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Cheap Eats

Paws out



CHEAP EATS She’s allergic to dogs and cats, and can’t breathe in my apartment. Thus all this subletting. By way of a landing pad, we found a quick, couple-week rental until the 15th of the month. It was pet free, but dusty, maybe moldy, and cold. Our kitchen was a hot-plate on a broken washing machine, a toaster oven on a dresser, and a sink.

The sadness of which, complicated by the frustration of trying to find a breathable place to live in an already suffocating market, plus my team lost at least 30-0, and Hedgehog and I were rejected again for yet another apartment we’d wanted — it reduced both of us to tears at exactly the same time: Sunday.

Which may have contributed to our decision to go get a drink. Staying home in our shithole was not an option. There was no TV there, and the 49ers game was on, and postseason baseball. We would have to battle our depression the old-fashioned way: in a dark and stinky bar.

Wild Side West! One of my all-time new favorite bars ever, on the strength of its fantastic backyard garden that you can almost never sit in because it’s so damn cold out. Normally that’s where I go, but this time there were games on, and — and this is a big and — there was a table full of delicious homemade sausages: chicken ones, bangers, and big long juicy spicy Hungarians. There was cole slaw without mayo, bowls of pepperoncini and cornichons, and some really good pesto pasta salad. And a tip jar.

So we’re sitting inside, at the bar, tipping and eating and drinking and cheering, smooching and hugging during commercials, and just generally putting the “lesbian” back into lesbian bar, when in swaggers this loud, dreadlocked woman with a big, energetic and smelly dog, sets a plate of half-a-sausage on the bar next to me and while she orders her drink, the dog is trying to climb up on the stool next to mine. He actually almost gets her sausage before she manages to divert and calm him.

But already slobber is flying, and the dog is panting, shaking off cooties, and not smelling very entirely good, even to me, when Hedgehog goes, on the other side of me, Sniff.

Uh-oh, I think.

Understand: the 49ers are winning big. They’re wearing their home red, the mere sight of which cheers me to the marrow. The Brewers are up on the Cards — and that’s what we want in the National League. The Brewers. I don’t want us to have to leave this little bubble of sausage-y happiness we have found at the end of our hard cold week of searching, rejection, and 30-0. But am I the kind of person who advocates for herself, let alone her sweetie?

To date, no. But.

But I can hear Hedgehog getting sneezy and itchy. I can see it. Next comes raspy and breathless, and if you’ve ever sat with someone you love while they have an asthma attack, you’ll be with me when I turn to Dreads and say, “Can you please take your dog outside to the patio? My partner’s allergic.”

She looked at me as if I had asked her to — I don’t know — put out a cigarette, or something. “But this dog is friends with the owner,” she said, unable to fathom how a patron of her dog’s buddy’s bar could possible have a problem with it.

I said, “I don’t care.” I said, “My partner’s allergic. We’re here. And I’m asking you to take the dog outside.” I said these things!

“How about the other end of the bar?” she said.

“Fine,” I said, knowing we would miss the end of both games.

Hedgehog had half a drink left. The bartender came over to us as Dreads was relocating her dog, and she asked what happened.

“She’s allergic to dogs,” I said, “so I asked her to take hers outside.”

“Oh,” the bartender said, and went back to work.

Hedgehog sniffed. We left half a drink on the bar, and moved on, cursing and hating and vowing never to go back to my all-time new favorite bar ever. And later that day we found our dream-sublet: a cottage! In Oakland!


Daily: 2 p.m.-2 a.m.

424 Cortland Ave., SF

(415) 647-3099

Cash only

Full bar


‘Tis better to dip



CHEAP One of the first things I did when I got back was I got on the football field.

“Welcome back,” said the referee.

“Welcome back,” said the other team’s captain. And she called “red” and it was red so we’d lost the toss.

“Good luck,” their captain said to me.

“Good luck,” I said.

The ref said good luck to both of us and just like that — after three months in cars, planes, small dark hotel rooms and foreign countries, but mostly cars — I was back where I belong: on defense.

I love defense because it’s got more dirty work than glory. You have to do things like “dig in,” “cover,” and “bend-don’t-break” while the offense is basically sticking it to you.

And, as if that weren’t sexy sounding enough, on my particular San Francisco Women’s Flag Football League team, the defense scores more often than the offense. This season, for example, to date, our defense has outscored our offense 2-0. That’s after four games, mind you. We have scored a grand total, in four games, of exactly one safety!

My first game back ended in a 0-0 tie.

“Good game,” we all said to the other team, and they said to us, and you know what? It was! Except from a fan’s perspective, probably, it was a great game. I love 0-0 ties.

Out of habit, I went to Benders. Coach couldn’t make it because she was helping people, so it was just me and Hedgehog and Earl Butter. The big idea being to drink the beer, eat tater tots, and just generally watch baseball; but Benders was only cooperating on one of those fronts. Something goofy was on TV. The kitchen wasn’t open.

We started walking toward the Phoenix, and at roughly Mission Street I remembered about Giordano Brothers taking over Ti Couz’s spot on 16th and Valencia. Remember? I even told you about it from the road and promised to check it out for myself as soon as I was back.

Which I forgot. Then remembered. So, OK … so, Giordano’s. Yeah yeah yeah, the all-in-one sandwiches with French fries and cole slaw in them, a la Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh. But mostly we were interested in the pierogi. Because there aren’t a lot of places in San Francisco, let alone the Mission, to get a plate of pierogi.

We got a large combo: two regular old potato ones, two sweet potato ones, and two with serrano peppers and cheese — and potatoes. And those two were of course the best. But we had to advocate for them because at first there were only potato and sweet potato ones.

Hedgehog was already all a-bristle over they didn’t have Yuengling beer. Although, technically, the problem was that they did have a neon sign saying Yuengling, but didn’t have the beer. The sign was just for atmosphere.

So when she realized there were only two kinds of pierogi in our three-kind-of-pierogi combo plate, she had a little talk with the waiterguyperson, who had a little talk with the kitchen, who had a little talk with the butter and onions, then brought us two more pierogi. With serrano peppers and cheese, and they were delicious.

Earl Butter was beside himself with comfort and joy. He kept talking about how happy he was just to be out of his apartment. And I’ve been in his apartment. The TVs are not as big.

We had Sunday night football in one eyeball, and baseball playoffs in the other. I’m not so sure about the sandwiches though. I had promised Hedgehog, based on a visit to North Beach five years ago, that Giordano’s was better than its inspiration, Primanti’s, on a strictly sandwich-y level. My argument was that their French fries were better and the cole slaw was fresher, and while those facts may be true, in themselves, the problem is that putting French fries and cole slaw inside a sandwich with the meat and the cheese is just a flawed idea to begin with. Beyond the good ol’ goofy sportiness of it, I mean, you are left with a mouth full of pretty much starch.

The kielbasa was good, but lost in the rest of it all. And I like to dip my fries into things.

Ketchup. Hot sauce.


Mon.-Tue.: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Wed.-Thu.: 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; Sun. depends on football schedule

3108 16th St., SF

(415) 437-2767


Beer & wine


Fair muddling



CHEAP EATS Tell you what I’m not eating this week: I’m not eating funnel cake, Amish whoopie pies, fried pickles, or fried macaroni and cheese. I’m not eating Running Deer potato pancakes, Grotto’s pizza, May’s barbecue, Mootz’s fudge, Hewlett’s hot sausages, Bowman’s French fries, Cain’s chicken and waffles, Top-of-the-Beef’s pit-roasted sandwich, or fire-roasted sweet corn. I’m not washing all these things down with three different colors of birch beer.

The river crested at 32.75 feet and the Bloomsburg Fair was cancelled. First time ever, 156 years. We cooked for two days until we had filled Hedgehog’s mom’s freezer with frozen lasagne and wedding soup, and then we got the hell out of Dodge while the gettin’ was half decent. There was a couple-hour window of opportunity between the interstate being reopened and all the surface streets being closed on account of barns and tool sheds floating down them.

We splashed right through that window to Ohio, to my nephew’s wedding and to C. Staples, the last-standing of Youngstown’s locally famous fried barbecued chicken joints. Where, craving smoke, I got ribs on the side; but the ribs weren’t true barbecue either. They were just ribs. And barbecue sauce.

Hedgehog failed to see the humor in this.

“You have to grow up with it, I guess,” I said, glorying in my sauce-soaked white bread. It’s a good sauce, sweet and strangely gritty, but Hedgehog couldn’t keep her head in the game. She kept going on line and looking at pictures of her hometown’s washed-away bridges and half-underwater homes. The whole time we were in Ohio she’d be eating chickens with one hand and

Twittering and Facing Book with the other.

I said, “Okay. Maybe we should go back, see if there’s anything we can do to help …”

Of course, at that time they hadn’t officially cancelled the fair yet, so we were planning to go back anyway, eventually, the last week of the month.

That’s this week! And the only reason I even know what I’m missing in Central Pennsylvania, friedwise and otherwise, is because all year this year, probably since before I met Hedgehog, she’s been telling me about the fair the fair the fair. Even her friends in New Orleans, New Jersey and New York were talking about it. The fair! They were going. They had been. They all had favorite stands and strategies: what to eat first. What to save room for …

Argh, talk about wait till next year!

Anyway, it took us a few days back in the state-of-emergencied disaster area to find anyone to help. First we joined a mud-out crew and went around with shiny donated shovels and brand new five-gallon buckets looking for work, but the only useful thing I did that day was help carry a soggy box spring to the curb.

See, the thing about God- and neighbor-fearing people, it turns out, is that no matter how sunk they are, they would rather help than be helped. Everyone wants to volunteer — and no one needs anything. Their whole first floor and basement are in pieces on the curb, yet they feel pretty lucky, somehow, and at any rate don’t need sandwiches.

