bushes. Next year, if the chickens don’t scratch it all out … SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
1730 Shattuck, Berk.
(415) 824-4652
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Quantum breakdown


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Christ, I love quantum theory, how something can be something, and at the same time something else, and so on, right?
Nobody rides in my pickup truck with me except Earl Butter, because nobody else can handle the mess. When it got to the point where even he was starting to grumble, I decided to say that I had cleaned my truck, without actually doing a thing, same way he says he has hair on his head so now he does.
I cleaned my truck! It’s spotless! It’s clean! Smells nice too … And not only that, but the engine is running just perfectly!
I write to you from under a tree, at the side of a lonely country road, Pepper Road, just north of Petaluma. Beautiful morning, late morning, getting later. One of my favorite things about driving this 20-year-old Chevy Sprint pickup truck, besides the fact that it gets better gas mileage than most hybrids and all other car cars, is that you never know what’s going to happen next.
Sometimes the horn works, sometimes not. Brights, yes. Low beams, no. It generally gets you where you’re going, just a question of when. And anyway, if you’d come visit me more often, you’d know there’s about a 50-50 chance that if your car breaks down, it will leave you somewhere pretty, like here. Although, I don’t say my truck “breaks down”; I say it “surprises me.”
The cows are not interested. The cars and trucks tackling the Cotati Grade, 101, are just far enough away to sound a little bit like a river. And a big white crane just hopped the fence and is standing, I swear, 15 yards away on the road, looking at me.
“Hey, you know anything about cars?”
It shakes its head.
I have some ideas: wires, rotor, gas cap, other parts I might buy to, um, encourage my motor to operate more predictably. Question is: should I?
Yesterday it left me at Bush and Fillmore. I coasted to a stop, I swear, in a legal parking space behind a car that had just surprised its owner too! She had a cell phone and let me use it and was very kind to me and sweet. In fact, if we didn’t fall in love and live happily ever after, it was only because her tow truck showed up before the thought did.
Me, I can’t afford no tow trucks. I’d called my lawyer, told him I’d be a little late for lunch, then hopped a 22 and headed for the Mission. My lawyer Will, Esquire, works for some food safety group, tackling Monsanto and other evil empires from his office, Mission and 22nd, overlooking the whole city and both bridges.
He eats at Tao Yin, that Chinese and Japanese joint on 20th, my new favorite restaurant. Lunch specials are $4 to $5 with soup and rice, between 11am and 4pm. Fish with black bean sauce, yum, vegetarian delight for him. And because I’m not currently being sued by anyone or under arrest, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like the impending end of the world on account of global warming and whatnot.
By the time I got back to my car, it started! I’d missed my gig, my reason for being in the city in the first place, but I had plenty of time to get over to the East Bay, so long as I was here, and have dinner with Ask Isadora at my new favorite restaurant, Amarin, in Alameda.
Thai food. Chicken curry, eggplant and pumpkin special, pad thai, yum yum yum … and because I have no sex life or relationship issues, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like zoophilia and, you know, whatnot.
Afterwards: bluegrass jam at McGrath’s! Where (Ask says) two straight guys hit on me but I didn’t see it. So they did, and they didn’t. (Christ, I love quantum theory!)
Tell you what: the food was pretty good both places yesterday but not as good as the sum of the leftovers today, under this tree, all jumbled up and warmed on the engine block wrapped in a ball of old burrito foil found under the seat, because, see, I haven’t really cleaned. SFBG
Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
3515 20th St., SF
(415) 285-3238
Takeout and delivery available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS The idea of love at first sight is a ridiculous thing to me. Most people I love long before I ever see them. In fact, if I’m not already in love with you, try taking your knife out of my back and calling an ambulance.
You don’t believe me. I don’t expect you to! I don’t believe me either or you or anything. All I do is see and say. And by see I mean see and feel and hear and taste shit and yeah, by way of a Purpose in Life, try and tell you about it.
For me and Orange Pop #2’s second date we went to my new favorite restaurant, Penny’s Caribbean Café. But I already reviewed it, so here’s a poem:

You can love the world
so so much yet know that
no matter how ultimately it embraces
you, it won’t, can’t return

your box of chocolates

So you hope to find
instead a person
maybe loves the world
as much as you do

or more even, and
you can play together
in a darkened room
while outside, without knocking

the earth sends flowers

That’s my poem. Remember Orange Pop #2? She got some gigs personal chefing around San Rafael and might sometimes need an assistant. So she said she was going to get me a chef’s shirt with Daniella on it.
I pointed out that technically my name is Danielle.
“I like Daniella,” she said.
Me too. She’s the boss. Sometimes, on her days off, we eat at places, talk about food and boys and whether to put the chicken in the soup before or after the water gets hot. And she showed me how to make a tart.
One day Orangey called and asked how I make chicken with rice and tomatoes, because that was what The Man wanted for dinner. I was ashamed to say how simple it was, so I made up some extra steps, like breading and browning the chicken first, and sautéing stuff and reserving this and clarifying that, and the next day she said her client loved it. “Really?” I said. I didn’t tell her (until now I guess) that normally I just throw everything in a pot, put the lid on, and wait for dinner to happen. Out of curiosity, I cooked it up the cockamamie way I’d told her to do, and it came out inedible. But I’m pretty sure that was because the expiration-date chicken I’d bought was bad.
Anyway, this time she had a cute little café in Larkspur to take me to. The Tabla Café, which I loved. Restaurants are just like people to me, except the menu is easier to read. Salads. Soups. Drinks. The Tabla’s specialty is dosas, and they’re great. They’re crepes made from rice flour and dal and wrapped around whatever you want, like scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, chicken, turkey, mushrooms…. I had to have the last one on the list because it was lamb meatballs and I liked the sound of that. It was 10 bucks, but it was big enough to feed two people if you get a salad or something else, which we did — a green one with candied walnuts and vinaigrette ($7.50).
OK, so we split all that and it was delicious. The meatballs were great, punctuated with pickled onions and cabbage and drizzled with tahini. The dosas come with a choice of dip-intos, including avocado orange salsa, apple ginger salsa, raita, and peach chutney. The chutney was good, but the dosa didn’t even need it, really.
Nice place. Like everything else in the North Bay, it’s in a plaza, but — small, bright, airy, arty, and in short, my new favorite restaurant!!!
Are you on to me? With the help of my good friend hyperbole (and maybe a dash of brute force), I mean to completely obliterate any inkling of an idea of a chance in the world for an objective and accurate restaurant review — or love. SFBG
Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.;
Sat., 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
1167 Magnolia, Larkspur
(415) 461-6787
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Change of heart


