CHEAP EATS Another weekend away, playing unlikely gigs in unheard of places, like Oregon and Idaho. This time: a punch-and-cookie country dance party down at the elementary school, a train depot, and a barbecue joint.
My new favorite rural Idaho restaurant: Sagebrush BBQ in New Meadows. It’s two days later and I’m still picking still-tasty morsels of pork from between my teeth. They must have fed us a hundred dollars worth of meat, on top of everything else. And we must have earned it, because I believe I saw three or four grandpas in our audience, in a fit of inspiration over our rowdy old-time cowboy music, order a beer.
The band was my brother Chris and me, as usual, but this time with our brother Jean-Gene the Frenchman on bass. Which was a novel and nice thing for us, but also kind of squirmy. It was clear that Chris — normally the smoothest of front men — wanted so badly to let everyone know that we were family, and his contorted efforts to do so without actually using the word “brother,” in reference to me, were … well, excruciating.
Conceptual considerations aside, there’s an unwritten rule in show business that you can’t just toss off multisyllabic words like “transgender” while wearing a cowboy hat. And “sibling” would have sounded fatally self-conscious. I sympathized with his dilemma, big time, but my hair and makeup weren’t helping matters by doing all the right things for a change; in one of those goofy twists of fate, in Bumfuck, Idaho, I think I might have looked about as pretty as I’ve ever looked.
Enormously complex problems such as this almost always have a ridiculously simple solution. On the third night, outside on the patio at the Sagebrush, long before any kind of semiformal introductions could have crossed the mind of even the most conscientious of band leaders, I stepped up to the microphone myself and said, tilting my head toward our usual spokesmanperson (whose hair, by the way, is even longer and probably prettier than mine, although legitimized by a scraggly Fu Manchu mustache), “This is my brother Chris.”
Clap clap clap. He tipped his cowboy hat to the crowd.
Then I gestured toward the clean-cut Frenchman to my right and said, “This is my brother Gene.”
Clap clap, tip of the cowboy hat, clap.
Problem solved! By way of gravy it occurred to me to keep talking. And this is one of my proudest moments ever in the area of public address. “Two of us come from San Francisco, and the other lives in Pennsylvania,” I said, pausing just long enough to make a little eye contact, let them take us in, live and in context, before adding, “Can you guess which are which?”
Instantaneously, you could see the fear and confusion melt from the brows of the elderly Idahoans, ranchers, and bikers. Or maybe it was me who relaxed, while they laughed and loved us, some of them even dancing on hot gravel wearing open-toed sandals, until three sets later we were all fast friends.
In fact, this might have been the first time in my extensive, illustrious career as a touring rock ’n’ roll superstar that I could have maybe actually gotten laid, almost — and not by an octogenarian, either. Some of our most enthusiastic fans were under sixty!
Two, in particular, were right around my age. Early forties. And everyone agreed that they were hot for me. This felt good. I wasn’t so sure, but they did make a point of advertising the fact, from the middle of the dance floor, or gravel pit, that they were going to be samba dancing in the Independence Day Parade down in Council, we should come …
Well, it’s Independence Day, right now, and I’m a long way from Council, Idaho. I’m in San Rafael. I just dropped the Frenchman off at a job site around the corner, where him, Chris, and Earl Butter are putting in an honest day’s work, mudding and drywalling and stuff.
Only one of my chickens died while I was gone, and I feel a little like a failure of a chicken farmer for not having ax-murdered her myself, before I left. Because I knew she was sick enough.
Anyway, this — this muddy, dry wall of words — is my very own, personal idea of an honest day’s work, and it was constructed by me over a cup of strong coffee and a pleasantly surprisingly good bowl of gumbo with more chickens and sausage in it than rice ($4.75). Where? SFBG
Daily, 7 a.m.–11 p.m.
1122 Fourth St., San Rafael
Beer and wine
Credit cards not accepted
- No categories
CHEAP EATS The chicken farmer has a high tolerance for surreality …
Woke up on a strange couch with a strange cat on my arm that was not Weirdo the Cat. It was a strange time of morning. I could tell it was morning by how badly I had to go, but it wasn’t the slightest bit light out. Went, came back and made love to the cat, but could not fall asleep.
I thought about things.
Things were pretty fucked up, almost everyone would have to agree — with the possible exception of me. Things are not fucked up, things are not fucked up, I said to myself, like a little engine, and the cat rubbed its dewy black nose against my white one. I knew it was going to be a kind of a day, but still could not sleep.
The instant it got the slightest bit light out, I bounced off the couch, found some coffee in the freezer, rinsed the French press, and made my new favorite cup of coffee. Wish I knew what kind, but the bag was blank.
Not a clock in the house, no phone. The radio on top of the refrigerator told me, eventually, that it was 5:55, the fog would roll off by noon, and traffic was not yet an issue. In a strange bathroom, I dumped one of the strangest loads of my life, a Dairy Queen Dream with a slight, spicy curry goat afterbite, followed shortly by two Solid Gold encores, pause, applause, and a lingering bouquet that could have raised Bukowski from the dead.
The cat seemed interested.
Put on my weirdest pants, with red, orange, and yellow flowers and big pineapples, a not-weird-enough shirt, watered the cat, played bite-my-finger-no-don’t-bite-my-finger with her, packed up my sleeping bag, and went across town to wake up my sister-in-love, Diane.
After breakfast we helped line Market Street for the Pride Parade and waved and went, “Woo!”
Diane became more interested in footwear. I lost her somewhere between the Shoe Pavilion and that other one, and wandered wonderingly until lunch, looking for someone, anyone I knew, and smiling a lot, even though I never found them.
I had already made a lunch date at Little Delhi on Eddy and Mason, just a block off of the parade. There were billions of beautiful, interesting people decorating the streets and sidewalks, but I like to be unfashionably early for things, so I sat inside at the counter and watched some soccer on TV while waiting for my new friend Elliott.
Gotta love an Indian restaurant with a counter.
Elliott showed and we sat in a booth and ate butter chicken ($7.99), saag paneer ($6.99), roti ($1.50), naan ($1), and rice. Everything was great. We talked a lot about a lot of things, including punk rock and bagpipes, but one subject we did not touch on at all was Mr. T Cereal, because that had already been covered in an e-mail. In which I apparently displayed such mastery of the subject of the obscure ex-delicacy that Elliott presented me a trophy, an old Yoko Ono 45 with a plastic lobster glued to it and the typewritten words: “you win.”
I was proud.
As they were clearing away our plates, a cockroach, to everyone’s embarrassment but mine, dashed from under one and paraded across the table. I waved, went “Woo!” and squashed it.
Then, instead of playing baseball, I rejoined the party. Called Earl Butter from a pay phone (50¢) and said, “Butter, get your straight ass down here and be proud with me.”
“Coming,” he said.
And he did, and we found a few things to dance to before the prospect of warmth, pork chops, and rum called us back to the Mission.
On Van Ness, trying to chase down a 49 that wasn’t even close to moving, we walked into an old pal who hadn’t seen me in a while. He’d heard, but had assumed it was a prank. My clownishness haunts me.