We soon realized the only way to be truly useful to these strong, good people was to accept their help. And then was the chicken farmer in national disaster area heaven, going from church to church to fire department trying to look pathetic and eating their bean soup, corn chowder, and chopped ham sandwiches before they went to waste.

On the third day we had the advantage of actually being muddy and exhausted for one of these meals, on account of our friend Sue’s brother had gotten soggy up to his kitchen cabinets — the up-high ones. When we left there, the curbside pile of drywall, soggy insulation, cracked linoleum, etc., was almost as high as the roof.

Next morning, to fuel us up for the long drive back to California, friend Sue drove us to D.W. Moss’s farmhouse, which is your typical off-the-grid middle-of-nowhere suspender-grandpa’d dirt-road no-menu pay-what-you-want weekend breakfast joint, with sausage and bacon that taste like they just went out back and scraped it off the pig. It’s not a restaurant. It’s my new favorite restaurant.

Seriously, if you ever accidentally find yourself out Benton way, Pennsylvania, of a weekend morning, go find Moss’s farm. It’s on Moss road. Look for cars and kittens.

Coyote moon


CHEAP EATS Ten minutes, she said. I promise you, the line does not take long. She was like a greeter, which seemed unusual for a grocery store, but I am willing to believe almost anything at this point.

It’s strange: to pride oneself on one’s gullibility. Nevertheless, I grabbed the bread that I wanted, and walked whistling with it to the back of the store, through the storage area past the back of the store, beyond the bathrooms, back outside into the loading zone on the opposite side of the building from the parking lot, through some bushes, under an overpass, entirely outside of the city and into the desert, where I took my spot at the end of the line and said to the person in front of me, “Hi.”

“Hi,” he said. It was a cold crisp night with stars and moons all over the place. And behind me the line kept getting longer, all the while time passing.

The line did not move at all. Apparently, people were buying houses and cars. They had to talk to their lawyers and spouses, and wait for bank loans to be approved. Inspections.

Before long I had finished all the bread and was standing in line with an empty paper bag. The city was nowhere in sight, not to mention the cashiers. Nor could I tell if the line of people who had lined up behind me stretched longer than the line still in front of me. I was, as usual, in the middle.

It’s my nature to use my time wisely, even when it’s only 10 minutes. (She’d promised.) I tried to talk to the man in line ahead of me. First I made eye contact, then I asked questions. I wanted to familiarize myself with concepts like escrow and closing, in case someone else in the line should prove worth flirting with.

Because you never know. Many of my girlfriends met their future husbands while waiting in lines. It’s true that for the most part their future husbands didn’t notice them; they just went about their business, as it is in man’s nature to do. But there are exceptions to every rule, I’m told, so who’s to say I wasn’t going to be one of them?

Instead of educating me, the man in front of me in line flirted with me. I never did learn about escrow; I learned about him. He was married but separated from his wife but still in love with her but she didn’t love him and was living with her tennis teacher.

“The man is a tennis teacher?” I said. I don’t know why I wanted to be perfectly clear about the person his wife was living with, and what he did for a living. In retrospect it seems far from the point.

Still, I said what I said and the man said, “Yes. Do you play?”

“No,” I said. This was a lie.

“Well,” he said, then, “what is your story?”

And just like that I had him where I wanted. A captive audience, middle of nowhere, on a night much like this, waiting, waiting, and already mystified by my mystique. Which is, I’m told, considerable.

“Once upon a time,” I said.

“Don’t give me that shit,” said my future husband.

“Once upon a time,” I said again, because that’s the kind of storyteller I am, and, as if on cue, the rest of the line of people dissolved into the night, and all around us coyotes yipped and yapped.

“The corn on the cob was not fresh. Or it was overcooked,” I said, poking our little campfire with a stick, and my guest nodded, understanding me perfectly. “The brisket and the ribs were just fine, but, you know, it’s nice to have barbecue across the street from where you drink.”

“Where?” he said.

“Anywhere. Your neighborhood dive,” I said. “El Rio, in my case. One meets the love of one’s life in such a place, and the love of my life,” I said, “is barbecue.”

“But the corn …”

“It had dimples in it, yes,” I said. “It stuck to your teeth. Like something you feed to animals.”

He shook his head, in the smoke, in the night. And I shook mine.

We were supposed to have been so much more.


Sun.-Thu.: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

3149 Mission St., S.F.

(415) 796-2837

Beer & wine


Ms. Mirliton


CHEAP EATS First time I went to Criolla was with Coach and company and I was just tickled to death to be eating chicken and waffles within walking distance from my home. Chicken and waffles! I forgave them the dry chicken, even though it was all dark meat and dark meat is of course harder to overcook, because the waffle was good. And they offered real, true Vermont maple syrup for one worth-it dollar more.

And it was chicken and waffles. And walking distance. And so forth: sweet potato tater tots, limeade, sunshine, just a beautiful sidewalky San Francisco day at Market and Noe.

I thought: OK, new favorite restaurant. It ain’t Farmer Brown’s Little Skillet, or even Auntie April’s, but it ain’t Baghdad Café anymore, either. It’s chicken and waffles! In the Castro, and that was overall a happy thought.

Next time I went was with Hedgehog on an also-beautiful day, but we sat inside. In the window, and looked out upon the sidewalk there. It’s a colorful corner. Men stroll by naked. Nobody blinks.

All right.

But if you are going to make fried chicken anywhere in the world, including the Castro, including walking distance to my house, you are going to need to make it to order. Fried chicken don’t sit well. It never has, and it never will. So unless you’re a place that sells it as fast as you can crank it out, you’re going to serve some hit-or-miss soggy-breading-ed and dry-meat fried chicken. Most of the time.

I don’t know if Criolla Kitchen fries or tries to fry their chickens to order. If they do, they better get better at it.

The good news is, since it isn’t just a chicken and waffle place, or even a fried chicken place, you’ve got plenty of other options. And a lot of them sound kinda good. Almost all of them, besides the chicken and waffles, sound Louisianic: chicken gizzards with pepper jelly, mirliton salad, red beans and rice, shrimp po’oy …

I got the Louisiana farm-raised catfish mojito isleño on the sheer strength of the number of words in its name. If there were green olives in the tomato-ey, onion-y smother as advertised, I didn’t see or taste them. But it was pretty good anyway.

Hedgehog’s chicken was soggy-topped and dry inside. I’d warned her, but she had to see for herself, poor li’l prickly. Anyway, the red beans and rice that came with it were good.

Warning: the black beans are vegetarian, and therefore not very good. Unless maybe if you’re a vegetarian, but even then I think they might could use a little something.

The best thing I’ve had, in my two visits to Criolla, was the mirliton salad. Hedgehog, being an issue-taker by nature, took issue with our waiterperson’s mispronunciation of mirliton. She’s also a former and future resident of New Orleans, so has heard the word more than most of us’ns.

The way she says it sounds like mella tone, as in melatonin — which has helped me sleep once or twice, so I like it. But the salad is something else entirely: almost see-through, thinly sliced strips of mirliton — or chayote, a kind of gourd with crunch, which tastes pretty much exactly like whatever you put on it, in this case a lemon-cumin vinaigrette.

And avocado, which needs no introduction.

Yum! So that was the best thing I have had at my new favorite restaurant. A little tiny starter salad. Still, I will go back, I’m sure, because even though I’m mad at them for their fried chicken, and disappointed in the catfish, there are still the shrimp po’oys and charbroiled oysters to be tried.

If those oysters come even close to the chargrilled ones I ate one day at Acme Oyster House in Metairie after buying some shirts at the mall last spring, then I will be the happiest little glaze-eyed chicken farmer in the whole wide city, and will promise to never ever leave the Bay Area ever again.

Which. Wait. I have promised before, and broken. And broken. And will break again, I promise. 



Daily: 7 a.m.-2 a.m.

2295 Market, SF

(415) 552-5811



Beer and wine





CHEAP EATS Some people wanted closure, so we went around the circle and each said what we got out of our 10 days of writerly camaraderie, intense productivity, and snorkeling. OK, chicken farmer, here’s where you thank the people who brought you here and lick the asses of all the new, important writerly friends you’ve made, I thought. Which should have been easy, because I did love my new friends and got a shitload of good work done in Mexico; but exhaustion and head problems got the better of me, and by the time my turn came the circle was already aslosh with gratitude, spinning its wheels in good vibes and wonderfulness. I was suffocating. I was drowning. I was dizzy. And it was my turn to say what I got out of it.

“An ear infection!” I said.

If I’d have stopped there it would have been funny, but I’d been out of my stomach for four days and couldn’t stop bitching and whining: My head felt like it was going to explode every time I nodded, the smell of toast made me want to puke, and if I bent down to scratch a mosquito bite I would pass out, I was so dizzy. How the hell was I supposed to get in the van that was taking us all to the airport next morning, let alone fly in an airplane at 39,000 feet with entirely clogged ears? Did anyone have any decongestants?

Heads shook in sympathy. People promised to check their pill collections before going to bed.

“The food was really really good,” I added.

Then it wasn’t my turn to speak anymore, and the circle continued to gush toward closure. Hard to say how many enemies I’d made, but — since everything else in the world is hard to say too –hey, who’s counting?

At the airport, I wasn’t the only one having a nervous breakdown. Irene was scheduled to land in New York at the same time some of us were. The East Coast was closed. Flights to other places were full.

And, worse, the Starbucks where we awaited our fates was playing squirrely jazz.
I set up a little Ativan dispensary at our table. See, here’s where being a complete spaz comes in handy: I’d been tracking the hurricane for half a week, and had already changed my return trip from JFK to Pittsburgh. So alls I had to worry about was my head exploding before reaching cruising altitude.

It didn’t!

Hedgehog was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator by baggage claim, big smile. She’d left her
stupid movie one day early, drove to Pittsburgh, and got us a nice hotel room near the airport and even nearer to one of the satellite Primanti Bros. To which she immediately whisked me for a pastrami and French fry sandwich and a romaine salad, also with French fries. As if I weren’t loopy enough already.