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS It still says Carl’s on the sidewalk in the doorway because that’s what it used to be, and the light from the big scripted Carl’s sign used to romanticize our windows. I was on the bottom (like I like it), and then Wayway lived upstairs from me, and Earl Butter lived on top of him. So anytime any of us looked out our windows, Guerrero and 18th, that was what we’d see: Carl’s.
Ten years later, Wayway, having circled around the Mission, is back on that corner, haunting my old apartment (or vice versa), and Earl Butter still lives up top. Carl’s is something else. The latter-day Missionaries line up around the corner weekend mornings, and their dogs bark, and their cars block people’s driveways, and horns blow, and the longtime residents of 18th and Guerrero wake up too early with hangovers and hate the world. Or at least the little section of it called Tartine. At least Earl Butter does.
I crash in his closet sometimes, and I see him in the morning looking out the window and shaking his fist or worse. Out of respect for Earl and Carl and the “good old days,” I refused for years to eat at Tartine.
Then this: I get an e-mail in response to something I wrote about unisex bathrooms being like bacon to me, and this cool-sounding woman with a cool-sounding name wants to point me to a cool-sounding Web page called PISSR (People in Search of Safe Restrooms). Cool. Oh, and by the way, while she’s at it, she wonders if I’m still looking for dates, and if so, would I happen to be at all interested in queer girls?
I wrote back and said, in effect, where do you eat and when do you want to go there?
Of the three places she mentioned, the only one I’d never been to was Tartine. So we made a plan — Monday, lunch — and that was the day I was cooking one of my chickens all day to say good-bye to my closest, dearest friend Carrie with. Remember?
Big dinner, four courses. So around 11 in the morning, well into Lucille Ball mode and covered in feathers, flour, and tears, I called my lunch date to cancel. First time we’d actually spoken, but before I could come to the point, I must have accidentally said something funny, because she laughed, and that was the end of it. I don’t know if you know this about your favorite chicken farmer, but whether it’s menfolk or the wimmins, the sexiest thing in the world to me is a good laugh. Know what I mean? You can have all your body parts. I want to hear what you laugh like.
She laughed like I like.
“I’m running a wee bit late,” I lied. (I was running a lot late.) “Can we push it back a bit?”
We could! We did, and I was halfway to the city before I realized I was still wearing my apron. At red lights, in the rearview mirror, I tried to make myself pretty, plucking my eyebrows and feathers, etc.
Now, out of necessity, I use the word “date” very loosely these days. Watch out! If you’re meeting me to return a book you borrowed, chances are I’m telling everyone I have a date. In this case, she’d used the word first, so even though it was a pressed sandwich to go, a short walk to Dolores Park, and sitting in the grass for an hour between cooking and more cooking, hell yeah, I was nervous.
Especially about the getting-the-sandwich part, because what if Earl Butter saw me? I had no doubt he would have opened his window and ruined everything. (He confirmed this later: he would have.)
My date was sitting on a bench out front, as planned, reading a Nancy Drew book. She was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that makes you want to run back home and take a longer bath (or in my case, a bath), put on different, cleaner clothes, do something about your hair, and read a lot more than you’ve read so that at least you might seem smart.
Too late for all that. Too late for any of it. I knew Earl Butter to be out gigging until three, and it was quarter till. We got our sandwiches, prosciutto and provolone and something ($8.25) for me, banana and something for her, and we escaped into the park.
So just like that, I have a new favorite restaurant. The sandwich — I’m serious — was awesome!
As for the date … oops, outta space. SFBG
Mon., 8 a.m.–7 p.m.; Tues.–Wed., 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Thurs.–Fri., 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.
600 Guerrero, SF
(415) 487-2600
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible

Carried away


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Over the years I have said goodbye to a lot of cool people in this paper. Haywire went to Maine. Moonpie went to Pittsburgh. Rube Roy went home. E.B. Matt became S.D. Matt. Johnny “Jack” Poetry I packed up and delivered to Idaho with my own two hands and old van and creaking heart. Birdbrain Brad went to Denmark. Satchel Paige the Pitcher, Thailand. Noah, J.C., Jason.
Now this …
Oof, me and Carrie moved here together 16, 17 years ago, after the earthquake. Drove across the country in my ’71 LTD with all our stuff in the backseat and trunk. We were at that time lovers, best friends, and bandmates. Some of that would change, because things do, but whatever the words were, we only got closer and closer and closer.
Tonight I’m cooking for her and Marc, another old relocated pal of mine, who’s here to help move her with him to New York. This will be the first time in our 20-plus years of kindred-spirit-ship that we won’t be living in the same place.
For dinner: one of my chickens!
I was, what, 22 when I met Carrie. Graduate writing program, UNH. In addition to falling immediately in love with her, I became a 10-times better writer on the spot. She’s still my go-to editorial opinion. Got me started playing music, showed me where to put my fingers on a ukulele, crafted the sort of songs that make you have to write them too, started a band with me — my first. So whether it’s songs or sentences, her influence has shone through everything I’ve done ever since.
And now she’s inspiring me in love. I’m serious, you should see her and Marc together. You can’t be jaded or cynical. You just can’t.
So I’m meeting a lot of new people, making new friends, going to parties where I don’t know anyone, smiling and talking a lot, because what can I say? Life is pretty cool.
At a party where I knew almost everyone, we said good-bye to her longtime pad, Belle Manor. Crashed in Joe’s room, woke up too early, crossed paths with Carrie on her way back to bed from the bathroom, hugged her, said I’ll see you tomorrow night, and booked it over to Berkeley to make new friends. This guy Quinn had asked me to have lunch with him and his Cheap Eats fan girlfriend, by way of surprising her for her birthday.
I said what I say now: “Sure!”
They were colorful folks with cool things to say. Beautiful! And the food was all right. I was surprised, actually, because it had been a long time since I’d eaten at Vik’s Chaat Corner. I remembered it being better than this. Which isn’t to say it isn’t my new favorite restaurant, just that I was probably a little overhungover, underslept, and yeah, kind of crunched up inside.
We talked about: dancing, Dickens, the universe, Indiana, growing up weirdos in normal-ass places. We ate: Bhatura cholle, which is a huge puffy mushroom cloud of crispy doughy stuff you break apart with your hands and dip into a delicious garbanzo bean curry. A bunch of other things from the chaat menu, because these folks are vegetarian. And I ordered lamb baida roti to be contrary, but it backfired because it wasn’t very good. It was OK, but all the vegetarian stuff was better, especially bhel puri, which is pretty much rice crispies with onions and cilantro instead of milk and strawberries.
The place got supercrowded while we were sitting there, chatting and chaating. Fortunately, it’s a lot bigger than it used to be. Didn’t the eating area used to be in the same place as the store, tucked away in a corner or something? Well, Vik’s has changed (because things do). People still like it though, and Quinn and Cynthia love it.
She got a little boxful of desserty pastries because it was her birthday. Happy birthday, girl!
Chaat means “to lick,” it says on the menu.
Now I have to hit the kitchen again and see if I can’t make a miracle. I want this tough, too-old hen to be the best thing I ever cooked. I wanted this article to be the best one I ever wrote, but I don’t think that happened either. Edit me, Cares. SFBG
Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
724 Allston Way, Berk.
(510) 644-4432
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS I was serious when I said my nephew the Gun was invisible. The waiterguyperson came to our table with three menus, gave one to me and one to Cousin Lora, and then looked around confused, like what was he doing with three menus?
He turned and walked away with the third. My nephew looked at my menu with me.
Then a waitressperson came to our table and said, “Drinks?”
“Coffee,” we all said, one at a time, very clearly. That’s: one, two, three cups of coffee.
She came back with two coffees.
“Uh, one more?” said the Gun.
The waitressperson looked bewildered, like she was feeling something funny on the back of her neck.
“Three coffees. One more coffee,” I clarified. “That’s OK, Gun,” I said when she finally, mutteringly, went to get it. “We know you’re here.”
He didn’t say anything.
I was serious when I said that the Gun wanted to be an assassin when he grows up. He’ll be a good one, a natural. There’s the name, and there’s the invisibility. Fortunately, there’s also this: the fact that he will never grow up.
Growing up is not my family’s strong suit. And when I said that my intention was to “recorrupt” my nephew, well, I was serious but wrong. It became clear during our very next meal together that he was going to do something to me instead. “Unlearning,” he calls it.
I’m all for that.
For dinner: burritos! At el Tepa, because Lora likes it and because it’s just one block away from the Rite Spot where we were due afterward for an important Art Closing party. The Gun, I guessed, would fare better at taquerías and places where you order at a counter rather than relying on table service.
So he got a super quesadilla with chicken ($6.35), Lora got a super chicken mole taco ($3.73), and the chicken farmer liked the looks of the carnitas — in burrito form ($5.12).
While we were watching them make this all and answering questions about beans and salsa and such, the Gun said something very interesting to me: he said, “Which is hotter? Mild or medium salsa?”
On the surface a ridiculous question, and so I of course teased and poked him about it, because that’s how we express love in my family: by making fun of each other.
So we’re sitting down eating and talking and teasing, and everything was very delicious, of course, but especially the Gun’s thing, because it was good and grilled and meaty and cheesy. And I loved my burrito too, the pork and refrieds dancing quite wonderfully with each other. And I always ask for mild and hot salsa on mine, being a classic-model Gemini. So I’m touching it up with [TK how is this phrase supposed to be read: this, then that OR this-then-that ??? this then that] from the three tabletop salsas: green, light red, dark red. And I’m also this-then-that-ing my chips, liking the green and the light red, fearing the dark …
And the Gun goes into the light red with a chip and starts doing one of those hot hot hot dances.
So automatically I tease tease tease him, because to me that’s the mildest of the three, and boys are supposed to be tough. Especially assassins-in-training.
Well, we come to a disagreement when the Gun goes into the green and thinks it’s milder than the red. So now I’m going back and forth, rechecking my own buds, because I’m supposed to know, right? And yes, of the three, light red is mild, green is medium, dark red is hot. I’ll swear to it. I’ll stand up and fight for it, even die in defense of my point of view.
But instead, loving life (meals in particular, but also some of the other details) I choose diplomacy. “Lora,” I say, and she lifts her lovely head out of the mole. “Break the tie.” I push the mild and the medium in front of her. “Which one’s hotter?”
She tastes both and sides with the Gun.
So suddenly mild is hotter than medium, majority ruling, and the Gun’s goofy question makes all the sense in the world! Because there is no way to know the answer to this or any other dilemma, even the seemingly easy ones like 1 + 1, the meaning of life, and what kind of beans? I already knew this, of course, but I had to unlearn my way back to it. Again! Thank you, Gun. For now, I get it: ask, answer, and know that you don’t know shit.
Speaking of which … SFBG
Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
2198 Folsom, SF
(415) 255-8372
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible

Twisted logos


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS I wear a jean jacket with Chief Wahoo, the not exactly politically sensitive Cleveland Indians’ logo, embroidered on the back. Not sure what people behind me think of this, but here’s what I’m thinking from inside the jacket: warmth. And meaningfulness, because I embroidered this jacket myself when I was a kid. I was into sports, and I was into embroidery (and needlepoint and macramé). And warmth.
I gave the jacket to my nephew and best bud Tom the Bomb when he grew into it, and then he grew out of it too, and my sister gave it back to me after he died. I put the jacket in my closet, like ashes in an urn, and started losing weight. When I got down to 135, 140, I tried the jacket on and it fit me again, only girlishly! So I wear it and it means some things to me, and probably something else entirely to the people behind me.
Do I care?
Last week I wrote about my voice, and there’s an even bigger challenge looming for me, which doesn’t have anything to do with writing my name in the snow, really, although it kind of does too. It has to do with public restrooms, maybe the bloodiest of all the battlefields where transpeoplepersons conduct business. My therapist wants me to conduct my business in ladies’ rooms, because he’s afraid I’ll get beat up in the men’s room. But I’m afraid I’m just as likely to get beat up in the women’s room, and I’m not so sure which would hurt worse.
So, like a quarterback stepping to the line of scrimmage, I make my read, depending on how I feel, how good I think I’m looking, the likelihood of a blitz, where the hell in the world I am…. Sometimes I go in one, sometimes the other, and sometimes, of course, I hold it in.
So it’s not a question of being uncomfortable. It’s a question of how and where I choose to be uncomfortable. Comfort’s not an option. Unless … and you hate to even hope it out loud, it’s so hopeless, but some places do have unisex bathrooms, the symbol for which — Mr. and Mrs. Public Restroom Figure side-by-side on the same placard on or over the same door — has become as welcome and wonderful to me as the smell of bacon.
So the other day I’m gassing up my pickup truck at a place out on 19th Avenue, and the guy gassing up the pickup truck behind mine, I notice, is wearing a jacket with this exact logo on the back. The man and the woman. The anyone-pees-here logo, one at a time, please. You know the logo, right?
The association, for me — well, immediately it puts me in a happy mood. I’m thinking: I should talk to him if he turns around. Maybe he’s cute. I’m thinking: I wonder what I have in my truck that I could offer to trade this guy for his unisex-bathroom jacket. I would like to wear it when I’m not wearing my Chief Wahoo jean jacket, and this one too will have meaning for me. Beyond warmth.
As I’m getting back in my truck, watching him, the guy does turn around, and the front of his cool jacket says, “Straight Pride.”
My mood changes. What an asshole, I think. With his big fat truck and not exactly politically sensitive jacket. Jerk! And as I put my car in gear and lurch forward there’s a knock on the window. It’s Straight Pride guy, pointing to my roof and smiling and, you know, being kind and all-around human, saying, “Gas cap! Gas cap!” Oops. I get out, thank him profusely, love him again — because why shouldn’t straight people be proud? — and drive away bewildered and confused, like I like to be.
My nephew the Gun, speaking of bewildered and confused, no longer wants to be a stuntman for a living. This is the Bomb’s older brother, and maybe the most sensitive, and therefore smartest, of all my millions of nephews. He’s so sensitive that waitresspeople can’t even see him. Predictably, the Gun now aspires to be an assassin. You see what happens? Ohio + North Carolina = this, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have him out here again for at least a year this time, working for my phenomenal bro, living with my sweet, sweet cuz, and otherwise eating breakfast, talking philosophy, and just generally being recorrupted by the chicken farmer.
Where? My new favorite breakfast joint, of course! Great chicken-fried steak ($9.50). Great hash browns. The “house omelet” has bacon and sausage. Coffeehouse atmosphere, good coffee. It’s … SFBG
Mon., 7 a.m.–6 p.m.; Tues.–Fri., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sat., 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.–3 p.m.
1982 Folsom, SF
(415) 863-0742
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Listen in


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS It’s hard to talk to yourself. You don’t have anything to say, and you’re afraid you might be boring. But the trans man in the bar said if I wanted my voice to change, I was going to have to practice into a tape recorder. He sounded effortlessly like a man saying this, because one of the lucky things about taking testosterone is that your vocal chords automatically thicken and your voice gets deep.
Estrogen, on the other hand, doesn’t do a damn thing to your vocal chords.
Ah, between me and you, I never could stand the sound of my voice anyway, which is just one reason why I’m a writer and now an instrumentalist. However, every now and again some kind stranger with either a big heart or bad eyes will ma’am me, and then when I open my mouth to speak, they become flustered or worse: apologetic. I would like to give people the option of actually believing I am female, if they want, or at least getting it: that I am trans and trying — you know, intentionally — to look like I do.
So, OK, according to experts (a guy in a bar), I have to talk into tape recorders and listen back and practice. Great — I have a tape recorder in my car. I already do this: I whistle melodies, make up songs, ideas for what to write, and so on. Only instead of playing them back, because I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, I immediately erase these cassetteloads o’ brilliantness or tear them apart or burn them.
Lately I listen, and this is bad for one’s mental health. Seriously, I think psychological damage happens every time I hear myself talking from outside of my own head. The upside is that eventually, if this keeps up, I will be completely crazy, instead of just most-of-the-way, and we all know that crazy people are very good at talking to themselves.
So then I’ll be able to do this thing and get better at it and live happily ever after except when I’m sad and miserable. I love how life twists, turns, circles, and shoots off, just like atoms and sentences.
I was in the kitchen — or the “kitchen” end of my one-room shack — categorizing onions, when the phone rang. “Save me from myself,” I muttered, pouncing on it with enough suddenness to weird Weirdo-the-Cat right out of her skin.
It was my friend Last Straw. Could I cat-sit her three cats?
“Yes!” I screamed and then hung up.
Weirdo-the-Cat was staring at me, shuddering.
“Chicken-sit the chickens,” I told her, threw my toothbrush and makeup and baseball glove in the pickup truck, and went. I had city bidness to tend to anyway, such as one last meal with the Cookie Diva before she headed home to Cackalacky.
“Where do you eat breakfast around here?” I asked Last Straw while she was showing me where all the cat food goes.
“Café Floor,” she said.
“Not the cats,” I said. “Where do people eat breakfast?”
“Café Flore,” she said.
The trouble with cookie divas and chicken farmers having breakfast together is that they can never agree on a time. Divas sleep until noon, everybody knows, and chicken farmers wake up at the crack of dawn. I tried to get her to compromise, but Café Flore isn’t even open yet at 6:30 on a Saturday morning. So she won. We didn’t meet until nine.
I’d already had breakfast once by then, and coffee, and more coffee. So I just ordered coffee, and a frittata. A great one — with chile peppers, salsa, and pecorino cheese. It came with toast and potatoes, but I couldn’t finish them because I wasn’t really hungry.
The Diva had a bowl of oatmeal and remarked that it was much better than the bowls of oatmeal one typically gets in the South. I’m sure it cost at least three times as much too, because before coffees our meal came to 14 bucks, and I think mine wasn’t more than $8, $8.50 tops. But anyway it was delicious. And you gotta love Café Flore, atmospherically, with its great sidewalk patio, wood, greenery, and windows onto the colorful Castro world out there.
We talked and talked and the Diva, being a classically trained pianist, gave me a much-needed musical pep talk.
I offered her some of my potatoes. SFBG
Sun.–Thurs., 7 a.m.–11 p.m.;
Fri.–Sat., 7 a.m.–midnight
2298 Market, SF
(415) 621-8579
Takeout available
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible

Late-night luau


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS I mean, they were already practically married, but my friends Little Him and Little Her officially said they did in the Presidio last weekend, and there was a decidedly islandish theme to the event.
Hawaii, I mean — so technically I should have been playing the uke instead of steel pan. But I’m not a very technical person.
And this isn’t the society pages.
It’s the food section. You want to know about my week in Idaho, right, being a semiprofessional cook for the first and probably last time ever? Among other whimsical dishes, I invented angeled eggs. Instead of mayonnaise, you use, predictably, barbecued chicken. And instead of paprika, fresh salsa.
There was a barbecued squash stuffed with refried beans, sausage, and olives, and another sausage poked suggestively through cored zucchini slices. A pork feast marinated in unripe green grape juice (thanks, Chrissy), rubbed with fresh herbs and basted in pear barbecue sauce — everything but the pig courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. “Jack” Poetry’s garden.
I love using what nature and hecklers throw at you. Barbecued green tomatoes (because deer kept knocking them off the vines). Barbecued overripe cucumbers …
What else rolled off the grill was, of course, my signature dish, barbecued eggs. Which, so you know, have come a long way since I last wrote about them, last winter, I think. I think I was cooking them then in meat grease and barbecue sauce in a bread pan in the wood stove. Now I pour the beat-up eggs into cored bell peppers with chunks of sausage and/or whatever … toothpick a strip of bacon around the rim of the pepper, skewer the toothpick with a cherry tomato, olive, onion, and/or also whatever. And stand them up on the grill. It’s not quite perfected yet, because they fall and spill and take forever to set; but it’s getting there, and it not only tastes better but looks 10 times prettier than huevos Dancheros did.
I have a term for what I do, cooking-wise: nouveau trash.
There are other words as well. But the important thing is that, like Little League baseball, I had a lot of fun doing it. And I had, in Johnny “Jack,” Eberle “Jack,” and Georgie “Jack” Bundle, an appreciative and enthusiastic audience. They were working hard recording music all day, every day, and if not for the chicken farmer would have eaten nothing but toast and Cheerios for a week.
At the end of which week, I dropped Mr. Bundle off at the Boise airport so he could make it to his grandpa’s 90th birthday party and delivered his car full of gear to Oakland. The “Hawaiian Wedding Song” was already stuck in my head, and this was a week before the wedding.
In case you don’t know it, you can easily imagine: it’s a wedding song! The lyrics are unadulterated cheese, but the melody is spectacularly all-over-the-place. I was going to have to learn it, and I didn’t have anything better to do with my ears between Boise and Oakland, so I looped the recording and sang and whistled and hummed and yodeled and just generally drove myself crazy.
Next day needing something to eat in the Sunset, I thought of Island Café, that new Hawaiian joint where JT’s all-night diner used to be. Taraval and 19th Ave. Thematically, geographically, it just seemed like the thing to do. And I was all alonesome still, and they have a counter. A great one. An even greater one than it used to be, because there’s a big TV now, and women’s golf was on.
Women’s golf goes good with Hawaiian food. Who knew?
Instead of Spam and eggs or barbecued chicken soup, which I didn’t see until too late, I got Loco Moco ($8.65). That’s three hamburger patties, three scoops of rice because I didn’t want the macaroni (because of mayonnaise), some cabbage, and of course gravy. But not enough gravy. I distinctly remember reading the word “smothered” on the menu in reference to gravy, and neither the burgers nor the rice scoops were what I would call smothered. They were dolloped.
But besides that I have nothing bad to say about my new favorite Hawaiian restaurant. The service was good and friendly. Women’s golf. Uke. Surfboard. Good music. Good vibe. Nothing’s more than 10 bucks. A lot of things are a lot less.
And — and this is a big and — they’re open till 2 a.m., and all night Thursday through Saturday. SFBG
Sun.–Wed., 8–2 a.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 24 hours
901 Taraval, SF
(415) 661-3303
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Breema karma


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS This Cheap Eats restaurant review is a thank-you note to a guy named John. He bought all the tokens for a Thai temple brunch for me, Bernie, and Laura last Sunday. And technically it should have been the other way around, me tokening him, because he’d just breema’d me.
If you don’t know what breema is, I don’t know what to tell you. They bend, push, and dance on you, kind of like a massage, only you’re lying on the floor and it’s all very musical. Then you’re hungry and all relaxed and shit. I love it and am lucky to have two friends, Bernie and Laura, who are practitioners. And now John. Three friends.
If you don’t know who John is, he lives in Oakland, used to have chickens, still has a Ping-Pong table, two cool kids, couple watermelons on the counter, a big empty room with pillows along the walls, and lots of rugs. I think he might be the Big Cheese of Breema, because 1) he’s crazy good at it, and 2) he taught Laura, who I think taught Bernie, who used to practice on lucky me.
I have no interest in learning anything per se (like Latin), but I do like to receive. Massage, breema, packages, sensory information, tokens … At a Buddhist temple in Berkeley on Sunday mornings, you turn these tokens into Thai food. It’s a madhouse. Lines out the yinyang, no more meatballs, no more fish balls, nowhere to sit, general confusion … and still you gotta love it.
Know why? Because it’s different. It’s something else. It’s outside. The food’s pretty good, and at a dollar a token, five tokens for a big bowl of noodle soup, the price is pretty reasonable.
The soup line was way shorter than the meat line and the vegetarian line, and anyway soup seemed really really good to me. So that was where I stood. They had three different choices of noodles: wide, skinny, and skinnier. But they were out of everything else.
“No meat,” the serverguyperson said when I came to the counter.
“Fish balls,” I said.
“No fish balls,” he said.
I was just about to think I was in a Monty Python sketch when he gestured toward the adjacent vegetarian buffet and said, “Vegetable only. Fifteen minutes for meat.”
“I’ll wait,” I said and stepped to the side. But I’d already been waiting in lines and wandering between them like a lost little chicken farmer, and the next couple people behind me conceded to vegetable soup, and I had to admit that the noodles, the dark broth with the little load of color on top, looked dang delicious.
After this I was going to play at a block party barbecue in Albany for food and tips, and then after that I was invited to another barbecue back in the city. I did the math. Meat plus meat equaling meat meat meat, I broke down and went with veggies for brunch.
So now I had this nice bowl of steaming vegetable soup and no idea where all my friends were. In the process of looking for them, wandering around like a lost little chicken farmer, I discovered on a remote fringe of the mayhem a no-line-at-all fried chicken station, and the chickens looked great, but I was all out of tokens.
Also found: a stage with colorfully dressed musicians playing traditional Thai stuff to tables and tables of happy eaters. No friends and no room for me and my soup, not there, not in the main part of the pavilion, not in the alley …
My soup was starting to get cold. I was dying of hunger. Buzzards were circling. I looked at the sky, looked at my feet, kicked the bleached bones and tumbleweeds out of my path, and pushed on.
Here they were! Sitting cross-legged on the grass and sidewalk out front, eating stuff. Although I tasted some of everything, and everything was good, I think my favorite thing (because I’d never had it before) was this little fluffy doughy doodad cooked with coconut milk and stuffed with green onions.
But Bernie, bless him, had scored one of the last fish ball soups, and I managed to mostly eat that. Thank you, Bernie. The fish balls were wonderful. SFBG
Sun., 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
1911 Russell, Berk.
(510) 849-3419
No alcohol
Credit cards not accepted
Wheelchair accessible

