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Cheap Eats

Kill your TV



Dear Cheap Eats Lady,

Where did you go? New Orleans? That is great.

It is the news. It is the unkind heart of government, our American government, that makes me want to stop what I’m doing, which is watching television, and go to sleep. This is easy, because I am lying on the couch anyway. All it requires is a rollover and the determination to jettison my responsibilities for the day. Students be damned, the government got me so down, I could not grade your papers.

The thing that’s great about me is that, I do roll over and go to bed for the day. It is a habit I’ve had all my life. I didn’t get to use it so much when I worked full time in an office. But those days were, in the scope of all the jobs I’ve had, short-lived.

There was a time, during the Bush eras, when I thought I would simply drop out of society. And I did. It was too much to take. I felt like democracy was over, and nobody cared. So I quit. I quit the whole thing. I am a man of accomplishment and purposefulness. Especially when it comes to not doing anything. The complete quitting. Oh, how I excel.

This has been kind of going on for a few weeks. My job doesn’t seem to notice. But I know I can’t go on like this and maintain any sort of a paycheck. Eventually the work will pile up so much that I will not be able to get it done anymore. I feel like the mailfolks who stash all the mail they don’t feel like delivering in their houses.

I have a tiny bedroom filled knee-deep with research papers about gun control, abortion, global warming, and how cell phones are very convenient. You would think that someone would be interested.



Dear Earl Butter,

Goddamn it, man, deliver that mail! Seriously, you don’t have to worry about the government. David Byrne and I have that taken care of. What you do need to do is put every one of those student papers in its own private individual envelope, address them to as many different mail carriers as you can think of, and: stamp, boom, gone!

The USPS is in fact an evil institution, point taken. But I don’t know why you are letting the TV news roll you over. This is Cheap Eats! Switch to sports. I mean, not that it’s any less depressing than what may or may not be happening in the world of … the world, for all I know. On my way to the basketball game last night, for example, I learned that there might not be a pro football season next season. But wait, shouldn’t you be downstairs playing with my cat?

Yes, New Orleans. Where else is there? The first thing I ate this time was crawfish pieroghi. And it’s so hot here now that Hedgehog and I almost have no choice but to lick Hansen’s satsuma-flavored snow-blizzes off of each other.

Technically, hers may have been coconut-flavored, unless that’s my sunscreen I smell, typing this.

Other than that, it’s pretty kinda weird, living with someone you don’t live with in a town where you don’t live. I mean, in the morning she goes off to make TV (of a very different nature than the kind rolls you over), and I go off to change diapers, and then after work we go eat crawfish pieroghis just like any other northeast Ohio/central Pennsylvania bred couple in New Orleans.

Except some nights last week there was the French Canadian Quarter Festival, where we were not only rocked by brass bands and zydeco, but by Crabby Jack’s boudin sausages, which changed my life, and then Love at First Bite’s cochon du lait po’boys, which changed my life.

And then, as if my life weren’t different enough already, on the weekend we went to the mall. We went to Metarie. That’s like going to San Mateo. Except after we stopped for refreshment at Acme Oyster House, which changed my life.

Earl, I’ll be back next week. Our beloved Bay Area is not exactly unknown for its oysters, either. If you can find me a place that has char-grilled ones as good as this, or even half as good, if not better, then I will take you there.

And grade your papers.

And kill your television.

No you worry,

Your L.E.


Infrequent flyer



CHEAP EATS My flight was cancelled so I did my taxes. I tried to do my taxes. What I did, I wrote to Coach and said, “Let’s play catch. My flight was cancelled.” She was at work.

I went to get my nails done. After, I saw Sockywonk sitting on the step of her soap store, so I sat down next to her.

“I’m sorry I’m a bad friend sometimes,” I said. “Here.” And I handed her a small bag I’d been carrying around. Inside: the sexy nightie she lent me to go roller skating in last fall.

It was decided that I wasn’t a bad friend.

I went in the store and bought two tubes of Chapstick and deodorant. Then it was time to throw the football with Coach, but something had come up, for her, so I went home and unpacked my suitcase, then repacked it, only with Chapstick. The deodorant, I decided, smelled worse than me, so I filed it in my medicine cabinet.