“Not as good as Giordano’s,” I declared, “but better than the original Primanti.”

The fizzy water did not have French fries in it.

Hedgehog set a half-full bottle of West Indies Creole habanero sauce on the table between us. “I didn’t know what you’re supposed to take with you in an evacuation,” she said, “but I grabbed this.”

“I like your style,” I said, putting it mildly while pouring my favorite hot sauce all over everything.

“You did the right thing.”

She liked my ativanitude, she said.

And we went to our hotel room, made category 4 love,
and in the morning drove back to New York where we had dinner plans and US Open tickets. After this we head back west, finally, stopping only for nephewish weddings, state fairs and I guess gas and shit.

We might go to a Steelers game.

Meanwhile, in time for football season, Giordano’s has opened a restaurant in the Mission, without me.

It’s where Ti Couz used to be, on 16th Street at Valencia, and rumor has it they have pieroghis.

So my question to you, Mr. Earl Butter, is why the hell are you still eating at Valencia Pizza & Pasta?

Double stuff



CHEAP EATS Did you ever have one of those dreams, you know, where you know it’s too good to be true and yet there it is, so you decide to keep dreaming, to let it be true for as long as possible, please, because eventually the alarm’s going to go off and you are going to wake up and eat your oatmeal and start having to answer to your exact life again, the real one, with mosquito bites and carsickness in it?

My roommate looked like Elvis Costello in 1977. She picked up the box of Oreo cookies, examined it, then made a face and went, “These would be good if it weren’t for that gross stuff in the middle. Eww — and there’s more of it than usual! Does anyone mind if I just eat the halves without the white stuff?”

I stood there, in the middle of this kitchen, pinching myself. This can’t be happening, I thought. I must be dreaming.

Then: Go with it. Just .. . go.

“Oh, I don’t mind, I suppose,” I said, twisting an Oreo in half, stuffing the double-stuffed half into my mouth and conceding to my new favorite roommate ever the half that, in real life, no one wants.

“Thank you so much, roomie,” she said. “You’re the best!”

“It’s OK,” I said, sighing as if my reward would be in heaven. As if this weren’t already heaven, this magical land where your roommate takes what most people leave in the bottom of the cookie jar — or wish they could — in that otherworldly, distant world called, the world.

On the beach — which is just off our balcony, btw — turtles hatch almost nightly, and someone stands in the surf with a red light, luring the cute little adorables, hundreds at a time, toward the Caribbean and away from the condos.

Last night I was sipping tea under a thatched straw umbrella, listening to the waves, watching the lightning, and talking with Beth about her novel and my short story project . . . when all of a sudden a mama sea turtle came lumbering out of the surf and onto the beach next to us.

“So,” I said, “what are you working on?”

She didn’t say. You’re supposed to show, not tell, and turtles know this. She flapped her powerful flippers, digging a huge hole in the sand, breaking for breath more than she was actually digging. But getting the job done.

It took hours, and two tries, and then we got to watch her lay her eggs. When she finally had packed and buried them to her liking, and made her way one small step at a time, huffing and puffing, to the water’s edge, and in, we cheered.

This is an endangered species, only here you wouldn’t know it. The beach is lined with nests, encircled by stones, and marked with a dated wooden cross that in this dream doesn’t mean death but new life — for reals! Sixty days later.

Yo, nine weirdo writers from the Bay Area, L.A., New York, Phoenix, and Amherst, Mass. are invited by RADAR Productions to Akumal, Mexico to write and eat together for ten days, and not one of the nine is vegetarian, let alone vegan.

Pinch me.

Ow!! I woke up. I do miss my baby, not to mention my babies, and I’m trying to remember another distant dream in which my dear Hedgehog and I are oh so very hungry in one of those first-place-we-see kind of ways, when: wham! At the corner of Balboa and 5th Avenue: Muguboka.

It’s not bad Korean, and affordable — at lunchtime anyway. For only $8 and $9 we had bulgogi and galbi (or marinated steak and short ribs, in lay terms) and no less than 12 different band cheeses (or little bowls of delicious things, in lay terms).

Those little tiny crunchy fishes was one. Kimchi. I wish I could show-not-tell you all 12, but my memory has been erased by some of the most fantastickest meals imaginable, here in Mexico. Last night: the first bowl of tortilla soup I ever truly loved. If they were a restaurant, our camp cooks, Other Beth and Only Christina, would be my new favorite one. Instead:


Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun. 5-11 p.m.

401 Balboa St., S.F.

(415) 668-6007

Beer & wine



Of wings and thumbs


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Hedgehog has a favorite restaurant in San Francisco. No, it’s not John’s Snack & Deli, but only because you can’t sit down in there, and so it’s hard sometimes to think of it as a restaurant. Hedgehog’s favorite restaurant restaurant is San Tung, the incredible chicken wing place.

We tried to go there during our Avenue Days. We did, we walked through the Golden Gate Park, past the De Young Museum, around that other thing, and then across the Big Rec baseball diamonds diagonally.

We did not step in dog shit. In this way, we were having the time of our lives. In other ways… not so much.

For example: There was an argument, at one point, over which way to turn. I said right. She said left. I said, no, right. She said left. I said it was my city, not hers, and if she wanted to go left she could but I was hungry so I was going right. She said I had no sense of direction, definitely left, blah blah blah, and I just looked at her. “Do you like being wrong?” I said. She laughed.

Meanwhile, it was Wednesday.

The importance of which will be obvious to all fans of San Tung chicken wings and even probably San Tung other things. We were arguing for no reason! For — sadly, maddeningly, ununderstandably, and entirely unreasonably — San Tung is closed on Wednesdays.

Why???!!! Wednesday is a day. Lovers of chicken wings will need chicken wings on Wednesdays too, don’t they know this?! What do they think, that weeks should have an island of winglessness in the middle of them? I don’t think so, and neither does Hedgehog; and yet, if I had a memory, I would have remembered that San Tung was closed on Wednesdays and steered us toward Memphis Minnie’s or some other good-wing-having open-on-Wednesday place.

My sense of direction, unlike my memory, is almost impeccable. I know where the sun rises and sets. I know how to find the North Star. I know where that smell is coming from. And I think I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, I thought you were in France, Ms. Sense-of-Direction.

Well, yeah, but we’re time traveling. I know how to do that, too. For example, if it’s Wednesday when you read this, never mind San Tung. If you set your mind or heart on dry-fried chicken wings, or even wet ones, you are going to wind up at Perilla Vietnamese restaurant, drowning your sorrow in a big good bowl of rare beef pho. Not that that’s what we got.

We got five-spice chicken (great), garlic noodles (great), and the raw beef appetizer that is normally called I think Bó Tai Chanh, but Perilla calls it beef carpaccio — which just doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t pack the same lemony, peppery, peanuty, fish saucy punch as Bó Tai Chanh. Nor was Perilla’s as punchy or tender as the dish usually is.

Still, on the strength of the other stuff, I liked Perilla. No, it wasn’t what we had crossed the park for. But. You know. The best-laid plans of chicken farmers and sound editors … and so forth.

Or I should say writers and writers, technically, because as you know time has passed and Things have happened. I thought I was going to come back from France with a new lease on life, if not chicken farming, and the truth is that I did not.

I came back from France with a bum trigger finger and a healthy bum.

It’s not what you think. I simply spent so much time there pushing butter knives through butter that I actually deeply bruised the bone at the tip of my right index finger. It’s the first ever excessive buttering repetitive stress injury in the history of eating, that I know of.

So now almost everything I do kinda hurts, but especiall tpig — if o kw wat I ea.

I’m just kidding, of course. I mean, it hurts to use a knife, but not type. And I am otherwise as healthy as a hearse and happy to be reunited with my favorite language ever.

And my new favorite restaurant:


Daily: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

836 Irving St., S.F.

(415) 564-9907

No alcohol



Cluck and shuck



CHEAP EATS Beignets have cheese in them. Boudin does not have rice. Andouille is made of tripe. It’s not the least bit spicy. I’m learning a lot in France, and one of the things I’m learning is I can’t wait to be back in New Orleans.

In Rochefort they are building a ship, a more-or-less exact replica of the Hermione, which carried LaFayette from Rochefort to Boston in 1780 with news that yo, the French had our back. According to some Frenchies who I ate with, the new Hermione upon completion will also sail from Rochefort to Boston! You know, for old time’s sake.

I’ve tried more than once to get into the little shipyard there and have a peek at it. I want to know approximately how much time I have to get back home and start a revolution. But alas, I haven’t got a clue.

Yesterday I cooked up one of Farmer Fabienne’s chickens for dinner and we ate it again for lunch today, and I still can’t believe how goddamn awful good it tasted. And juicy! Even the breast. Even warmed over. I’m accustomed to true free-range chickens being a tad too easily overcooked. In fact, until we sunk our teeth into it, I was sure I had overcooked this one and had already started my suicide note while I was waiting for Fabienne and Fred to come in for dinner from the fields.

“You raise you a fine, fine chicken, farmer,” I said to Fabienne.

“And you cooked it perfectly, farmer,” she said to me.

We call each other farmer. Fred, technically, is a carpenter.

The secret from her end, Fabienne said, was in the corn, which (allegedly) “builds lipids.” So her feed, which she grows herself organically, is more corn than wheat or sunflower seeds. And the chickens of course also have access to grass and bugs and sunshine.

Hedgehog is in New York now, working on a movie. When I sent her a picture of our dinner and explained about the lipid-ish juicy excellence of it all, she of course wanted to know if the corn was sweet corn or “ratty yellow stuff.”

“Hold on a second,” I said (but in an email). And I went out into yon cornfield to check.