Lap lessons


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS This week’s madcap adventure begins with a cute little kitten toddling into the chicken farmer’s life and saying, in effect, “Help!” Must of been abandoned by its mama. People sometimes abandon cute little kittens too, in the wild, but usually not out back behind the water tank. They leave them in a box by the road.
So OK, what to do with a cute little kitten, so small it can barely stand and doesn’t quite know how to eat yet? I took it inside my shack and showed it to a platter of milk and Weirdo the Cat. Maybe in the back of Weirdo’s indoor-atrophied peanut brain she would have enough residual mothering instinct to teach a hungry helpless furball how to lap up milk.
Weirdo sniffed the cute little kitten, hissed, and went and hid behind the wood stove. The c.l.k. toddled across to the milk, did a little Jesus dance, and continued to cry and whine. I called my brother and sister-in-love, who both have better brains than mine. “What to do with a cute little kitten?” I asked their voice mail.
Deevee called me back almost immediately and said, “No way. I just ran into Jen Hallflower today and she asked me if I knew where she could get a kitten!”
I was on my way to the city anyway, so I packed up the c.l.k. and took her with me. At the gas station in Petaluma, I got some medicine that came with a dropper, rinsed the dropper out with water, filled it with milk, and squirted it into the kitten’s eye. She cried little white tears onto her leg and licked them. So she knew how to clean herself. Good.
I dirtied her up with milk, and after practice that night we crashed at Earl Butter’s, me in the closet, where I like to sleep for nostalgic reasons, and the c.l.k. in bed with Earl, who, it turns out, has more residual mothering instinct left in the back of his indoor-atrophied peanut brain than Weirdo the Cat. By morning he had taught our kitten how to lap up milk from a saucer.
I wish you could of seen the chicken farmer at the height of his or her popularity, sitting outside at Martha’s on Cortland Street, waiting for Jen Hallflower. Almost everyone in the world wanted to talk to me and touch the c.l.k.
So, this is what it’s like to be a woman, I thought.
Psych. Well, Jen showed up and of course fell in love, because it really was the cutest thing you ever saw, so there went my five minutes of popularity. Oh well. And even though I did have a very delicious wild blueberry crumb cake with my coffee, that’s all I’m going to say about Martha’s on Cortland Street.
The Hallflowers are a band, with Jen and her sister and mom, and they sing so pretty you don’t know what to do with yourself. Kittenless, Earl Butter and me walked to the Castro and ate a proper Thai meal with the Cookie Diva, who’s in town for the summer from North Carolina. Remember? She’s the one who flew me a to-go order of pulled pork, hush puppies, and sweet tea, thereby becoming my Friend for Life and one of the first Cheap Eats Hall of Famers.
This was back when you could bring barbecue on an airplane. Remember?
Well, wait’ll you hear what I ate at Thai Chef on 18th Street, just past Castro. Fried chicken fried rice! You read me rightly. Fried. Chicken. Fried. Rice ($6.95).
I had never heard of such a thing before, but maybe because I rarely if ever even look at the Fried Rice section of a menu. Does this happen? Does fried chicken fried rice occur in nature or just at my new favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Chef?
In any case I ordered it of course and it was a strip of juicy breaded boneless chicken pieces, like a Mohawk haircut over a huge head of fried rice, with just the egg and not much else. Simple and soulful.
Earl Butter and the Diva ordered their things, and everything was great, but my favorite memory is of the prawn salad ($7.95), which was minty and lemony and oniony and just delicious. We discussed the difference between prawns and shrimp and I think decided that it all depends on what you’re wearing while you eat them.
I forget. Overalls? SFBG
Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight
4133 18th St., SF
(415) 551-2433
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Loops and dashes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS A long-lost beloved cousin asks if I can still “write my name in the snow,” and it takes me two days to figure out what this means. I wasn’t sitting on my ass, either. I started out with slide rules, compass, protractor … 26 ounces of iodized salt poured into a Pyrex baking dish, by way of a working model (necessary nutrients supplied). I was able to write my name, kind of, with the eraser end of a pencil. But the grooves tended to fill in, and anyway, salt ain’t snow, as the saying goes.
It has in fact snowed and stuck up here twice since I moved to Sonoma County the first time, four years ago. I scoured my journals, diaries, and notebooks for any mention of having written my name in it.
Nothing. On the morning of the second day, not having slept at all, I brought in a team of grad students to help me brainstorm all the possible ways of writing one’s name in the snow — with a snowblower, a shovel, a motorcycle, boots, small rocks, bottles of ketchup, propane torch …
The Eureka Moment came, finally, a couple hours after lunch, when one of my assistants, in a fit of creative depletion, slammed shut his laptop and said, “Ah, piss on it.”
You will imagine the silence, please … the creak of my chair, turning to face him, the sound of spilt coffee dripping onto painted hardwood. The long pause as we all stared at each other …
Then, while they were popping champagne and dancing their various end-zone dances, I dashed off a quick e-mail to my cousin, saying, “Yes!”
For future reference, Cuz, and everyone else in the world, while I can certainly understand and respect that some questions strike some people as inappropriate, rude, or otherwise out of line, my own personal preference is to be asked and asked and asked. And I think I am unoffendable, so there’s no need to hem or haw or speak in code.
“How do I make people understand,” I asked my old friend Ask Isadora, “that whether there is choice or not, if I had a choice, I would choose this?”
Being an expert on the subject, Ask answered me intelligently, articulately, and with eloquence, in English, and I listened and heard and understood. Then the waitressperson arrived with my waffle and it was so loaded with fresh, sliced strawberries that my memory was erased. You know, like when the UFO returns you to the cornfield and your entire consciousness shifts from that point of ultimate enlightenment to the mundane matter of where the hell the corn came from.
And in many cases, how to get out of it.
But corn is beautiful and so are strawberries and sausage patties and Ask Isadora. When I looked up from the Meaning of Life, or my plate, the matriarch of sex talk had a tear on her face and she opened her mouth and said, “Do you want my butter?”
I did! You know all about me and butter (and waffles and sausage). But a tear on a face is personal information, so I’m going to have to ask Ask for permission to continue — hopefully without finding out what the tear was for, so I can speculate.
My first thought whenever I see a tear on a face, of course, is too much hot sauce. And I think that’s what I thought in that split second before looking away and carrying on with my delicious waffle and our delightful conversation.
But as I write this, surprising myself with the memory, I have to wonder, because I don’t remember her using hot sauce. Now as you might imagine, through the years my attitude toward my food has reduced a lot of people to tears for a lot of different reasons, not always because it’s moving to see someone so mesmerized, intent, and on fire — what Catholics call “inspired by the Holy Spirit” and I call breakfast.
Ask Isadora had a very close friend who was transgender and died at 45 of something I don’t know how to spell but which I do know is commonly associated with taking estrogen. I’m 43. I’m going to go out on a seemingly sturdy limb and say that seeing me for the first time in years triggered a memory of that tragic loss. In which case, since I am in one sense Veronica or Victoria and others, it’s kind of like shedding a tear for my own death, how and whenever, and puts me in the weird and welcome position of being able to say, “Thanks, Ask!” SFBG
Daily: 6 a.m.–8:30 p.m.
1507 Park, Alameda
(510) 522-8108
Takeout available
No alcohol
Credit cards not accepted
Wheelchair accessible