Can I tell you how hungry I was? And I had eaten my refrigerator the evening before, in anticipation of two weeks away. Coach was in Dolores Park with cookies and crazy people, and kept texting me to say be patient, we would throw, we would eat. “Wait for it. Wait for it,” she said.

I have blood sugar issues, everyone knows. One thing, it gets harder for me to make decisions, the farther away I get from my last meal. So when, having waited for it, my time came, I was not as prepared as I should have been. I was, in fact, unprepared.

In other words, I needed Coach to step up, and, being Coach, she did! With flair and brilliance. She grabbed the first rubber-band-stuck paper flyer menu from the first gate we saw and said, before even looking at it: “Let’s go here.”

So we did. We walked to Market and 15th streets, to Bombay. The menu had a picture of an elephant parading a banner between its trunk and tail: “Best Indian Food in the Castro!”

I don’t know about that. I had eaten there once before but didn’t have much to say. I think they dogged me on the spice factor. This time I ordered better, in part because I was with a goddamn vegetarian, which shows to go you. So instead of ordering chicken tikka masala or something predictable, I got chana palak, which is spinach and garbanzo beans (two things I love) and, in honor of the sad fact that I wasn’t in New Orleans, a bunch of fried stuff. Pakoras, samosas …

All of which were just dandy, drenched in the tabletop hot sauce and green stuff. But what stole the show for me was my own personal li’l bowl of chicken and lemon soup that I tacked on by way of having some meat in my day, and therefore not going completely crazy.

This soup, it was fantastic! It was spicy, creamy, and wonderful, and it was called mulligatawny — which in itself is cause for celebration.

I was all set to love the best Indian food in the Castro this time around, except that something happened to ruin everything. And it wasn’t that we were fighting, which we were, kind of. I forget why. I remember I showed Coach my fingernails, how shortly manicured they were. She wants to help me be a better lesbian, see, as surely as I want to help her be a better outside linebacker. “Trim your fingernails,” she’s always telling me. “Lesbians don’t like long fingernails.”

I think I understand why, but then (not that I ever said this out loud, or ever would, it’s such a fucked-up thing to say:) most lesbians don’t have as many fingers as I do. Ba-dum-bum …

Um, but that wasn’t it, either.

The paper menu had a coupon for one free entrée, but we tripped up so much over the fine print ($25 minimum, one coupon per table, dine-in only and between 5 and 10:30 p.m.) that we neglected to consider the bigger print, the point: that to get one free entrée (of lesser value, not to exceed $8), you had to of course order two entrees. They dazzle you with so much fine print you miss the point. Tricky, innit? 


Daily: Lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.;

Dinner 5–10:30 p.m.

2217 Market, SF

(415) 861-6655


Beer and wine





CHEAP EATS Coach worries. She wakes up thinking about her social calendar instead of Libya.

Personally, I don’t sleep with my cell phone under my head. By the time I wake up, Coach’s texts have accumulated like little pieces of folded white construction paper cut into snowflakes. We live in sunny California, but the drifts are downright Northeastern. School is cancelled.

Before I know that though, before I even find my phone, let alone look at it, let alone listen to the weather on my transistor radio, I need to use the bathroom.

As soon as I sit on the toilet, my cat Stoplight jumps in my lap. It’s the only time he loves me, or the only time I have time for him. Or both. To this point in my morning, I have not thought about Libya either, and I pee without thinking, as usual, anything.

Stoplight jumps from my legs to the bathtub as soon as I reach for the toilet paper and, as is our custom, while I look in the mirror at the way I look, he looks at me. The sense of judgment is intense, almost palpable, but I’m used to this.

My hair is mussy, so I muss it more. Then I bug my eyes, lean down over the tub into my poor cat’s face, and go, “Mwa-ha-ha-ha.”

“Meow,” says he.