Yellow. I didn’t see any rats and or rattiness, but I’m guessing it ain’t exactly sweet corn by Hedgehog’s standards. I’m not saying she’s a sweet corn snob, but she is. And she has every right to be, like I’m a snob about butter. And together we shall make the best popcorn in the history of the world, if not cinema.

So, yeah, she’s working on a movie and I’m working on a book. And I send her pictures of the food I’m feeding the French and she sends me baseball reports from the States.

As if I cared. Which I do. Again. Thanks to both her and Baseball Mary. Baseball Mary, you will recall, presides at the Clement Street Bar and Grill, my new favorite bar. And grill, come to think of it.

Hedgehog and I had the honor of house and garden-sitting for my pals Papa and Papi, thanks to which you will be reading about much more avenue-y than usual restaurants over the next few weeks.

The Clement Street Bar and Grill was where we watched our baseball, except for one evening we also ate there, along with the Choo-Choo Train, Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling, Earl Butter, and a couple of visiting beloveds from Ohio.

Me, I got osso buco with garlic mashed potatoes. Hedgehog had the duck breast special. Earl Butter had a steak, and I forget what all else was flying around the table. But for sure, a lot of happy faces and good times, not to mention full bellies.

This is a real gem of an unpretentiously old-school filler-upper, whether you’re eating or drinking.

We bellied up to the bar afterwards to watch the end of the Giants game, and Baseball Mary joined us for a little while, but then the game went into extra innings and we all had to leave.


Tue.-Thu. 4:30 — 9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 4:30-10 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. & 4:30 — 9 p.m.

708 Clement, SF

(415) 386-2200

Full bar



Sneaky peeps



Do you remember the chicken farmer? Not me. The real one, Fabienne Gagagaga, upon whose farm on the west coast of France I landed serendipitously a year-and-a-half ago when I was ejected from Germany?

Remember? I didn’t even know she was a chicken farmer until she picked me up at the train station in a pickup truck, with shit on her shoes and hay in her hair, and fed me homekilt lamb and the world’s best butter until I had regained enough strength to help her clean some coops and cook a cherry-beer- chicken-heart stew with so many hearts in it that I half-expected to still see it this time — a year-and-a-half-later — on the stove where it stayed, for days, while we dipped in every dinnertime.

Remember how I accidentally left the farm and fell into the hands of hippies from Pleiades, who anointed me with essential oils and tried to make suicide pacts with me? Well, ever since then I have been trying, in one way or another, to get back to the farm. I’ve been home, I’ve been happy, I’ve been scared, I’ve even been in love again, but still I have wanted to come back to this place, in a less depressed state of mind this time, and help Fabienne take care of her chickens. Voila.

After dark tonight, in about 10 minutes, we are going to “take care” of about a hundred of them. She has 102. Two are for eggs.

At 10 o’clock, she and I, her boyfriend Fred, and her dad — hold on. It’s 10 o’clock . . .

It’s noon, the next day. That’s three in the morning to you, and even though I’ve been here for a couple weeks already, being a chicken farmer — getting my chicken farmer back on, so to speak — it’s still confusing inside my body.

Her chickens are free-range, happy farm chickens, and she raises them (except the two) for meat. I stood outside in the rain last night, opening and closing plastic cages and counting to seven, over and over again, in French, while the others raided the coop and stuffed the cages. The happy part of 7 x 14 little free range lives was over.

Those plastic cages went onto a little trailer, and we went to bed so we could get up at four in the morning to take them to a sort of a finishing school. When they come back they will be finished. And that’s when the happiness begins for Fabienne’s customers.

Many of whom don’t want the hearts and livers. So this is also where the happiness begins for me. But I’m ahead of myself by even more than nine hours now.

Where was I, from a Cheap Eats standpoint? Oh yeah. Staying at the Edwardian Hotel for one night, and walking past Rebel Bar on our way to sushi. There was a sandwich board on the sidewalk that said “Sneaky’s BBQ” with an arrow pointing across the street to Martuni’s.

What the? — we both wondered, but did not stop to investigate because, although Hedgehog loves barbecue every bit as much as I do, we had our stomachs set on sushi.

After which we walked on the Martuni’s side of Market Street, but I didn’t even need to open the door to know they were not barbecuing — not even sneakily — in there. So we crossed the road.


Because I’m supposed to know about these things. We decided to have barbecue for dessert. There’s a thin line between rebellion and dyslexia, turns out. Of course that’s where Sneaky’s is.

We ordered a couple of PBRs and a mess o’ chicken wings, smoked, with the spicy habanero-jalapeno sauce. The bandanna’d dude at the table next to us turned out to be the cook. How sneaky of him. He jumped up when he heard spicy, all excited, and took over for our waitressperson, talking us into some kind of crazy spicy on-the-side sauce too, then disappearing into the kitchen.

The wings were good. Plenty spicy even without all the craziness. I can’t wait to come home now, to pork bellies, brisket, and pulled pork. Meanwhile, I’ll see you in my dreams, Sneaky.



Inside Rebel Bar

Mon. 5-9 p.m.; Tue.-Fri. 5-10 p.m.; Sat. noon-10 p.m.; Sun. noon-9 p.m.

1760 Market, SF

(415) 431-4200

Full bar



Non-accidental tourist



CHEAP EATS It’s an interesting experience to be a tourist in one’s own town. I recommend it. And I don’t mean showing your visitors to the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, a big, good dinner, and then going home; I mean sleeping at the hotel with them. Wandering around with a confused expression on your face, asking silly questions, and wearing funny clothes are optional, but encouraged.

Hedgehog is allergic to cats and Stoplight pretty much is one. For me, the decision was easy. As much as I enjoy sleeping with my cute little kitty all tangled in my hair and trying between four and five every morning to scratch out my eyeballs, I prefer the sensation of soft, warm, human skin, along with some other advantages such as sex, intelligent conversation, and sleep.

Hedgehog being for the most part a human being, I subletted my place and puss a little earlier than I had to, and went with her.

One night we stayed at the Edwardian on Market and Gough. This is not my new favorite hotel, but on the plus side it put me in a position to eat three things I might not have otherwise eaten, including a bowl of Italian wedding soup from Caffé Trieste across the street.

As far as I know, there are no other kinds of wedding soup beside the Italian kind. It has, traditionally, escarole in it, and tiny meatballs, in a chicken broth with celery and onions. Some wedding soups also contain pastine, which is both little tiny pasta similar to orzo, and one of my cousins in Ohio.

The Leone family recipe never had pasta in it. Nor did the Rubino family recipe. Maybe because both of my Grandmas came from the same li’l village in Italy. They made, instead, these dense cheesy eggy spongey croutons we called cheesies. And if you ever are lucky enough to have a holiday dinner with any one of my siblings, but especially Maria, there will be wedding soup with cheesies.

I have never had it at a wedding.

But then again, I have never had a wedding. If I do, there will be wedding soup like this, and that will be all I need to know. I personally can’t stop eating it once I start.

Except at a restaurant because then you’re at a restaurant. And if I don’t change the subject soon, this will be a restaurant review, which won’t exactly do. So let me tell you what we watched on television at the Edwardian Hotel that night.

The San Francisco Giants, and the San Jose Giants, who were playing two different teams on two different channels — and at my apartment there isn’t even a TV, so take that, Stoplight.

Tourism 1, Stoplight 0.

I’m just kidding. Before the game(s), we went to Sushi Zone for an early dinner. We got there at 5:30, before the masses, and sat right down at the counter. The place is, of course, miniscule. Two booths and maybe six or eight seats at the bar. By six there was a waiting list, and people were bringing their knitting and pitching tents on the sidewalk.

Can I tell you how smug we felt? Sitting and eating our early-bird dinner? So smug that I almost hated us . . . but loved the worms. Truly, this is top-shelf sushi.

Hedgehog had the baked mussel appetizer, which had mayonnaise in it, so I passed on that and ate a salad. Everything sushi-y that we had was fantastic, including regular old saba, but the show stopper was tuna with mango and something else.

It was the mango and wasabi combination that caught Hedgehog’s attention, and then mine when she showed it to me. I am always looking for new taste sensations and good, ripe mango with wasabi on it — not to mention the fish and ginger and everything — really floated my boat. This carried me over, happinesswise, until our late dinner, which occurred out of nowhere on our way back to the hotel, but we’ll all have to wait until next week, cause I’m out of inches.

For at least 20 minutes, my new favorite restaurant was:


Mon.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.

1815 Market, S.F.

(415) 621-1114

Beer and wine

Cash only

Winning big



CHEAP EATS In Lovelock at the Saddest Little Carnival Ever I threw ping-pong balls into little glass cups of water and in this manner won two goldfish. Live ones, looping insanely in a small plastic water cup with a lid on it.

“What do you have to do to win a stuffed one?” I said, indicating with a tilt of my head one of the strings of orange-and-white-striped Nemo fish adorning all four posts of the booth. These would have made much better travel companions. Then I could have given it to one of the chunks when I got home.

The carny flashed a piano keyboard smile and drawled, “Those are just for show.”

“I see,” I said, wishing I could have those five-for-a-dollar ping-pong balls back and miss this time. What was I going to do with a plastic cup of goldfish on a 10-day road trip?

There were about 14 other people at the Saddest Little Carnival Ever, and about 13 of them were not on the Zipper, the Orbit, the Spaceship 2000, or the merry-go-round. I found a 10-year-old mark who had gotten away from his parents for the moment and looked like he might know what to do with some goldfish on a 10-day road trip. Or maybe he lived in Lovelock.

“Do you want them?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

So I handed him the little plastic cup and got the hell out of there before his parents came around.

I should have gambled, because lately I’ve been hitting my marks. In San Francisco, weirdly, I scored goals each of the past two Sundays. One was in a 14-4 win, so everyone was doing it, and the other — in a 6-5 win — was lucky cause it grazed off a defender’s head or their keeper surely would have gotten it.