Our old pal’s married, having a girl, and he gave us both business cards. “You always seemed so masculine,” he said to me. Amused, like I like it. Not challenging.
“Yeah,” I said. Felt drunk, and left it at that. I’ll write to him, say: You know, no matter how fucked up and tangled things can get around you or just outside of you, one of the easiest things in the world to do is to close your eyes and take another breath, forget every single thing you know except aliveness. Something like that. Or: Baby, your body talks, you listen. SFBG
Daily, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.
83 Eddy, SF
Takeout and delivery available
She doth protest
CHEAP EATS It was Pride month so I was proud. In my own small chicken farmerly way, I celebrated the T and the B — mostly by lying in my hammock, looking at trees and birdies, and going, “Woohoo!” But also a little bit in this column, no?
Well, in any case, it’s all over now. It’s time once again to bow our heads in shame and shuffle around with our hands in our pockets looking for doo-doo to step in.
July, as longtime readers of this column may recall, is supposed to be Poo Poo Pride month, in celebration of my yard-long expulsion of 2005.
Now, before you groan yourself blue in the butt, listen to the rest of what I have to say: This year, I am canceling Poo Poo Pride. And not because it isn’t ladylike to celebrate all things brown and stinky. Some of my favorite ladies in the world just love to talk about poo poo, and last year of all the two or three people who weighed in in support of Poo Poo Pride, almost every single one of them was in fact a lady. And the other, as I recall, was kind of faggy, so …
No, the reason I am canceling Poo Poo Pride this year is because I want there to be an uproar. It’s all very maneuveristic and manipulative of me. It’s strategy, and I know it’s not very strategic to explain your strategy to the world up front and out loud, but otherwise how will everyone know what to do?
I want three or four people to sign a petition, and one or two to write letters to the editor saying how the hell are we supposed to take a crap and feel good about it without Leone’s lovingly described 40-inchers and philosophical contemplation of floaters, and, and — I want to turn on the TV one night and see an animated children’s special with a feel-good ending called “A Year Without a Poo Poo Pride Month.”
I know this is a lot to ask. But asking a lot seems to be what I do best these days. So ask I will, and may the universe ignore me if it dares.
Crawdad’s new squeeze wants her to start farting in front of him. She’s reticent. I’m with him. Nothing facilitates intimacy like intra-couple flatulence, I always say. I didn’t say this at DeLessio’s, sitting outside with them on the cool, colorful, partially walled sidewalk patio; I waited until after.
“Nothing facilitates intimacy like intra-couple flatulence,” I said.
The new squeeze said, “What?”
“Bullshit,” quoth Crawdad de la Cooter. “We farted in front of each other all the time, and look where we are now.”
I looked. We were in the garage at our old place on York Street, sorting through the last of our stuff, new guy mediating our little squabbles very nicely and with humor. He’s also got the only practical mind among us, which comes in handy.
Another thing that comes in handy: He loves chocolate. That’s great! I know this now because I’m getting a sweet tooth, and I worry about my girlish figure, and you gotta love a pal who loves chocolate, because you can say, no, no, I don’t want any dessert, and then eat at least half of whatever they order.
In this case: a chocolate-filled brioche with more butter in it than a lot of people keep in their refrigerator. And a sampling of these cool sort of sheets of various styles of chocolate they call bubble-wrap. Because it looks like bubble wrap.
All of which is well and good, but the real reason I call DeLessio’s my new favorite restaurant is for the sandwiches. And my saying so should astound you. It does me. They cost like seven, eight bucks, and they’re all premade and shrink wrapped and shit, so you can’t even say no mayo, no mustard. Speaking of bullshit.
But … and this is one of the biggest buts ever, they do have muffulettas, the old New Orleans specialty, with three kinds of meat (mortadella, ham, salami), two kinds of cheese (provolone, mozzarella), and, by definition, this super-delicious olive spread stuff instead of mayo or mustard. Not as good as Central Grocery, but … even better, in a way, because it’s here. Right here, at the corner of Market and Valencia.
Also haves: red snapper po’boy, Cuban pork, cupcakes, and buffet tables full of hot things and cold things for $7.95 per pound. From which I can only vouch for the mac and cheese: excellent. SFBG
DELESSIO MARKET AND BAKERY
Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m.;
Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
1695 Market, SF
Takeout and catering available
Beer and wine
Lick your pronouns
CHEAP EATS Years ago when I haunted the other edge of this continent I lived in a chickenless shack under the bridge between New Hampshire and Maine. Me and Bikkets kept our bed on the screened-in porch in order that there would be room indoors for the Ping-Pong table.
From the other side of our see-through dream-through blow-through walls at night came the lights, sounds, and smells of a cross-river gypsum plant, Boston-bound 18-wheelers, seagulls, lobster boats, and salt water. At high tide the Piscataqua River flowed right up under our little fish house and deck and slapped rather romantically against the cement block foundation of the shack proper. At low tide you could follow the pipes from the toilet through the mud under the fish house, and out a little ways to a river-bedded mosaic of toilet paper and brown things.
I’ll never forget the mix of horror and delight with which I discovered, one low, low tide, that rich tourists, seacoast summerers (including the family Bush), and fancy-pants restaurant-goers who could afford to order Maine lobsters were in one manner of speaking eating my shit.
But my favorite memory from that era (late late ’80s) was waking up one weekend morning in the middle of the afternoon, putting on my glasses, and seeing my big buddy Carl camped on the roof of the fish house with a book and a bag of chips, respectfully waiting to see me stir before booming, “SKINLESS FRANKS!!!!!!”
All caps, six exclamation marks. This, from the rocking voice of Boston’s best newscaster by day, the Charm Dogs’ shirtless drummer by night. And, more importantly than all that, the only one I know who can beat me five games out of ten at Ping-Pong. Or six.
The reason I bring this all up, when I do have a new favorite restaurant to tell you about, is because this morning when I rolled out of bed at six in the morning, being a chicken farmer now, not a rock star, I put on my glasses, fired up the computer, and had an e-mail from Carl saying, “SKINLESS FRANKS!!!!!!”
Through the years, as we have slid in and out of touch with each other, this is our way of picking up where we left off, with our old skinless franks greeting. I don’t remember where it came from, except that in those days, before I moved out here and became soft, that was what was on the grill. Hot dogs. Chicken thighs. Not all these prissy, highbrow things I live on now, like pork butts.
Hey Carl, my skinless franks brother, I think the reason I let us lose track of each other this time is because it’s hard to say to the guy you used to hang out in sports bars with that you’re going around now in capris and lipstick. Even when you know it’s going to be OK.
So, OK, since it’s still Pride month and not quite next month, let’s let this be about poop and pride. All mixed up. If you’re an old friend or great-aunt of mine, and you haven’t seen me in a couple years, and if you’re just tuning in, or if you’ve been tuned in and still don’t get it, get it: I’m trans!
To review: hormonally female, gonadically male, and in every other way somewhere in-between. That’s the easy part. The hard part is semantics. I think of myself as “me,” and I prefer to be thought of from the outside as “she.” So, hell yeah, if you ask, she me. Sister me. Humor me.
Watch what happens.
But you know, San Rafael is hard up for Chinese food. I know because I had some serious time to kill there the other day while they scraped up a body or something from the road.