Squeaky wheels


By L.E. Leone
› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Hey now, don’t forget about the Cotati Accordion Festival this summer. Every summer I tell you about it, and every summer you forget to go. I know because I live in Sonoma County and I’ve never been there either.
But of all our great country’s famous yearly thematic bashes that I haven’t ever once attended, the Cotati Accordion Festival is by far my favorite. It’s ridiculously fun, you can just tell. Mark your calendar: Aug. 26–27, downtown Cotati in the park with the statue of the accordion player, off 101 North less than an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t miss it.
Me, I’m missing it. I’ll be in Idaho, like I am every August on that weekend, except this time instead of playing at the Council Mountain Music Festival, I’m going to be a professional cook for the first time ever. Boy am I nervous — and excited. Cause while my friends are recording the score for a movie, I’m in charge of feeding them and cleaning up and stuff, which will be like a dream come true for me, provided that one of the onions turns into Burl Ives and lectures me on dental hygiene while pointing ominously at a banjo.
One thing about driving a pickup truck is that every now and then you can have a bicycle in back, instead of bales of straw and sacks of feed and scrap wood. Get this: my pickup truck kerplunks on me early morning one morning in Rohnert Park on my way to Kaiser to get blood tested, and what do I have in back but … my bike!
So I biked to my bloodletting. I was fasting and needed coffee bad. And Pop-Tarts. Then, after all that, I biked down to Cotati, to the park with the statue of the accordion player in it, and I called my closest geographical girlfriend, Orange Pop Jr., in San Rafael and convinced her to come rescue-slash-have-lunch with me.
My hero!
I want to tell you a secret, San Francisco. Sonoma County has bigger burritos than you do. Example: Rafa’s in downtown Cotati, just south of the park with the statue of the accordion player, where OP2 and the chicken farmer sat outside under an umbrella on a beautiful day, talking about boys and of course chickens and, um, farming.
It’s a full-on Mexican restaurant, great atmosphere inside and out. Our waitressperson “she’d” me. Then she mal-recognized her “mistake” and apologized profusely and I had to comfort and reassure her that in fact she had made my day, as she all the while played with my hair. This was pretty cool.
Like my new pal OP2, the burritos are LA–style, which means that you have to ask for rice, if you want it. Which we did, but even without, Rafa’s burritos are about as big as … well, they’re two-mealers, and they run from $4.75 to $7.50, with chips.
Afterward, OP2 drove me to San Rafael and put me on a bus for the city, and I BARTed to West Oakland and borrowed my sister-in-love’s pickup truck just in time to drive back home and close my chickens in before foxes ate them. So that was a pretty transportational day for me.
But I have another brother who you haven’t met yet. His name is Santa Claus and he’s only 12 years old. Defiantly, he has two kids, a decent job, and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. I picked him up at the airport a couple days later still with Deevee’s truck, and his luggage consisted of parts for mine from our family’s own private backyard junk yard in Ohio. Bless my brothers, I’ll be back on my wheels in no time.
Anyway, Nick’s his real name. It was his first time in San Francisco, so I took him to Oakland — to Penny’s Caribbean Café, which is in Berkeley, technically. But I refuse to believe it.
Then I took him to Oregon, where people dance. My new favorite truck stop is Mollie’s in Klamath Falls, not because they used to make a 12-egg omelet, but because they still do make chicken fried steak omelets. It has Swiss cheese inside, and gravy and gravy and gravy all over the top of it, and comes with hash browns and biscuits. You eat this thing and you can’t help thinking that the universe just hums with love, humor, and harmonicas.
And then you need a nap. SFBG
Sun.–Wed., 9 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Thurs.–Sat., 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
8230 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati
(707) 795-7068
Takeout available
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Let’s see, last week I ate at TJ’s Gingerbread House in West Oakland, and it wasn’t cheap eats because it was dinnertime on Georgie Bundle’s birthday. He’d always wanted to go there. As have I, and as has anyone else who rides BART and looks out the window.
Unless you have a very, very special occasion — which, if you don’t know Georgie Bundle I can’t even imagine what such a thing might be — satisfy your curiosity over breakfast. Get this: a salmon croquette, two scrambled eggs, grits, fruit salad, and orange juice for $6.95.
That’s good. Lunch is … reasonable. You can get jambalaya for $10.95, or crawfish pie, red beans and rice, or dirty rice for under 10.
The jambalaya’s great. Dinnertime: $24.95!!!
So: not cheap eats, like I said. Moving right along. Another place I ate last week was I had boat sushi at Sushi Boat downtown. Earl Butter talked me into this. If I hadn’t been sitting in the sun since eight in the morning on Hippy Hill, drinking free coffee and watching my new favorite surf band, the Del Mars, my brain might not have been sufficiently addled. But it was. Maybe it was all the surfy sounds that made me susceptible. Any case, I don’t regret it, because sushi, as always, hit the spot. But … not cheap eats.
Of course, sushi never exactly is cheap eats, give or take No Name Sushi. So what am I supposed to do, never ever write about sushi?
Earl Butter — what a card! First, during the tugging-on-my-sleeve portion of the enterprise, he insists to me that boat sushi is as cheap as No Name. I don’t believe him. He insists. I still don’t believe him.
But he continues to insist until, after we’ve finally found parking downtown and are hoofing the 37 blocks to Geary and whatever, he acknowledges that, oh, by the way, he hasn’t been there since the ’90s, when he worked for Chuck Schwab and was generally flush. Whereas now he’s a retired cabbie toiling tenuously for my little brother and only eating, I sometimes think, when I feed him.
So it’s a little before noon on a Sunday, and while everyone else in the world is lined up out the door at all my favorite Sunday breakfast spots, like Just For You and, um, Just For You, me and Earl rock right into Sushi Boat, roll down the stairs, and buddy up to the counter, where the boats are docked — just setting there, no cargo, no go. We’re the only ones there.
They seem to want us to order from the menu. But that defeats the purpose of boat sushi: to pull good-looking plates of sushi willy-nilly and at random from the cute little wooden boats as they circle around the moat. This is great fun for small children and Earl Butter, but I can see the restaurant’s point too: why would they want to prepare all kinds of random sushi plates for two clowns to pick a few, on whims, and then have to throw everything else away if nobody else shows?
After hours of intense talks, threats, and heated negotiation (or, in the real world, about a half minute of pointing and one-word sentences) Earl Butter and our waitressperson have reached a historic compromise: they will set the boats a-spinning, and we will order from the menu. The boats are just atmosphere.
By the time we’re done eating, however, there are a couple other pairs of people sitting around the counter, and the sushi chefs are starting to load cargo into the boats. So, instead of being done eating, we eat more.
Good, but not cheap eats.
Anyway, what I really wanted to tell you about was the amazing rooftop party I went to in the Tenderloin, where my new hero, a cat named Jerry, cooked this incredible load of paella — on a Weber! Watching that happen, and then getting some, was the highlight of my weekend, if not the whole summer so far.
But I only have space left to induct Jan Swearingsomething into the Cheap Eats Hall of Fame for inviting me. While I’m at it, I’d also like to induct Johnny Del Mar, who has been sending me Frank Zappa tapes for 5 to 10 years, even though I still don’t get it. And, since good things come in threes: Rimma D., who drove all the way to Penngrove one time to see Lord Exister play in a lesbian bar, and gave me bonbons.
In other words: people continue to rock, and the chicken farmer keeps on dancing to it. SFBG
Last Saturday, 4 p.m. to whenever
Somewhere in the Tenderloin, SF
(415) 555-1212
Invitation only
Lots and lots of alcohol, etc.
Credit cards not accepted
Very, very noisy