But that’s what I’m saying. Lucky. I should have gambled in Lovelock. On money, not ping-pong balls and goldfish.

Alice Shaw the Person, my teammate and old friend, wanted to go to a barbecue with all the Brazilian boys on our team, and — having grilled the meats with Brazilian boys myself, once or twice — I wanted to go too.

Alas, I had me some childerns to tend to that afternoon, so Alice Shaw the Person went to the feast with someone else and lent me her car to get home.

In life, no one has lent me more cars than Alice Shaw the Person. The last thing I want to do is get onions all over her upholstery. But I was not only hungry as a fullback, I was running late for work and needed of course a bath.

So I did. I ate in the car. First I had to find a parking spot between Ghirardelli Square and the Mission, and that happened at Gough and Hayes. So Kebabs of Hayes Valley seemed like a pretty good idea.

Kebabs in cars, right? It’s like a giant toothpick only it’s putting in instead of taking out, and in the end everyone is happy, give or take the onions.

Yeah, but I didn’t get kebabs. They had Mediterranean wraps, and that seemed even better. Lamb and beef gyro on lavash, with lettuce, tomato, pepper, cukes, and tahini. Sounds to me like shawarma.

Whatever, it was so good, and I was so hungry, that I’m pretty sure none of it — not even a crumb — made it to the floor or even the seat of that car.

One thing, though: there wasn’t any lamb, or beef, in my lamb and beef gyro wrap. It was chicken. All chicken. And it was so juicy and delicious that instead of being mad I was like, yeah, that’s what I meant.

So: New favorite restaurant, for reading my mind. And for being there. It seemed like an okay place to eat in, too. Some people were. They looked happy and clean.

But what do I know?

I know there’s a little boy in Nevada whose parents are yelling at him, right now, and while this isn’t ideal, I’ll take it. 


Sun.–Thu. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

406 Hayes, SF

(415) 252-5100


Beer and wine






CHEAP EATS I’ve got to get my head out of my ass. I don’t know if bars are where this happens, but the music is better. At the Dovre Club, they were playing the Cars, then the Clash, and Kayday was trying to think what comes next — the Dead Kennedys, or Devo — when a cockroach peeked out from under a coaster, then scampered between our drinks.

An interesting thing is that I was having a gin and tonic for probably the first time since I was in high school, listening to the Cars, the Clash, and then-what. This cockroach had probably only been alive for six days, week-and-a-half tops. It was pretty scrawny.

Kayday, who is a way, way more classy woman than I can ever dream of being, sort of lifted her glass (without spilling!) and scooted the little no-no over toward the bartender, who unceremoniously dealt with it.

And that was a life.

Mine is different. The Dovre Club has always been good to me, ever since it was in the downstairs corner of the Women’s Building. It was there, 15 years ago, in front of a pint of something-or-other, that I made an important, life-altering decision: to go to El Rio.

Where I met Crawdad de la Cooter, my most significant ex-other ever, whose children are the strongest argument for getting out of bed in the morning that I have ever heard. Especially the past couple mornings, when the argument was made in person and accompanied by pulls and tugs and demands for oatmeal.

With kids it’s automatic: your head can’t be up your ass because it has to be up theirs. And this is why my No. 1 goal in life is to become a grandmother. Somehow. Against all odds — every single one of them, given my own personal lack of children. But if I can only have a grandchild! Then I can die, when I do, with my head out of my ass.

And with a big pot of sauce on the stove.

I was talking with my hairdresser last night about mortality, and our problems with it — which are for the most part, at this point, conceptual. When I left the house, the kids were sleeping. Their father was home from work, eating ice cream, being the dad of their dreams, and just generally practicing the sousaphone. Their mom was in Bellingham, Wash., memorializing a friend of ours who was too young to die but did.

So I got my hair done. And when I came back, he didn’t even look up from his ice cream. “Nice haircut,” he said.

“Crawdad is a lucky woman,” I said, and went to bed.

But before any of this, before even the cockroach that came after the Cars and the Clash and between our drinks, my long-lost bestie Kayday and me were seeing to some Nicaraguan food at Nicaragua Restaurant on Mission Street.

There was ceviche, which I loved, and a tamale, which I didn’t, and the great Nicaraguan dish called chancho con yuca, which means, in no uncertain terms, pig with yuca.

As you know if you’ve ever been to Limon Rotisserie and ordered right (i.e. fried), yuca can be so good. Or … not.

Not that it was bad at Nicaragua. It just was, you know, a starch. Like a boiled potato, it needed work. If you scoop a bunch of the tangy ceviche juices onto it, hot sauce, salsa, and mash it up with your fork: OK. Yum. Otherwise, you know, ho fuckin’ hum.

Kayday started waxing poetic on the nature of starches, such troopers! How resilient and accommodating they are. Up for anything. Then the next thing I knew, she was speaking from the point of view of our plate-loads of underseasoned yuca. She’s from Indiana and therefore does great impersonations of starches.

Anyway, it was better than the music. For some strange reason, by way of atmosphere, they were playing Juice Newton and Laura Branigan. Which is why the Cars and Clash songs after were such a treat, like a chiropractic adjustment.

Or something.


Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

3015 Mission, SF

(415) 826-3672

Beer and wine

Cash only




CHEAP EATS I probably could have picked a better route to the restaurant. Maybe if I’d gotten off at the Powell station instead of Civic Center. As it was, at not-even-9 a.m. on a Saturday, I had to step over piles of shit and vomit.

It was like reading one of my restaurant reviews; it’s part of life, yes, but not necessarily the part you want to happen before dinner. Or in this case, breakfast.

But, so you know, I would step over dead bodies and piles of fish guts to caffeinate and chew things up with my friend Kayday. Especially at farm : table, which I had heard about and have been meaning to get to for forever. High on my list of Things To Do this year is to find my way back to my former farmerliness. Because I miss the eggs, but also because I’m tired of myself in my shit-kicking city-fried people personhood. I long for the smell of a chicken coop.

Kayday, who was essentially nudged out of San Francisco for the same reason I will be one day — for not being the cool kind of queer — was down for the weekend from Seattle. Not for Pride — for the weekend before, to consign and collect her guitars and things.

I do hope everyone had a happy and proudful Pride month, and weekend, and parade. I encourage this forward-thinking bubble, being the self-proclaimed beacon of queer acceptance that it, um, proclaims itself to be, to start opening not only its mouth but its employment opportunities, its hearts, and even in some cases (gasp) its zippers to transwomen before we lose more good guitar players to Seattle.

Mine had about a gazillion job interviews in the one year she was here, but no job offers, whereas she was one-for-one in both Los Angeles and Seattle. Which reminds me of my romantical track record, home and away. Not that we talk about this. You just can’t help wondering.

“I feel like I was dumped by San Francisco,” Kayday said.

We were sitting at the inside table. That’s officially all there is, inside, at farm : table, is one pretty big square one, seats maybe eight, and then a couple more on the sidewalk.

“That sucks,” I said, biting into my fresh pea and pecorino quiche, which didn’t. It was light and fluffy, and I could almost hear the hens that laid those eggs, clucking softly in the kitchen. I was almost halfway done with it before Kayday figured out how to even approach her baguette-bacon-hard-boiled-egg pileup. By which time everyone else at the table had weighed in with their own techniques.

“Turn the egg over and smash it into the bread,” one woman offered. Another said she just takes the pieces off and eats them à la carte.

“Me, I get the quiche,” I said, chomping on clouds. Christ, I love San Francisco. And the Tenderloin.

One nice thing about sharing a table with a bunch of strangers: Kayday was spared the gory details of my recent bad butt health. I only told her what the surgeon told me: that if it doesn’t heal in two to four weeks, the next procedure is so uncomfortable they will have to put me to sleep. Those were his words.

“I hope he doesn’t come from a veterinary background,” Kayday said.

“I know. Right?” I said. “I’m getting my affairs in order, just in case.”


Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–6 p.m.;

Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.;

Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

754 Post, SF

(415) 292-7089

No alcohol

Cash only




CHEAP EATS I have already written a restaurant review, a poem, and a cheerful pop song about my anal abscess. I don’t know how else to celebrate the cursed motherfucker. I could curse … But I guess I’ve done that too.

I’ve already had it lanced twice. Those were the good times. Except that on the first occasion I missed a day of work, and on the second I missed a baby shower. I felt so badfully about the missed baby shower that I invited the moms-to-be, Pod and the Attack, to breakfast the following Saturday. Technically I guess maybe I invited myself to breakfast. At their house.

Bless them, they made my favorite: waffles! With fresh strawberries! They made bacon! They made eggs! They made roasted tomatoes! It was the perfect meal! It was a masterpiece! It was culinary genius! It was the time of our lives!

Problem: I forgot to go. I don’t know, I was looking forward to it all week and then I woke up on Saturday morning, went, “Dum-de-doe,” and decided — oh, I don’t know — maybe do a little recording, or something.

I record in my kitchen because it’s the quietest room in my apartment, if I turn off the refrigerator. My cell phone was in the closet. At the designated hour, Pod went to West Oakland BART and waited for me.

When she called to say what-the-where-the-fuck-are-you? I was in the kitchen. I had my headphones on, refrigerator off, and was laying some blistering electric ukulele tracks onto Garage Band, singing: “It’s a new day/ It’s a driving rain/ I’m gonna have anal surgery/ It’s gonna be OK/ Gonna feel no pain / Or if I do it will be good for me.” La la la la la la.

And so forth.


I saw my cell phone while I was getting ready for work. It was lit up like a Christmas tree: texts, voicemails, e-mails. What-the-where-the-fuck-was-I? Oh my sweet baby Jesus, you can imagine my horror, and self-hatred — nay, loathing — as it all sunk in. How did I do that? How could I? Was my head so far up my ass that … ?