I don’t know where to eat in San Rafael. Don’t think I’ve ever eaten in San Rafael in my life, have I? So I had to do a thing that I of all people should know better than to do: I had to look at the restaurant reviews in the windows.
House of Lee, of all the downtown places I saw, had the most positive write-ups. Glow glow glow, tea-smoked duck, salt and pepper prawns, green onion pancakes. . . Cheap, cozy, the place had new favorite Chinese restaurant written all over it.
Except you can’t believe what you read, see, even if someone else besides me wrote it, because they don’t have tea-smoked duck, the green onion pancakes are lame, and the prawns didn’t make much sense to me. How do you eat fried prawns with the shells still on, without losing all the deliciously seasoned breading?
A: Use your hands, lick your fingers. SFBG
HOUSE OF LEE
Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
885–887 Fourth St., San Rafael
Takeout and delivery available
Twain shall meatless
CHEAP EATS You’re probably tired of hearing about my dehumidifier. What? No? You can’t get enough of it? Well that’s great because it’s kind of like my curse, or part of it, to have to call ’em like I see ’em, no matter how boring or embarrassing. And I know this is embarrassingly boring, but I gotta tell you: Dehumidifiers are where it’s at, man.
I can dry my hands on a towel now and they actually get less wet. Things like salt once again work. I can write with pens, on paper! My keys aren’t rusty. I no longer have to squeegee the mirror every morning just to see my mildewy face. And best of all I can once again cook spaghetti without having to put on my bathing suit.
The timing couldn’t be better, because I just got the results of my latest blood test and my testosterone level has dropped below the normal range for men. After months and months of popping the little blue-greenies, I am finally running on “E,” so to speak. I’ve decided, almost arbitrarily, that eating lots and lots of pasta now will help me to have boobs, and that having boobs will help me to have a boyfriend, or a girlfriend who’s into girls. And chickens.
Speaking of which, it’s been four weeks now since I published my funny little personal ad right here in Cheap Eats, and the responses have slowed to a trickle. Let’s see, all said there were one, two, well, one response, technically, and our exchange of e-mails and phone calls ended in him asking me to fuck off. But not in those words. His exact words, I believe, were "go fuck off." The italics are mine. The fault being mine too, I had no choice but to eat my bandana and fuck off. Which I did. But I didn’t go fuck off. I just fucked off. I still have my pride.
Anyway, so, OK, online dating . . . check. Done that. Done with that. What was I thinking? I’m not in a hurry. I actually love being alone. I love people too, all of them — but not equally. My personal preference leans toward those who aren’t stomping on my fingers or kicking my shins.
Oh, and, duh, I don’t need to place personal ads in this column. That was stupid. Cheap Eats practically is a personal ad. People write to me all the time, entirely unsolicited, and say, "I feel like I know you. I have this new favorite restaurant, and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, and hungry . . ." Which I always eventually am and am, respectively. In the past, I have not always been the best corresponder; but I’m trying, and getting better.
Give you an example: Around the same time, around four weeks ago, I also received an e-mail from a fan of my old band who wanted to send the chicken farmer a book about chickens. I gave her my address, got the book, which was written for 9- to-12-year-olds, and cried at the ending.
She mentioned in the letter her new favorite Indian restaurant in Berkeley, which I should probably review, and if I was ever in the neighborhood, and hungry . . . And she asked, in passing, for the name of my new band — so that she could more easily stalk me, she said. She tried to make a joke out of it, but I took this very seriously. As a public figure, you have to. Someone uses that word, you have to err on the side of serious.
So I wrote back and said, in effect, "Complete Stranger, you don’t have to stalk me. I’ll come to you!"
Made a date, she bought me lunch, and I have this to say about her new favorite Indian restaurant: Mine too! It’s south Indian style, which is dosas and stuff. In case you don’t know what a dosa is, it’s yet another style of flat bread, like roti, which I love, and naan, which I love.
I love dosa.
But get this: no meat. We’re getting down with this awesome okra curry dish and dosa, and this other thin, crispy crepe-y crackery thing and all these other dip-into’s, a white one, and a soupy one with carrots, and probably you gotta figure some other things I’m not remembering . . . The point is: no meat. And yet: delicious, filling, fun. And cheap! Our little lunch came to $15.
All we talked about was food, mostly Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, and cupcakes, and curry goat, and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. My new friend Carrie is not no vegetarian, and yet her favorite restaurant really is a vegetarian one. So let that tell you something. SFBG
Daily: 11:30 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
1901–1903 University Ave., Berkeley
Credit cards not accepted
CHEAP EATS I had pretty much settled on spending a quiet night at home with a big bowl of popcorn and my new dehumidifier, but then I accidentally called Earl Butter and he said, in effect, "Do you know what time it is? What are you doing home? Get the hell in your pickup truck and get here."
"OK, yes," I said. "Bye."
It was Friday night. Almost all our friends in the world were playing at the Make-Out Room, for the Mission Creek Festival. Everyone was going to be there. I don’t know what I had been thinking, but I stopped thinking it, grabbed my toothbrush, patted Weirdo the Cat on the head, turned the dehumidifier all the way up, kissed the chickens on their beaks, and drove to the city with a big bowl of popcorn in my lap.
It’s an hour-and-a-half ride. I tried to think of it as a movie, an expensive and dark movie. About traffic. That may sound dull, but if you think of it in comparison to a date with a dehumidifier … well, it’s still pretty dull.
Anyway, I’m not a movie reviewer. I made it to the Mission in time to catch the back half of the show and to hug everybody and smile a lot and talk too much until my face hurt and I was losing my voice again.
And then when the live music ended (early), we all went to Little Him’s house and called it a party, and there were more songs, and tacos for me, from 24th Street, because I was all done drinking. When I can’t drink anymore, I start eating tacos. And in this way the party in my mind never stops.
It got late, Jolly Boy carted me and Earl back to 611, and I made me a cozy little nest in the closet and slept like a little baby bird, my dreams all a-flit with flowers and trees, butterflies, and other enchanted forestry. I’m going to tell you something: Love was in the air. At the Make-Out Room, at the after party, in the darkness in this closet. It had nothing to do with me, but it did have to do with my dearest friend in the whole wide world and my new favorite old friend, and the whole evening, in the songs, in the beer, in the blah blah blah — even in the tacos — there had been this sort of sizzle.
Compare that to dehumidification.
I was on Cloud 8. Still am, and I would like to tip my bandanna to Bikkets and the Neverneverboy, bless their big big goofy grins, tired eyes, and infecting electricity.
But I’m not a gossip columnist, so I woke up with an oniony tacover, extricated myself from the closet, and mumbled to Earl Butter, who was in the big room watching cartoons, "Coffee."
He turned off the TV.
We knocked on Jolly Boy’s door on our way out and he joined us at Java Supreme (Coffee: still a buck. Still!) Well, you can only leaf through a newspaper for so long on a Saturday morning in the Mission before you start thinking of Chava’s.
Jolly Boy broached the subject: "Whatever happened to Chava’s?"