Pan stanzas


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS After three or four days of sleeping under stars, swimming in rivers, and staring into the fire, I have nothing in me but poetry — so don’t bother looking for any restaurants in this restaurant review.
Here’s one I caught while my brother and friends were fishing for fish. Let’s call it “Water Bug Poem.”
On the American River, in it, up to my gut, watching water bugs. Who said that corn and cows were beautiful to the extent that they were what they were? Water bugs disprove you, existing more fully in their river bottom shadows, perfect circle feet on slapstick-figure bodies, skitting over rocks, mud, rocks. Every now and then a dead one floats by and what’s the difference, under water? I don’t care where, I’ll say it again, in bubbles: You’re beautiful. I have a big straw hat and sunscreen, stand alone, shriveled and shivering, no longer feeling my big white feet beneath me. You know how it is? When all you can do to be warm is piss yourself.
That’s a poem, even though it might not look like one and has urine in it. Come to think of it, damn me, there was a psychiatrist on this camping trip with us, and I forgot to ask her why a chicken farmer in his or her forties would still be fascinated by scatology. Of course she was pretty much stoned the whole time almost, I think, so I don’t know how professional an opinion it would have been.
One e-mailer wonders if I secretly hate my readers. I don’t think so, but I’m willing to wonder anything in the world or even sometimes just outside of it. So…
No, I really don’t think so. Or if I do secretly hate my readers, I secretly love them too, so the two you would think would cancel each other out, right, rather than make me shit on their heads every week in July, year after year? My own uneducated guess, dear reader, is that if there is any secret hatred behind all this, it’s not about you. It’s between me and me — and I promise to try to work that out in therapy next week. Because your point is well-taken: “Life is hard enough on a bad day without getting besieged with the contents of [my] intestines.”
Another possibility is that “shit happens,” and maybe I personally have managed to make my peace with that fact. But that doesn’t mean I have to rub it in everyone else’s face. I could very easily flush, light a match, open a window, exit stage left in a cloud of shame and sheepishness, and find something more universally entertaining to be proud about in print.
Like pee! Just kidding. Farts? Farts are funny to everyone, right? And they always were and always will be? Right? Can we compromise and have a Toot-Toot Pride Month?
I’m still kidding. Sorry. And I do have another poem to tell you. Call it, um, “Someone in the Kitchen,” because someone’s been in mine. Can you tell?
I succeeded in not thinking about you sometimes, actually, in the mountains. Then, winding home on the nearly no-lane road, I started seeing blackberries. Already itchy and pinched, I pulled over and started picking, easily overflowing a tin bowl and cup before it hit me: Dude, you have my pie pan. I want it back.
That there is a true-story poem, and I ate all those blackberries before I got out to the main road, for the record. It’s that black teeth time of year again for me, hooray! Almost drove off the road several times, smiling at myself in the rearview mirror, for kicks. It would have been a very scenic death at least.
Well, once you get to 80 West, you have to drive past Ikeda’s twice, once just outside of Auburn and then again just inside of Davis. I made it past the first but could not resist the second, partly because I needed gas and to pee real bad anyway.
Take the Mace Boulevard exit. And never mind all the produce and other stuff. I think the Auburn one even has burgers. But the important thing about Ikeda’s, if you don’t already know, is the pie. They make the best homemade pies that weren’t made by anyone you know (because someone has his or her pie pan, ahem).
I found a day-old mini peach one for half price ($3.00). It’s like 6 inches across by 2 1/2 inches deep, which is a lot of wonderfulness for, say, two people, or one person twice, if you’re me.
But it’s not a restaurant. SFBG
Daily, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
26295 Mace Blvd., Davis
(530) 750-3379
Takeout only