Well, technically it was, damn me. Clobber me in the kidneys with a golf club. I felt as low as a horse’s hoof cheese. And that was before the Attack sent me a picture of their spread, Pod in all her pregnancy sitting down to eat those wonderful things I said, plus cantaloupe.

Minus me.

I’ve done some dumb-ass things in my day, but don’t know if I’ve ever hated myself more. I couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to forgive myself. I still kinda can’t. I mean, the bacon alone looked so good in that picture.

They were of course very gracious and forgiving, and I was of course determined to make it up somehow. I invited them over to Berkeley that evening for some of the chicken pot pie that me and the kids were making. They declined.

I invited them to breakfast the following morning. Out somewhere, on me, and they accepted. We went to the Sunny Side Café in Albany, which was alleged to be kind of fancy-pants, and great.

Never in my life, before this, have I wanted a meal to cost more than it did. But, alas, it didn’t. It was like normal weekend brunch prices, roughly $10 apiece. Less tragically, but more to the point, I didn’t think the food was that good. Let alone great. I may have malordered. Maybe I was still traumatized by my brain fart from the morning before, but my spinach-and-sausage scramble was bland city, even with salt-pepper-Tapatío. The roasted tomatoes … meh.

Pod’s pigs in blankets … that was better. And the Attack, she got it right. She hit the jackpot with the Alameda, a stack-up of good stuff — ham, cheese, french toast, eggs — and some other things I personally don’t go for, which is to say mushrooms and Hollandaise. Oh, and a balsamic reduction.

It’s her new favorite restaurant.


Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–3 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun. 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

1499 Solano, Albany

(510) 527-5383

Full bar



Cheese bits



CHEAP EATS K. Chunk’s favorite restaurant is Caffe Venezia so that’s where we went for her third birthday. She was having a fruitful, productive, and all-around happy day until — just before dinner — she fell off the slide and cut her mouth. Now some things were going to be hard to eat, like crusty bread. Poor little carb loader.

I tried to distract her from her discomfort in the usual way: by talking about mine.

I’m kidding! We talked about love, of course. I had just come back from Nola for the umpteenth time, and was, well, in it. But I’m not going back for the rest of the year, because Hedgehog won’t be there. And Li’l Edible’s fambly already up and moved to Los Angeles, damn em, so I wouldn’t have any kind of babies to squeeze at all. Ergo: what’s the point?

Hedgehog is driving up to Pennsylvania as we speak, stopping to watch Minor League Baseball games along the way. She has work in New York, and then back to Nola, and then back to New York, and then we’re going to go camping a little out here before I leave the country for a couple months, to write.

She keeps score. She sent me a snapshot of the scorecard from last night’s single-A game in Hagerstown, Md., and in a blank square where she’d missed an at-bat she’d written: “BBQ pork.”

So you see?

“I see,” K. Chunk said. “Did she meet your mommy?”

K. Chunk’s ma and pa looked at me like, Yeah, what about that? Are you going to introduce her to your mom?

“Sure, if she wants to meet her,” I said. “I want everyone in the world to meet my mom. Then they’ll finally cut me some slack for being like I am.”

But it’s my dad who’s really going to hit it off with this pokey, spiny, pointy critter of mine when they cross paths at my nephew’s wedding in the fall. I wish I could say he’ll like her ’cause she obviously makes me happy and proud and inspires me to make songs and other things, and treats me with more care and respect than any of my other recent loves. But really it will be because she keeps score at baseball games.

Our food came.

Wagon wheels with butter sauce and lots of cheese for the birthday girl. Her older sister, whose birthday it wasn’t, had ordered wagon wheels too, but seemed to prefer eating all the little seafoods out of my linguine de mare. Her favorite — get this — was calamari. She might just have been trying to impress me, though, like when she sat with me on the couch in the dark, when she was three, and ate raw onions.

I was impressed with Venezia’s fare. I didn’t expect to like it that much, because it seemed at first glance like a place place, where the point was going to be the village square setting, complete with a fountain, muraled store fronts, fake pigeons, and line-hung laundry.

Cheese city, in other words. I loved it!

Mind you, it’s not cheap eats, but it’s good uns. The pasta was great, the tomato cream sauce was perfect, and the calamari, shrimp, clams, and mussels were not only fresh and delicious, but plentiful.

I got to taste some carbonara too. Next time I’m getting that. And I might not even wait for K. Chunk to turn four.

Venezia is a great place for a big group, and, of course, the childerns. They bring out little plates of carrot sticks, celery and olives for them right away, and they get jars of crayons to color on the paper tablecloths.

In this case, the kids were tired, bleeding from the mouth, and whatnot, so perhaps not surprisingly nobody finished their wagon wheels. Still, pennies were tossed into fountains, pigeons were spotted on rooftops, nourishment was achieved, and all-in-all somebody fantastically special to me turned three. So happy birthday to her.

And happy Father’s Day to her dad, and mine. And yours, I guess. Why not?


Mon.–Thu. 5:30–9 p.m.; Fri. 5:30–9:30 p.m.;

Sat. 5–9:30 p.m.; Sun. 5–9 p.m.

1799 University, Berk.

(510) 849-4681

Full bar



Cold comfort



CHEAP EATS I write to you from Dot’s Diner in Jefferson Parish, La. Hedgehog is getting her knee looked at down the road, and I thought I would find me a place to sit that wasn’t the waiting room. Or a pool hall. Or bar. Or fast food joint or automotive shop. Or warehouse, thrift store, or — but only because it’s 9:30 a.m. and I ain’t the slightest bit hungry — a fried seafood shack or po-boy shop.

Jefferson’s got good eats in its own right. Crabby Jack’s is here, and at the French Canadian Quarter Festival this spring they fed me the best boudin I ever had, but at 9:30 a.m. the only way you can get a table, apparently, is if you’re an upside-down chair.

If it were 10 a.m. or even three hours later, I would have been in heaven. All’s I really required was a good strong cup a coffee and a seat, but this ain’t California or Seattle or even New Orleans. It’s the parish, as the locals call it, where you can’t exactly sit down without having a meal.

But how pretentious of them to refer to their parish as “the parish.” Don’t you think that’s pretty arrogant? Louisiana has a lot of parishes. They’re like counties everywhere else.

Whatever, I’m sure you’re more interested in what I’ve been eating San Franciscowise than Dot’s Diner’s biscuit with a fried egg on top, smothered in crawfish julie.

I will tell you: duck soup.

As always I have been on the prowl, trying to find the city’s best bowl of cold medicine and antidepressant.

It ain’t at Big Lantern here in the ‘hood, I can promise you that. Me and Hedgehog went there the last time we were in the city together, and I was fighting a cold. A fight, by the way, that I lost.

I’m human. I get sick. In fact, I get sick more than most people, being not only human but a hypochondriac. (Not that I’ve been diagnosed with hypochondria. I can just tell I have it.)

Anyway, I had wanted to show Hedgehog something special like Zuni, Delfina, or Slanted Door, but I felt too much like crap to eat anything but duck noodle soup, pea sprouts in garlic, and string beans with smoked pork.

There were dumplings, too. I forget what they were called on the dim sum menu. Some kind of “little buns,” I think. The ones that were soupy inside, they were great, but some weren’t so soupy. They had lost their juice. Not so great.

I can’t really complain about the duck soup because it wasn’t technically on the menu. Nor was it all that half bad. But the pea sprouts needed a lot of doctoring to taste like anything, and the beans with smoked pork were some of the worst things ever. About half of the beans were lifelessly old tough shriveled ones, overcooked. And the pork was like pork jerky. Very dry. Very tough. Which — granted — maybe that’s what smoked pork means in Chinese restaurants. I don’t often order it, and won’t often order it again, to be safe.

To their credit, the garlic pea sprouts and the beans and pork got better the next day for lunch, and better still the day after that, because I doctored and doctored them back to life.

The soup hit the spot, but as long as I’m healthy enough to get on BART and buses, I will be having my future duck soups in Chinatown, at Great Eastern Restaurant, thank you.

The legendary Jackson Street standby, it turns out, has a rich, flavorful dark broth with perfectly succulent roast duck and great homemade noodles. Or wontons. Or both. For $9, it’s the reigning duck noodle champion, in my book.

I would like to thank John’s Snack and Deli for being out of kimchi burritos again, or else I might never have found this out.

Oh, and Great Eastern also has crocodile soup and soft-shell turtle soup, by the way. In case you’re not sick when you go there. *

New favorite restaurant! *


Daily: 10 a.m.–1 a.m.

649 Jackson, SF

(415) 986-5603

Beer and wine


Onward Toilet Bowl



CHEAP EATS The top four teams in the San Francisco Women’s Flag Football League can all beat the 49ers. My team cannot, but we can beat the bottom four teams and have proven it. By winning the biggest game of our storied one-season history, we established ourselves as the top of the bottoms: a solid fifth-place finish.

Yep, last week’s last minute comeback in the playoffs earned us a berth in the Toilet Bowl this week against a team that had shut us out in the regular season. We were losing again, 13-12, with less than five minutes left. Again our defense exploded: three touchdowns in the last three minutes. Final score: 31-13, us. Toilet Bowl MVP: Gene-Genie the Gold Standard, one of our many rugby converts, who spent less time on the ground than usual and scored two of our touchdowns, one receiving and one intercepting.

It was a brilliant performance, and a sweet note to end our first season on. Our goal was to win one game, and we won two, then both of our playoff games. Our goal for next season, in the fall, will be not to lead the league in penalties, and for our offense to outscore our defense. If we don’t and it does, we might have a shot at upper brackethood come next playoffs. Which would be nice. I kind of miss getting my ass kicked.

Unfortunately, there’s no way I can run fast enough to play soccer right now, so — by way of distracting myself from despair — my plans for summer include New Orleans yet again, camping, France, Mexico, New York, camping again, Ohio for a wedding, and the Bloomsburg Fair, where I will be researching a whole different, more Pennsylvania Dutchish take on chicken and waffles.