Burnt down. Reopened between 24th and 25th on Mission, Earl and I answered in little bits and pieces. Disastrous atmosphere, basically a taquer??a, still great food. Almost in unison, we all stood up and started walking in that direction, with the understanding that it was a long way to walk and we would keep our eyes open for any better ideas along the way.
A better idea: La Quinta, my new favorite Mexican restaurant, on Mission between 20th and 21th. It has the feel of what Chava’s used to feel like. Family, old-school, everybody’s smiling, huge plates of food, cool, colorful, fruity paintings on the wall, a counter … A counter!
We sat at a table and fell in love with the place. I got birria ($7.50), and the goats were tender and less gristly than usual — not that I have anything against gristle. But I know you do. Jolly Boy got huevos rancheros ($6.50), and Earl ordered some kind of thing with softened tortilla chips all scrambled up with eggs and stuff. I got to taste everything and everything was great. The tabletop chips were fresh and the salsa was delicious.
You know what, I think it’s cheaper than most places this day and age too. Check this out: Weekdays, between 7 and 11 a.m., you can get huevos rancheros, or other egg dishes, for $4.75. That’s with rice, beans, and homemade tortillas, and that’s just freakin’ beautiful.<\!s><z5><h110>SFBG<h$><z$>
Daily, 7 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.
2425 Mission, SF
Play it again
CHEAP EATS I was sitting outside in the bathtub with a barbecued pork rib in one hand and a jar of wine in the other, watching the sun go down through apple blossoms and redwood branches when the thought occurred to me: If Albert Einstein, our smartest example of a human being, a cat so smart his name has come to mean smart, is capable of saying something as profoundly stupid as "God does not play dice," then might not the chicken farmer, the clown, the fool, the imbecile, one day, by accident, say something completely fucking wise?
Is that a Shakespearean thought?
I don’t know, but it’s a long sentence. To make up for it, here are a bunch of short ones:
Shirts are so anal.
It’s a beautiful day in hell.
There were other dreams.
Oh, great, now my house is haunted.
This is the part of the poem where punctuation does all the work.
Touch me, or I will cry.
Building blocks, broken pieces, shards of tinkling colors . . .
Thank you, thank you. The above poem is not a poem, or wasn’t intended to be. I randomly picked one of my several thousand little pocket memo books and randomly chose a handful of out-of-context scribblings of mine from seven random pages, in search of hidden wisdom. Not there. Not yet. I think it makes a decent accidental poem, but none of the thoughts, in and of themselves, I don’t think, are smart enough (or dumb enough) to do Einstein’s justice. I’ll keep looking, and I’ll keep filling up little notebooks, I promise — but not on your time.
Al, you übereyebrowed genius you, you were all over your e‘s and mc‘s, but (a) god? And (b) even assuming god, god most certainly would play dice, dude. And did, according to Darwin. And cards, according to me, and basketball, I believe, until that thing with His ankle.
That’s it. I’m done studying physics, and even doner with metaphysics. I’m moving on to karaoke. Encore Karaoke Bar, to be exact, on California near Polk. It’s my new favorite restaurant, and it’s not even a restaurant! They just happened to have a table full of free, help-yourself chicken wings, Einstein, and meatballs and duck bones. Lasagna. Other stuff. I think it was someone’s birthday. Not mine.
I was all dolled up for dancing, because that’s what I thought I was doing last Saturday night. Now this. Earl Butter and me had already eaten even, at Memphis Minnie’s — again. I can’t seem to stay away from that place all of a sudden. Reason being they make fried barbecued chicken wings now, just like me and Wayway only Minnie smokes hers first, then fries them, then serves them drenched in this special zingy sweet hot barbecue sauce that’s better than any of their tabletop sauces.
And they have sweet tea.
And afterwards we were supposed to meet up with Yo-Yo and Georgie Bundle and some of their friends and shake our booties or groove thangs or some such. Except they all decided to go to this karaoke bar first, and we agreed to meet them there.
I might have sang, or sung, an Elton John song, or two, except my mouth was too full of free chicken wings, free meatballs, and free duck bones, etc., the whole time we were there. Had we known, we wouldn’t have gone to Memphis Minnie’s first, and then the wings, at any rate, would have tasted a lot better than they did. But the ducks were great, and the lasagna had meat in it, and it sure was cheap eats, and the bar was great and there were lots of colorful people there, including drag queens, and some really good bad singers, and even some good good ones.
I meant to ask someone where all the food had come from. If I had, my reviewing it might actually make some sense. But that didn’t happen, and neither did dancing. Yo-Yo and Bundle and their friends sang their songs, got bored, and left.
Me and Earl ate too much, and left.
What do you think? I can give you the scoop on Memphis Minnie’s, but technically I already reviewed it, nine years ago when it was in the Mission. Now it’s on Haight Street, everybody knows, and the three-way taster is almost exactly twice what it cost then ($16.95). Is that bullshit?
I don’t know, but just in case … SFBG
Encore Karaoke Lounge
Daily, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.
1550 California, SF
Not wheelchair accessible
No way of knowing
CHEAP EATS I was sick. I couldn’t get out of bed, and I couldn’t sleep either. If I tried to talk on the phone, I sounded like Don Corleone smoking helium. People didn’t know who I was, and after a while I didn’t know who I was either.
Weirdo the Cat remained Weirdo the Cat and tried her best to keep me oriented.
Weeks in the woods are not very conversational for me, anyway. I express myself, cry out to the universe, assert my existence, and endear myself to my neighbors by tapping on steel with an eight-pound sledge hammer. When that gets old, I clack plastic and make a little poem or Cheap Eats happen. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I laugh out loud, which weirds out Weirdo and makes me feel crazy — which, in turn, helps me to know that I’m not.
Now I had no way to know. I couldn’t hammer, clack, or blabber, and nothing was funny. I’m not a sickness reviewer, but laryngitis I find to be every bit as discombobuutf8g, almost, as an inner ear infection. Pretty much, more or less.
Well, I’d asked for it. I hadn’t been sick, really, in two years. Which was long enough to notice, and so I noticed and then started to talk about it.
"I haven’t been sick in two years!" I said. Out loud. To people.
Bad medicine. This is not a matter of juju; it’s mental and physical and automatic: You start bragging, you let your guard down. Bam! No voice, no sleep, no energy, no soup, no NyQuil, no more Jane Austen novels to read, no one to go to the library for you, and nothing to watch on video except The Deer Hunter.
Ever watch The Deer Hunter? Bad medicine. Good movie, bad bad medicine. Now even if I could’ve slept I couldn’t have slept. Me!
But enough about me. Eventually you just get tired of being sick, and you realize that lying around in bed isn’t going to get you better, so you kiss Weirdo the Cat on the lips, drag yourself out to your pickup truck, drive down to Balboa Park, tie on your spikes, strike out twice, ground weakly to second, ground even weaklier to third, take a shower, and go look for a bowl of duck noodle soup.
There you have it. All better. New favorite Vietnamese restaurant: Pho Ha Tien, just down the road, toward the Sunset, on Ocean. Duck noodle soup ($4.95/$5.95). Jalapeños, hot sauce, that other kind of hot sauce, and . . . you can talk again, if you’re me.
"Blah blah blah, blah blah," I said. "Blah blah blah."
There was even someone there to hear me. Yay! My cousin the Choo-Choo Train and his boyfriend, Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling, meaning I can also tell you these things: goi cuon chay ($4.50). Bun bi thit nuong ($6.50). And com ca nuong sa ($6.75).
Got that? That’s cold vegetable spring rolls, which were good, shredded pork and barbecued pork over vermicelli, which was good, and a charbroiled sole filet, over rice, which was also good. Allegedly. I didn’t get any. Choo-Choo eats so fast his plate was clean by the time I’d finished applying all the proper hot sauces, cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeños, and other medicinal touches to my soup.
And letting Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling taste some before I infected it, which favor he kindly and gentlemanlikely returned by chopsticking some of his pork and pork onto a little plate for my particular pig-partaking pleasure.
"Thank you, sir," I said.
"Thank you, Chicken Farmer," said he.
Meanwhile, the loco locomotive is licking his plate, wondering what’s for dessert.
Anyway, the soup was good, but not as good as my old favorite duck soup because the noodles were overdone, one, and, two, it had too much slimy bamboo in it that could have been ducks. And the ducks that there was didn’t have skin, just bones. A lot of bones. You have to eat with your hands and leave a big pile somewhere on the table.
Other atmospheric touches: general quaintness, funny little 3-D paintings, TV, and my personal favorite: side-by-side, the requisite Buddha shrine and a gratuitous wooden plaque of Mickey and Minnie Mouse saying, Welcome.
You know what I say to that, Mickey, Minnie, now that I have my voice back? I say, "One shot." SFBG
Pho Ha Tien
Wed.–Mon., 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
1900 Ocean, SF
Beer and wine
Into the ether
CHEAP EATS My first two girlfriends were boys. My next three were girls. My wife was a crustacean, and it’s hard to tell with crustaceans. Crawdad and I have been divorced now for closer to two years than one, and I’m starting to get to be about ready to squeeze someone, maybe. Question is: procedure. I’m in a funny position, and I talk about it, and my friends say, "Online dating. Online dating."
In the world, there are not a lot of people lining up to date chicken farmers of ambiguous gender and weirdo ways. There are some people, but not a lot of people. There are five people. And probably in general they are not hanging out at my new favorite restaurant, or haunting Bay Area scrap yards and baseball fields. No, they’re at home in front of their computers, online, looking for love. Cool. Because while the world is beautiful, exciting, fun, unpredictable, unimaginably immense, and inspiringly odd, the Internet allows you to type in exactly what you’re looking for.
Of course, the big huge question on everyone’s mind right now, online and off, is: Well? But which kind is the Chicken Farmer going to go for? M. Male, I think, probably, this time. But it’s been a while, and I’m scared. So a man with a small penis. And a sense of humor. And, since I may as well shoot myself in the other foot too while I’m at it, a 1990 Ford F-150 pickup truck, lime green. Oh, and an open mind.
I see the wisdom in online dating. I do. You can’t pack all this information into the creases on your forehead, or what color shirt you wear, or the world’s best pickup line. Even if you manage a long conversation, there are some things you’re not going to be able to say — unless you drink a real lot, and then you run the risk of not being understood or, worse, wetting your pants.
In print you can be very clear. You can be sober. You can know exactly who you are and exactly what you want, and, in exact American English, you can spell it out: "B W MTF TG CF seeks M w/SP (or F w/SSOD) for F, F, and maybe F. No V!" … where V = vegetarians.
This column will appear on the World Wide Web along with a valid e-mail address that I will no doubt have to change soon due to a deluge of four or five offers. There. I am officially online dating. But I still don’t have a cell phone. Does this make me eccentric?
(Oh, btw, F = fried.)
How about if I start hanging out all the time at Café International, my new favorite coffeehouse in my new favorite neighborhood, the Lower Haight? I went there on Saturday afternoon to see my new favorite band, the Mercury Dimes. Earl Butter (of my new favorite band, the Buckets), was with me, and we ran into Mike and Tom from my new favorite band, the Shut-Ins. What a place!
Earl ordered a Turkish coffee, and the Chicken Farmer ordered a chicken turnover with salad. The Mercury Dimes were taking a break. Then they started to play again, and they were my new favorite band. Old-time music. Two fiddles, banjo, guitar, bass, no mics. And when they sing, they just all belt it out together.
I’m not a music reviewer, but the chicken turnover was great. It was perfectly turned over, and the salad had grapes on top of it, and olives with the pits still in them, and all kinds of other stuff. Nice, big salad. I forget what it costed. Probably exactly what you’d expect it to cost. Otherwise: sandwiches, bagels, soup, Middle Eastern things, a Cuban thing, um, international things. Eclectic, good, friendly, artsy. Reminds me of the Mission District’s beloved Atlas Café (only friendlier) — and not necessarily because that’s where I’ve usually seen the Mercury Dimes. The layout’s very similar, counter to your left, music all the way back. Then beyond that there’s an outdoor patio.
And lots of very beautiful, cool-looking, real live people hang out there, just like at the Atlas, having coffee, reading newspapers, and thinking about sex or sports, probably for all I know wondering where their next eggs are going to come from. But what’s a chicken farmer supposed to do? Talk to them?
No lie. This is the truth: I have laryngitis right now, but I’ll be back. Meanwhile, imagine me on a gorgeous day like today, in front of my computer, eating lemons and drinking tea. SFBG
Sat.–Thurs., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri., 8 a.m.–midnight
508 Haight, SF
Takeout and delivery available
Beer and wine
Credit cards not accepted
CHEAP EATS Me and Wayway went to the store and bought 67 chicken wings, a carton of buttermilk, and a big bottle of oil. Then we went out to eat. I had a show that night in the Sunset, at my new favorite bar, the Riptide, so the plan was to point ourselves in that direction and just roll.
The Riptide is on Taraval, way out there, almost all the way to the beach. But we barely got past 19th Avenue, of course, before we had to stop rolling and walk. What pulled us over was this new Hawaiian joint where JT’s diner used to be. It looks pretty good. I looked in the window, and Wayway looked at the menu in the window.
"Eggs and rice," Wayway said. "Spam and eggs."
"Hay," I said. "Straw."
We meant all these things as compliments. You know, sometimes I wear Hawaiian shirts when I play the Ping-Pong, and sometimes I wear Western shirts. If I had been wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I might have had a new favorite Hawaiian restaurant to tell you about, but as fate would have it, I was wearing a Western shirt.
Which was just as well because I’d already eaten about five eggs that day anyway. We looked into a couple other places and wound up agreeing on a hole-in-the-wall just a few doors down called White Horse Dim Sum & Restaurant.
Hot dang it smelled good in there. It smelled kind of like celery. There was no art on the walls, no music, and just a couple of tables. So the atmosphere was the smell of celery. And general hominess. The White Horse family, from little kids to Gram and Gramps, was just sitting down to eat at this one big table. Every now and again one or another of them would get up and pour our tea and take our order and cook and everything.
So now, finally, I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant. Check this out: Dim sums are 60 cents each, they have Shanghai dumplings for $3.50 for six, lunch specials for $3.95 with rice and wonton soup or coffee, and they have almost 20 kinds of soup for under 5 bucks, most of them under 4. Rice plates, noodles … a lot of $3.50s, $3.95s, and $4.50s. I don’t think anything was more than 5 bucks.