Who wants to sublet my apartment?

It’s cute. It’s cozy. It comes with the lovingest, lickingest cat in the whole history of felinity, and it smells like me. Come on. You know you want it.

Christ, I still can’t get over that we won. Enough already, you’re thinking, but you don’t understand. We were like the Bad News Bears, except none of us were very bear-like, so maybe we were the Bad News Honey Badgers. Or something.

Anyway, after the game and the champagne and a bowl of old cereal that a dog had been licking on the sideline, I went to eat something real with Hedgehog. We intended to have either sushi or Turkish food, but wound up eating Irishish at the Liberties ’cause it was nice enough to be outside. God bless plan C.

Hedgehog had a Reuben, and I had Irish sausage with eggs on a potato pancake with a red wine reduction gravy. Talk about your breakfast of champions: it was way, way better than dog-licked cereal with warm milk. The potato pancake was perfectly crispy outside and soft and creamy in the middle; the eggs were overeasied just so; and the sliced-lengthwise sausages tucked in-between the pancake and eggs were juicy and delicious.

Not as delicious as at the Phoenix’s Irish sausage, but that’s where wine gravy comes in. Yum. Yum.

Yum. And for less than $10 — I think like $9. And no waiting, even though it was brunch time.

Hedgehog’s Reuben looked good too. I tried her sweet potato fries, and they were pretty good, but I don’t much go for sweet potato anythings, so mostly I just left her alone.

They have regular fries, too, and you can get them with a curry dipping sauce, and more good news is that the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. I’ve never drank there, but I have walked by a lot at night because Kayday used to live around the corner and it always seems like there’s something fun going on inside.

I think they have a quiz night or something.

QUESTION: Where did the not-very-Dutch Roscoe’s style of fried chicken and waffles originate?

ANSWER: Fuck should I know. Hedgehog says Harlem, not the South. Anyway …

The Liberties Bar & Restaurant

Mon.–Fri.: noon–2 a.m.;

Sat.–Sun.: 10 a.m.–2 a.m.

998 Guerrero, SF

(415) 282-6789

Full bar


Hail Marys!



We ate chicken and waffles on the loading dock at farmerbrown’s Little Skillet, and garlic fries at AT&T Park. We ate chicken at Limon Rotisserie and chicken wings at San Tung. Tried to get a kimchi burrito, but John’s was sold out. We split a sandwich from Tartine.

She was interested in food, and naps. We did not go to the wharf, the bridge, the beach, the park, the Palace of Fine Arts, or Alcatraz. In fact, the only non-culinary landmark I even tried to sneak past her was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the Castro. That day, between meals, snacks, and shenanigans, I would occasionally put my lips close to her ear and go, “Boodi-boodi boooo. Bwa bwa bwa.” Only sometimes I would whistle it.

Didn’t happen. We went to Clement Street — me, Hedgehog, Earl Butter, the Choo-Choo Train, and King. There, at the Clement Street Bar & Grill, we met Baseball Mary. Who knows Choo-Choo, so he got a hug, and we all got baseball cards. Her position is “Lower Box 128, Row 3.” She has the biggest, cheerfulest smile, and has been to every MLB park.

Baseball Mary is from Portland, Maine, and therefore throws “wicked good parties,” according to the stats on the back of her card. In the interest of one day being invited to one, let me tell you that she is my new favorite waitressperson. Not that she waited on us. We didn’t eat. We just sat at the bar and drank and swapped Yogi Berraisms with the dude down the corner.

Truth be told, I was already happy. My three-week run of dark thoughts and existentially important-ass problems snapped the moment my new favorite airline, United, touched Hedgehog down safely at SFO. Of course, now I hate them again for taking her away.

But at least my ass feels better. As for the hamstring … well, there’s Burma Tea Leaf 1, for dinner. And to give you an idea how contented and all-around mentally stable I was feeling by then, they have duck noodle soup and I didn’t even notice! Who needed it, with mango salad, pork with pumpkin coconut curry, spicy catfish … everything under $10. And a waitressperson who gave Baseball Mary a run for her money, smilewise.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were writing this up?” Earl Butter said when I picked up the bill. “I would have been funnier.”

I wouldn’t have noticed. That whole long weekend was all about Hedgehog and me being us, me trying to impress her with chicken wings and so forth. For entirely selfish reasons, I want her to love San Francisco like I loved New Orleans while I was there — thanks largely to her plying me with fried things.

Our last night here we made the sweetest love two people have ever made, with due respect to everyone else in the world. Then, like in movies, I woke up early and snuck out of bed. I was going to be Rocky, and run and jump and run and just generally stretch my hamstring. There was a game at nine. It was the playoffs. I was going to play. Yeah: Rocky.

I got as far as cracking the eggs, then, being me, decided to cook them. With potatoes. And draw a bath. We had breakfast in the tub.

The game was on our way to the airport. On the first play I of course reinjured myself. But I had doctor’s permission now to play through the pain. So I went back in and was able to go about 65, 70 percent. With two minutes left we were losing by a safety and a touchdown.

I had nothing. On the sideline, I found out later, Coach said to Hedgehog, “Too bad you didn’t get to see her A-game.” I didn’t hear this, but must have felt it, because on the next play I wrestled a touchdown pass away from a defender, and a teammate.

But we were still down a safety, with a minute and a half left. For some reason instead of killing the clock, they passed, and for some reason I intercepted — and hobbled it back for a touchdown. Now we were winning with less than a minute left. So they had to pass — but I intercepted that one too. And one week after fearing my life was over because I couldn’t play sports, I was being carried off the field on shoulders, in front of my lover.

So. There’s that. 


Tues.–Thurs. 5-9:30 p.m.;

Fri.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., 5–10 p.m.

731 Clement, SF

(415) 2221-3888




Duck soup


I shouldn’t be so hard on Kaiser. I myself am prone to misdiagnoses. Example: the knee injury I sang the blues about two weeks ago that turned out to be a hamstring problem.

When I passed out in the bathroom at 5 a.m. and came to, all bonked and a-crumple, my first thought was Too Much Whiskey. Then I realized I hadn’t drunk anything for at least two weeks. So I must have been dehydrated.

Whatever. As you know, my cure for almost anything — including the common cold, uncommon anxiety, hammies, depression, and dehydration — is roast duck noodle soup. So when I saw Thailand Restaurant on Castro Street across from the theater, after all these years, I wondered if they had it.

The last time I ate at Thailand Restaurant, just to give you an idea, might have been the first time I had ever eaten Thai food. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had tom ka gai. We’re talking early ’90s.

I was hungry. Then, I was always hungry. Now I’m just hungry when I’m awake. Like last week when I renoticed Thailand Restaurant. I was awake, depressed, dehydrated, and hamstring challenged. Plus some other things, so even though it was only 5 p.m., I ascended the steps.

And they did have roast duck noodle soup! Like a regular walking into a bar, I ordered it before I even sat down. Then I sat down. In the window. And I looked out the window and thought about my old friend Satchel Paige the Pitcher.

He lives in Thailand now. Teaches English, is married to a Thai woman named Ann Paige the Pitcher, and they have cute little half-Thai, half-tall kids. Every couple years or so I get to see them, usually in Sacramento.

I would like to go to Thailand one day.

I’m not sure what I would do there, besides eat, but the other day Satchel Paige the Pitcher surprised the pus out of me by knocking on my door.

I opened it and just blinked and blinked.

“Hi Dani,” he said. It’s dark in my apartment. It’s also small.

“Satchel Paige the Pitcher!” I said. And I gave him a big hug and welcomed him to my small, dark apartment. Which he barely fit into.

Embarrassingly, I was still in my pajamas, even though it was afternoon. I was writing; I just hadn’t bothered to get dressed yet because sometimes, you know, I don’t. On writing days. I am rarely visited, and even rarelier by Satchel Paige the Pitcher.

I mean really, the only person who ever drops by besides Earl Butter — who doesn’t count cause he lives upstairs — is the Maze. And the Maze comes at night, so I tend to have clothes on. Lately he brings chicken saag from my new favorite restaurant, Pakwan, because it’s one of the worst restaurants in the city to eat in at, and I happen to live two blocks away.

And I happen to love their chicken saag.

But that ain’t what this is about. This is about me being in the darkest of moods, for the third week in a row, and sitting in a second-story window, looking down on Castro Street, thinking about Satchel Paige the Pitcher and waiting for duck soup to come fix everything.

He’s moving back, you know, he thinks. Maybe. Probably, but to Sacramento. And do you know why? Because in Thailand, he says, girls don’t play team sports.

His cute little kids being girls, and Thai ones, I can’t think of a better reason to move to Sacramento. Where would I be, for example, without team sports? I could draw a line all the way back to my earliest memories: football, soccer, baseball, football, volleyball, baseball, golf. Ironically, that was where I started: golf. But that ain’t a team sport, and I already said I’m not going to golf.

There must be a gene. Before I am a writer, a musician, a woman even, or a queer, I am an athlete. Satch has got it. His kids, probably. And if I don’t get back out there, soon — happy birthday to me — I am going to go absolutely fucking bonkers. Here’s my soup. 


Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

438-A Castro, SF

(415) 863-6868

Beer and wine


Ass backward



CHEAP EATS The good news is that my asshole itself is just fine. It took me almost three days to convince the imbecilic network of Kaiser phone reps that no, it weren’t hemorrhoids, you’re going to have to actually fucking see me. Apparently my $350 a month isn’t enough to warrant them having a look at my ass once every six years. Let alone sticking a finger in it.

“Probably hemorrhoids,” they said. “Someone will call you.” Which they didn’t, so I called back, and back. Five, six times.

And they said hemorrhoids.