What I’m getting at: Cheap!
And don’t forget that it smells real good in there. So, OK, so what we wanted, in honor of yet another soupy San Francisco day, was soup. And the guy sitting behind us was eating dumplings, so, sure, we were going to need dumplings too. You can’t talk about frying and barbecuing chicken wings without dumplings. At least a dozen.
Wayway told me how when he was living in Shanghai he used to eat these things for breakfast every day, and how sometimes, because of the language barrier, he’d ask for six, which was one order, and they’d bring him six orders of six.
"I want to live somewhere with a language barrier," I said.
Shanghai dumplings, those are the steamed pork ones with like little bowls of soup in them. Pig drippin’s, you figure. It pools inside while the pork cooks, and stays warm but somehow not too hot, and then when it erupts inside your mouth you get this flow of buttery, greasy goodness all over your tongue, and … and … um . . .
I lost my train of thought.
Chicken wings. Buttermilk. Barbecue sauce. Strategy. Celery. Oral sex. Oh yeah, soup. That was the other thing we were eating. Fish ball noodle soup, and pork noodle soup ($3.95 either way). Both were great. The broth was excellent, the noodles had to have been homemade, they tasted so good, and the vegetables were done perfectly, with still a little life left to them. Bok choy, broccoli, celery.
I’ll tell you, I walked out of the White Horse feeling really good. And I stayed that way all through the rest of the evening. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rum. Coffee, next morning, and we went to work like two well-oiled machines, Wayway frying, or parfrying the wings, and the chicken farmer manwomanpersoning the grill. Barbefried chicken. My joke is that it’s health food, if two wrongs make a right, which, conventional wisdom being, for our purposes, damned, they do. Right? SFBG
Mon.–Sat., 7 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
937 Taraval, SF
Credit cards not accepted
CHEAP EATS Sometimes it’s almost too much. You’re driving home in the middle of the night, country roads, nothing but static on the radio, sky full of stars stretched out before you, big balls of rain tapping into the windshield, small and large animals darting across the road in the beam of your headlights, graceless, confused. And you think, It rains without clouds now! Large blocks of ice are crashing through roofs in Southern California. San Francisco is the new Seattle. My friend Steve the Turkey Hunter in Maine says winter never came there this year.
How are you supposed to tell the difference between awake and asleep? This is an important distinction for operators of motor vehicles. People ask me: "When did you know?" And I just look at them because it’s all I can do, like a deer in their beams, like, Know what?
I can’t help it, personally. My mind returns and returns to the contemplation of antimatter, the uncertainty principle, and quantum chicken farming in general. Life keeps getting funner, and funnier. For example: the popular misconception that the world won’t likely come to an end in any of our lifetimes. Um, that depends, Mr. and Mrs. Physicist, does it not, on your definition of words like life, and time, and doo-da? Where, exactly, does the world happen? Out there somewhere? And how do they get all that juice to stay on the inside of Shanghai dumplings?
I do have a new favorite dim sum restaurant out on Taraval near19th Avenue
, but that’s little consolation under the stormy stars,Valley Ford Road
, middle of the night. Think I’ll pull over and have a nervous breakthrough.
Oh, now I get it. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh!
Next thing you know: venison sausage. Next thing you know: homemade hot Italian sausage. The Chicken Farmer is standing outside next to his or her mailbox, waiting for the mail, wondering how human beings, the animals that invented sausage, can still find it necessary to believe in god. Or something. Let’s see, we can turn pigs into pork, pork into sausage, and so on — milk into butter. We can make airplanes and air mail and post offices, and one still craves … what? Answers? Spirit? Church?
But we have the Internet! Just like that, I can receive an e-mail from my friend Rube Roy in Ohio saying, "I mailed you some sausages. Go stand by your mailbox."
Personally, I don’t need any more information than that. The sausage is in the mail. The coals are glowing. The chickens are looking at the Chicken Farmer like, Well, what’s in it for us?
Answer: grass. There’s a lot of grass around my mailbox, and they can’t get at it. You talk about your symbidiotic relationships. I love to graze, but I don’t particularly like grass. I prefer eggs, and sausage. So, while I’m waiting for the mail, I’m basically mowing the lawn with my hands, throwing it over the fence to the chickens, and they’re going to town, converting green into yellow, healthier, tastier eggs for tomorrow’s lunch, for me, with sausage.
What’s in it for Rube Roy? Well, he gets to be, very fittingly, the first official inductee into the Cheap Eats Hall of Fame. Are you kidding me? He made and mailed me about five pounds of meat — a long string of venison sausage, a short, fat string of hot Italian, and three sticks of spicy, smoked, dried whatever-the-fuck. Soppressata?
It’s delicious, whatever it is. I’m chawing on some right now, writing this. And I still want to tell you about my new favorite dim sum place too, but that’s probably a story unto itself, soupy enough to sink me to the bottom of this column and off the page, into your lap. Where, with all due respect, I don’t know if I want to be, so let’s save that for next week and stay for now with the Cheap Eats Hall of Fame.
You want in, send me something. By e-mail. To eat!
In the meantime, so Rube Roy doesn’t get too lonely, I’m going to take this opportunity to also induct a couple other inductees, that philosophy-talking piano student who hand-delivered to me an order of North Carolina barbecue, hush puppies, and sweet tea. And this Red Cross worker in Seattle (Ketchup County, or something like that) who sent me a big bottle of barbecue sauce. I don’t know. She works for the Red Cross. The bottle says Jones on it, and it’s fantastic.
So if your name is Jones, and you live in Seattle, and you gave blood, I love you. On ribs, especially, but you also go good with meatballs. SFBG
Tossing the bone
CHEAP EATS Crawdad de la Cooter has a new squeeze. I called him up and said, "Hey, man, let’s go eat, huh? You hungry?"
And he said what anyone would have said in his position. He said, "Who is this?"
"It’s the Chicken Farmer," I said. "Crawdad’s ex?"
We hadn’t met yet, but we knew enough about each other, I reckoned, him being her new squeeze, and I maybe being her best friend. Why we hadn’t met yet didn’t have nothing to do, I don’t think, with him or with me. That’s why I was going over her head, because they’d been seeing each other for months, or at any rate long enough to have already had a falling out and a falling back in.
"It’s up to you," I said. "You can invite Crawdad, or not."
He did. We went to K.C. Barbecue in Berkeley. I had wanted to go to Penny’s Caribbean Café, especially since Crawdad was coming, because then it would have been like a double date. Believe me, no two humans can love each other as head-over-heelingly as I love Penny’s curry goat roti.
Of course I’m fond of barbecue. But I eat barbecue at least once a day at home. I eat barbecue so much that I piss smoke. I eat barbecue so much that I am barbecue. That’s cool, but it ain’t love. It’s like masturbation. When I eat barbecue, my eyes are still going to roll back in my head and my toes are going to curl and all my cells are still going to go, "Yes!" But while all that’s happening, chances are I’m fantasizing about curry goat roti. Penny’s Caribbean Café.
How did I get here?
This is a review of K.C. Barbecue, my new favorite barbecue joint. The straightforward, tomatoey sauce is nothing to write home to Arthur Bryant about, or even across the bay to Cliff about. But that only says that much more in favor of the meat. The ribs are perfectly smoked, Patsy Cline-ing to the touch of your teeth. You don’t even need teeth. Gums will do. I’m not even sure you need gums. The meat might fall to pieces on your tongue and melt into it like butter, or curry goat roti.
Amazingly, for pig meat this tenderly smoked, it doesn’t lose anything in succulence. In fact, K.C.’s ribs may well not even need any sauce — which is about as indicative an indicator of excellent barbecue as there can be. I can’t vouch for the brisket, because they were all out. The new squeeze did toss me a bone of his chicken, and even that had life to it. But you know, barbecue’s hard to get right consistently, nobody knows better than I do, so you gotta have the sauce, just in case.
Oh, that reminds me, before I get too far onto the topic, I did get barbecued eggs down. I’m not saying the invention can’t be improved upon; I’m saying: Pay attention. There’s a window — more like a pinhole — of opportunity, where the white part will have set and the yellow will not yet have turned into a superball. Juicy, smoky, with Spanish rice this time, over a homemade tortilla . . . Huevos dancheros, take two. Three, counting the whole egg I put in the smoker once and forgot about — but not counting the countless ones I’ve cracked open and directly onto (and through) the grill, for the highbrow entertainment of many a dinner guest.
Back to K.C.: The beans were good, the Wonder Bread was white, and they had orange pop.
"So, what did you think?" Crawdad says to me over the phone next morning.
"Well, the beans were good and the Wonder Bread was white," I said. "Sauce not great, but the ribs —”
"You know what I mean," she said.
I did. I didn’t say it like this, but I loved Crawdad’s new squeeze for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that I love everyone. I mean, we’re all in this together, you know what I mean? And I loved the guy’s favorite barbecue, and I loved his laugh, and you know his heart’s in the right place, or else he wouldn’t be crawdoodlin’ the great Crawdad de la Cooter. Best of all, though: He ain’t like me. If she’d of gone and buddied up with some other bowlegged starving artistical pirate-headed Ping-Pong-playing backyard philosophizing tranny-ass barbecued chicken farmer with a Chevy Sprint pickup truck, that might of maybe been tough. SFBG
Tue.–Thu., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight
2613 San Pablo, Berk.
Credit cards not accepted
CHEAP EATS “Did you hear about the barn swallows in Minnesota?” Earl Butter said, while we were waiting for our waffles.
“This reminds me,” I replied. “This idea that there are more alive people now than dead ones — where did you get it?”
“Late Night,” he said.
“Actually,” he said, “I heard it somewhere else too. Why?”
“No reason,” I said. “Fact-checking.” I checked myself. “After-the-fact fact-checking.”
“Well, about the barn swallows — ”
“What are your sources?” I said, before-the-fact fact-checking, for a change.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Some nature show.”
Our waffles came. On paper plates with plastic forks and knives. They came with two eggs apiece, over-easied into neat little triangles, and meat. Sausage for me of course, and Spam for Earl. You can also get bacon, or some kind of veggie patty ($4.75).
There was butter already melting into the waffles, and, to my amazement and delight, and surprise, given the paper and plastic and overall fluorescent lighting of the little joint, the butter looked like butter. “Can I get more butter?” I asked the guy. Partly this was a fact-checking maneuver, and partly I wanted more butter. I knew I did, without tasting, because I always want more butter.
He smiled and went to get it for me. Sweet guy. Great place. New favorite restaurant. I already knew that, but maybe you want hard evidence.
“About the barn swallows,” Earl Butter said, halfway done eating, and I hadn’t even started.
On the radio: Forum, with Michael Krasny and a panel of tweedy-sounding indie rock “experts” boring the world to death with Noise Pop blah, blah, blah, making it, blah, blah, sincerity, blah, passion. Get off the radio and dance, dudes.
Guy comes back with a little paper bowl full of real butter, and I could of kissed him, speaking of rock ’n’ roll. This was all I needed to know, and knowing it, little plastic knife in hand, I buttered and buttered my golden, crispy waffle, which was starting to get cold. Which is perfect because then the butter really sets there. Speaking of cold, hard facts. It doesn’t disappear into the waffle. It globulates. Waits, looks back at you, existingly. Then, finally, melts into your tongue. Hot damn!
“Can I try a piece of your Spam?” I said.
He gave me a whole slice. It was pretty good, a lot better than I expected. Would you believe I’d never eaten Spam before? Well, I have now eaten Spam. It’s pretty good.
The sausage was chicken apple sausage and this is my only bone to pick with the place. What’s up with the fancy-pants sausage? The name of the joint is the Little Piglet Café, you got pork this and pig that all over the menu, little piggy visual touches all over the walls and all around the paper-hearts-in-the-shape-of-a-heart in the window in the door . . .
The big sign outside over the window, which drew me to the place in the first place, Ninth Street between Bryant and Harrison: Waffles, Soups, Boxed Lunches, Daily Specials, Hot & Cold, Little Piglet Café, real cute picture of a pig. I don’t get it. What’s up with the chicken sausage?
“Barn swallows,” said Earl Butter.
It’s still my new favorite restaurant. I mean, waffles, eggs, and meat for under five bucks, and with real butter, are you kidding me? Plus the coffee is coffeehouse quality, and there are enough other good-looking things on the menu to keep me coming back for weeks and weeks without even repeating myself: Cajun meatloaf sandwich, barbecued pork with “pig sambal” (whatever that might mean), roasted peppers and avocado salad with pineapple vinaigrette.
Is this a Hawaiian theme I’m picking up on?
“Home Depot,” said Earl Butter.
There’s a Spam can dispensing candy canes, and a picture of Jessica Simpson setting on a can of tuna fish.
“They figured out how to open the automatic doors and get inside,” he said.
Little Piglet Café
Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
451 Ninth St., SF
"Show me a sane man," Jung said, "and I will cure him for you."
I saw this on a billboard on Turk Street, I think, but I didn’t catch what it was advertising. Jung’s psychotherapy practice, I guess. But that seems like a waste of money to me, Jung being dead.
"Show me a dead man," I said to Earl Butter, my passenger . . .
And . . . and . . .
"What?" said Earl Butter.
I didn’t know. Which is why I’ll never be on a billboard. I can’t complete a thought, let alone . . . um. Well, I can throw a curveball and I’m alive, so I was going to go play baseball after I dropped Butter off in the Mission.
We’d just had lunch at my new favorite Moroccan restaurant in my old favorite neighborhood, the Tenderloin. Tajine. Jones Street.
Maybe I can be on a bumper sticker.
For example: Regis lives.
I wear a ring with 86 and 99 on it. Don Adams, Barbara Feldon. Dead and alive, respectively. Over a really red, really cuminy, really good sausage sandwich with some kind of salsa or chutney or something on it, tomatoes, onions, Earl Butter informed me that there are now more people living than there are dead ($6.95).