The fifth or sixth time they said hemorrhoids I said, “You don’t understand. I haven’t been constipated since the late 1970s. Constipated people call me from across the country. To chat! Just talking to me makes them have to use the bathroom. I’m serious, it’s what mothers love about me. I get all the poopy diapers, and they get a regular baby. One mother called me — you’re going to love this — I was on vacation, and her kid hadn’t pooped since I left. Could she please just put him on the phone with me, maybe the sound of my voice would loosen him up. Which it did. And now you’re trying to tell me I have a hemorrhoid? Do you know who you’re talking to? Trust me. I wish I were sexy, like everyone else in the world. But I’m not. I’m good for something else: eating with, and talking shit. And yes, the two go hand in hand. As it happens, you probably-entirely-blameless representative of a crock-of-shit company, even what little sexy I am is mostly my mouth and my asshole, so can we please get this taken care of please, because I don’t get a lot of love as it is, and my lover is visiting from New Orleans in a week. Plus I’m afraid to eat hot sauce, which is my muse and antidepressant. So …”

“I’ll have someone call you,” they said.

And, you know, eventually, someone did. My old Rohnert Park doc, who is a superhero, must have called San Francisco (after talking with me) and explained that the crazy lady they’d been ignoring, losing in the system, and silencing with red tape really was the world’s Most Regular Person — seen in a strictly gastroenterological light — and was more likely to be carrying the seed of an alien civilization in her asshole than a hemorrhoid.

I don’t know if those would have been her exact words. But finally, after being in pain for nearly 60 hours — sitting, standing, walking, lying down — and 24 hours after the onset of general achiness and chills (possible symptoms of systemic infection, by the way), I was able to make an appointment!

It took the doctor less than 30 seconds to determine what I’d been trying to tell them for two days. It wasn’t a hemorrhoid. It was an abscess or cyst or something, and it was infected. He put me on antibiotics and went to get someone to cut me.

And it was she, my cutter, who put her finger in and said that, yes, my ass was fine.

I’d been trying to tell people that for days, and in a larger sense, for years and years. “Thank you,” I said.

My whole right cheek was red and swollen and incredibly painful to the touch, but she decided not to cut me for two days. I’d have argued otherwise, but I was already an hour late for dinner.

Luckily it was with Mr. Wong, my patientest of friends.

Over Korean fried chicken (or KFC) at Red Wings, just a hop, waddle, and short 38 ride down Geary, I related my Bukowskiesque ordeal, complaining about Kaiser much as I have just done toward you.

Minus the chicken, which was pretty not-all-that-half-bad — at least the fried. Mr. Wong got his roasted, with garlic and herbs, and I tasted it: dry dry dry.

“Well, look at it this way,” Mr. Wong said, chomping chicken. “At least you have health insurance.”

True. And at the end of a week when two of my aunts died, I have my overall health, and life. But honestly, between an infected abscess and the health care provider I pay to take care of such — er — bumps in the road, I don’t know which is the bigger pain in the ass.


Daily: 5 p.m.–2 a.m.

3015 Geary, SF

(415) 422-0012

Beer and wine



Knee-jerked reaction


CHEAP EATS I left my uke in New York City — technically in Boston, in the back of a station wagon headed for New York City. I left my baby, my toothbrush, my second-favorite pillow, and my other baby in New Orleans. My rabbit-fur jacket that I only ever wear to Rainbow Grocery … I left that in New Orleans too. I left my stomach in Dallas. I left my left knee in San Francisco, on the 50-yard line of a football field at Crocker Amazon. I don’t know where I left my pink cowboy hat. I can’t find it, and it’s pink cowboy hat season.

I got the ain’t-got-no-cowboy-hat-or-left-knee-neither blues.

One thing: I do have a new baby. He’s four months old and lives upstairs in my apartment building, so the commute’s real easy compared to Louisiana or even Berkeley. And he likes to suck on my left bicep sometimes while I’m rocking him to sleep, which gives me cute little hickies there.

In Dolores Park, a live dog’s got a stuffed bunny by the throat. He’s thrashing it this way and that, hammering it into the ground, growling, and beating the living fuzz out of it.

In various states of revelry and/or reverie, my friends and I are occupied in just generally occupying a couple of blankets, watching this big dog do its thing.

“My money is on the rabbit,” I say, because it is. I love an underdog.

In fact, we all are one — back in last place, our one-game winning streak having come to an inglorious end earlier that morning. Dig, who had an important sack on a third-and-short, our play-of-the-game, goes, “Look! It’s playing possum.”

Sure enough, the rabbit is lying very still in the grass, the dog standing over it, watching warily. I’m not a dog person, but I almost feel bad for this un. Its prey, this shattered, chewed-up Easter bunny, is limper than limp, is missing an ear, and arguably never had much fight in it; Nevertheless, I more than half expect it to at least jump up and run away, if not kick the dumb dog’s ass first.

Next week is the Kentucky Derby, and now that I officially “play the ponies,” I will have to find me a long shot to get behind. And get shat upon.

I got the ain’t-got-no-cowboy-hat-or-even-no-left-knee-neither blues.

My own Hedgehog says I ain’t no spring chicken farmer. I’m afraid someone’s going to buy me golf clubs for my birthday. Please don’t buy me golf clubs please. I got some team sports left in me, and contact ones at that. I know I do. Get me a knee brace, an ice pack, and a Costco-size bottle of ibuprofen, I got the ain’t-got-no-left-knee blues is all.

When that happens — that is, this happens — there is only one thing for me, and that is some quality Chunks de la Cooter time. It puts everything else in perspective. So I went and made a chicken pot with them, and bathed them and sang them to sleep and woke up with them in the middle of the night, and in the morning I took them to their Chunk Fu class, and then to Arizmendi and then what they call “the new park” because it’s probably the oldest park in all of Berkeley and therefore not on their beaten path. And I took pictures of them on the big-girl swings.

It was hard to say goodbye, so I didn’t. I went to dinner with the whole de la Cooter fambly down to Solano, to the new-to-me Korean bowls-of-things place, called Bowl’d.

The idea here — at least the main one — is bibimbap in stone bowls with your choice of meat or tofu. They also give you a choice of white rice or mixed grain. Either way it’s going to get all crusty and delicious at the bottom of your hot hot hot stone bowl.

At the top: cabbage, carrots, sprouts, greens, bulgogi if you’re me, and one nice sunny-side-up fried egg.



I wish there was a little more meat in it. But the meat there was good, and so was everything else. They don’t give you so many little bowls of things for the table, but they’ll refill what you love. In my case: kimchi. Super spicy. New favorite restaurant. 


Sun.–Thurs.: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat.: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

1479 Solano, Albany

(510) 526-6223

Beer and wine



Victory, victorious



CHEAP EATS He’s only in high school so far, but Coach’s little brother Coach is a football genius of Bill Walshian proportion. Here’s how I know: He came, he coached, we won.

Us. Yes. 12-0. He practiced us twice the day before the game, put people in their proper places, and called all the plays on offense. He’s 17. His even younger brother, Coachy, 14, taught the “cover four” to our defense, which includes me. I’m 47. And … well, 12-0! Compared to the 54-12 combined trouncing we received in our first three games, this was quite the minor miracle, this li’l shutout win. Four interceptions, two by me, one of which I returned for a touchdown. It was so unprecedentedly monumental that afterward I dumped about an eighth of a bottle of Gatorade over Coach’s brother Coach’s head.

And then, grinning, blushing, and just generally dripping electrolytes, he and his fold-away traveling coaching staff, which included their dad, folded into their car and drove back to San Diego. But not before Papa Coach thanked me again for taking care of that rooster back on New Year’s.

Which is important because no matter how much of a sexy celebrity hot shit football star I may become (with proper coaching) in my old age, I will always still be a chicken farmer at heart. Not to mention that offing this here rooster really gave me good luck this year.

For example: Boston. For example: New Orleans. For example: Hedgehog. For example: 12-0.

So the coaches left, except for Coach, and we were just us again, our ragtag women’s football team, basking on a plastic tarp on the sidelines, no longer winless, and no longer even I don’t think in last place. At least for one week. I wonder what happens next.

Next, I hug and high-five my teammates, and leave them sucking orange wedges to go eat something substantial with our fan, Kayday. That means Red Café on Mission and 25th streets, because Toast has a line, and we can’t find the Ebb Tide on account of existential crisis. Not ours; we’re still here. Well, I’m still here. By the time you read this, however, Kayday will have moved back to Seattle, which is kind of like ceasing to exist, except you can fly back on weekends. And she still wants to be in my band, so … There’s that.

As for Red, why haven’t I eaten here before this?

It’s good, it’s basic, it’s great, and most important, no line! If you don’t mind sitting at the counter, which of course we don’t.

Kayday was just getting over some stomach bug, so she ordered something bland and not worth talking about. I, on the other hand, had just won the first football game of my new career. So I ordered beans, tortillas, fried plantains, and a plastic bag with ice in it.

My knee was sore.

Actually, I’d thought I was ordering eggs too, and one of those balls of rice and beans, but I must have messed up.

Well, the plantains were good, although I couldn’t finish them because there were way too many. The beans were great, and my favorite part of everything was the tortillas, which were fresh and warm and I melted butter in them, rolled them up, and used them to scoop the beans.

My only real criticism of Red’s Café has to do with the ice course. They must have Ziplock bags, right? Or something strong enough to contain your drip when the ice starts to melt. No?

No, my ice was served in a small, handled shopping bag like the drug store might put your tube of toothpaste and hair pins in. No way is that gonna hold water.


I’ll be OK. I’ll be back out there next weekend for more football, soccer, and maybe even baseball just by way of being a complete lunatic about it. I’ll also be back to Red’s Café for the nopales omelet, which I had meant to order before the thought of plantains foiled my plan. Drip. Drip.

Drip …


Daily: 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

2894 Mission, SF

(415) 282-1515

No alcohol