This astounds me. And like so many things Earl Butter tells me over lunch, it changes everything. For starters, we no longer have to be afraid of zombies. We’ve got them outnumbered. Barring big bombs and/or bird flu, it’s a power play from here out. Night of the Living Dead? Not scary.
Secondly, I can’t help wondering: When they counted, which side did they put Jesus and Elvis on? Dead or alive? Because judging from some other billboards and bumper stickers I keep seeing, there seems to be some question on the one hand. I can’t remember whether or not I ever pointed it out yet in this column, which may account for some of the confusion, but . . . Jesus? He died. Look, Christians, even if the cat did "come back to life," so to speak, he died again. He’d of had to by now, or else he’d be 2,000-and-some years old. So get over it already, and get real.
And don’t worry. Yeah, they’ve got Socrates, Jesus, Elvis, Jung, and Don Adams . . . But we’ve got Regis. Everything’s going to be OK.
The chicken ($8.50) was a little dry, but the preserved lemon sauce that it was drenched in was fantastic sop for the great homemade Moroccan bread. And there were good olives and, oddly, a handful of french fries scattered artfully about the leg and the thigh, sticking up like arrows out of General Custer (dead).
This is a tiny restaurant, Tajine. Maybe just six or seven tables. Very cozy and superfriendly. Sandwiches go for seven bucks with meat, five-fifty without, and entrees range from seven to eight-fifty, except for the brochette royale, which is basically everything, lamb, chickens, and ground beef, with soup and salad for 12 bucks.
And thirdly but not leastly, all kidding aside, if we got more people now aboveground than under it, you gotta wonder at least a little, if not to distraction, what this says about our planet in terms of, you know, real estate trends and compost.
I know, I know, you’re on that already. Well, my job is poetry and poultry, not politics or theology, but has anyone suggested yet tax breaks for the childless, state-subsidized sex-change operations, and, I don’t know, the supreme naturalness, in an overpopuutf8g species, of same-sex marriages?
Damn, we’re nostalgic, ain’t we?
Well, we got Regis! Regis saves. And he lives, I know, because I just heard him on the radio. He’s pushing grape juice instead of wine. Welch’s. Blood of Regis.
Another thought occurs to me. It occurred to me awhile ago, actually, but I saved it until last, so as not to ruin everything. It’s this: that Earl Butter got his story wrong. Heard wrong, misunderstood, or even lied to me, for kicks. He’s a notorious kidder. And I’m a pretty gullible traveler. It does seem far-far-far-far-fetched, huh? People have been dying for a pretty damn long time. How can they possibly be outnumbered by the living?
Listen, I gotta go now. I have a therapy appointment, and groceries to get, and I have to do my makeup. You do the work. Look it up online, think about it, figure something out, and get back to me. *
Tues.–Wed. and Sun., noon–10 p.m.; Thurs.–Sat., noon–11 p.m.
552 Jones, SF
Takeout and catering available
Credit cards not accepted
I’ll finish the poem in a minute, but first I have to put on five more sweaters, go break up the ice in the chicken waterer, and saw up another armload of scrap wood for the fire.
Where was I? Pittsburgh, calzone. You know, as much as I’d love to only write about out-of-town restaurants now, by way of being nutty, I just
I WAS TURNED on to my new favorite restaurant, Jodie’s, by Satchel Paige the Pitcher’s dad, Mr. Paige the Pitcher. Indirectly. Mr. Paige the Pitcher ate there with a friend, and then raved about it to Satchel Paige the Pitcher, who told me. "It’s a tiny place. Six seats. A counter. The guy working it’s supposed to be a character."
"What kind of food?" I said.
"He said they have everything."
Satchel Paige the Pitcher called Mr. Paige the Pitcher on the phone (this was months and months ago, when Satch was visiting from Thailand), and asked him what kind of food.
"They have all kinds of stuff, Satchmo," his dad said. "You wouldn’t believe it."
"What kind of stuff?" asked Satchel Paige the Pitcher.
Satchel pressed. "Like what?" he said. "For example."
And here’s what Mr. Paige the Pitcher said. He said, "Hamburgers."
We got a big kick out of that. We’re easily amused. And I made a mental note: "Jodie’s – everything, even hamburgers." And I underlined hamburgers three times, mentally, and filed it between my memory of raisin pie in the backseat of Grandpa Rubino’s Buick and how I know how long to cook the spaghetti. I need a better filing system.
Then my brother Phenomenon told me he’d been to a great place in Albany – Jodie’s.
"Oh, yeah? Cool. Did you try the raisin pie?" I said.
He said, "Huh?" And he told me how to get there, but the first time I tried, I couldn’t find it, to give you some idea how small of a hole-in-the-wall this is. It’s on Masonic Street just south of Solano, across from the BART tracks. The second time I tried, first thing in the morning after we got back from Idaho, there it was and there I was, wrapping myself around a barbecue omelet with hash browns and an English muffin. Guy down the counter, only other person there, was taking care of my coffee needs, and his.
The overall feel of the place is reminiscent of Ann’s Café, RIP. Check your attitude at the door. Everyone’s friends. And Jodie is putting on a show. He showed me the menu, but he was quick to point out that that wasn’t everything. "What’s not on there," he said, pointing to the menu, "is on there," and he gestured over his shoulder to a wall full of oddball specials printed out on little paper signs. "And if it’s not on the menu and it’s not on the wall, then I keep it up here," he said, pointing to his head.
I hope he has a better filing system than I do.
What I really wanted was fried chicken, but Jodie only makes fried chickens on weekends, so that left me with only a couple hundred things to choose from. Really the decision was easy. As I might of mentioned last week, I’d been eating barbecued chicken, beef, and pork all weekend in Idaho, so, by way of a change of pace, I went with the barbecue omelet. Off the wall.
You can have it with beef, pork, or "American" sausage, whatever that means. I got pork. The sauce on top of the omelet, a homemade tomato- and vegetable-based concoction, was delicious. The hash browns were delicious. Everything was great.
But it wasn’t fried chicken, so I had to go back on Sunday morning, bright and early, because Jodie told me it goes fast.
Hey, happy 40th birthday to Grandma Googy-Googy, who lives up the hill from Jodie’s, runs past it every morning, and was supposed to meet me for breakfast all sweaty and shit, but showed up showered and s weet-smelling instead, ruining everything.
She did let me taste her sausage, and it was delicious and all, but God damn I love fried chicken for breakfast. Only they don’t have waffles to go with it. You can get it with pancakes, eggs, or French toast. Nine bucks. Your call: white meat, or dark. And here’s where Jodie blows the chicken farmer’s mind. In a good way: White meat is the breast, and dark, against everyone else in the world’s worser judgment, is a leg, a thigh, and a wing. For this, if it was up to me, I’d award Jodie the Nobel Prize in Physics, or Peace, or both.
But it’s not up to me, so I’m going to give him a carton of eggs the next time I see him. And a waffle iron for Christmas because pancakes are good, but they’re not waffles. As I’ve pointed out time and time again.
Jodie’s. 902 Masonic Ave. (at Solano), Albany. (510) 526-1109. Tuesday-Sunday: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; closed Monday. Takeout available. Credit cards not accepted. No alcohol. Wheelchair accessible.
Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).