Now I am ready to brush my teeth. Tragically, I drop the toothpaste cap and it bounces off the tile and under the tub. While I am brushing my teeth, I wonder where that little plastic cap might have gotten to, how I’m going to find it, and how — if I don’t find it — I am going to store this brand new, full tube of toothpaste without fear of it oozing out all day while I’m away, and taking over my apartment, speaking of snow days. Speaking of drifts.

I spit. I rinse. I get down on my hands and knees and look and feel under the tub, not thinking at all about Libya. I can’t find the toothpaste cap, so I stand the tube up in the glass where I keep my toothbrush, and I go about my business, which for the morning consists of not thinking about Libya, going to Java Supreme for coffee, and reading my many text messages from Coach. Maybe answering one or two.

1) You are not shallow or dumb, don’t worry; and

2) You have chosen your friends wisely.

Last night we went to this thing called Girl Talk and were inspired and informed. Tonight there is a poetry reading. Me! And Moonpie! Inspired, informed, and entertained. Tomorrow there’s a dance party, and the next day a game.

A week after that, I’ll be back in New Orleans with Li’l Edible and my other baby, eating fried things and just generally going to the zoo. Maybe when I come back I will make a date with my friend Coach, set aside a little time for thinking about Libya, for worrying about world affairs instead of worrying about not being worried.

Once the caffeine kicks in, I feel lucky to be alive, and impervious to personal injury and cardiac arrest. I should write a poem, but all I can think about is the hamburger I ate last night, before Girl Talk, with Coach, Papa and Papi, at that new circus-y place, Straw.

It was a bacon cheeseburger served on a glazed donut. And I am still amazed, alive and well.

But I’m only staying in New Orleans for two weeks this time. Here’s why: that donut burger, chicken and waffles, sweet potato tots with blackberry barbecue sauce, cinnamon sriracha buffalo wings, truffle-oil popcorn, and cotton candy. All the entrees around $10, the service is super-friendly, and if you feel like sitting close to like, your date, you can sit in the date seat, which is taken from a carnival ride, probably the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Great place. New favorite restaurant.


Mon.–Fri. 5–10 p.m.;

Sat. 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

203 Octavia, S.F.

(415) 431-3663


No alcohol yet


Stuck on my craw



CHEAP EATS Finally! Business as usual, here at Cheap Eats. But before I start talking about sports, there’s a little more I want to say about the poop in Coach’s garage.

It came with a few sheets of toilet paper on top. And when her landlord found it he said, “Hey, was there a dog running around in the garage?” I stayed in the house while Coach went out to see for herself. She was pretty sure that dogs didn’t use toilet paper, she said.

Then they both cleaned it up, and Coach started down that long, rocky road to forgetfulness. You know, at first I was on her side, but now it’s one week later and she keeps bringing it up. So I guess that means I’ll keep writing about it.

Blame Papa for not letting us talk about football last night, over sushi.

We lost 32-6. Speaking of shit. Maybe that had something to do with why Papa, our Center, didn’t want to talk about it. Actually, 32-6 was less than we expected to lose by. This would have been the first time in sports history that a 32-6 loss went down as a “moral victory” — except for one minor problem: they only had six players, and we had 14.

Athleticism is a wonderful thing to watch, even when you are covered in mud with cleat marks in your cheek. I’m not saying that’s what happened. We play on turf, so I was covered in little black turf balls with cleat marks in my cheek.

You know how they say that winning isn’t everything? Well, neither is losing. Traditionally.

We might change that, but in the meantime the troops remain optimistic and cheerful. My favorite moment was watching our quarterback chasing down yet another interceptor, late in the game, while laughing her head off.

She’s a rugby player. We may be the most bad-assedly bad team in the league, if not sports. We have a couple field hockey players, two to three soccer players, a basketball star, and maybe a little softball experience. But only two of us have ever played American football outside of bed and/or high school gym class.

We will have our day. It just might not be in my own personal lifetime.

After the trouncing, I made the mistake of going to Rockin’ Crawfish on Lake Merritt with the de la Cooter fambly. As if I didn’t already know what it means. To miss New Orleans.

While I was there — down South, that is — I kept sending pictures to Crawdad de la Cooter’s mister, Mr. Crawdad de la Cooter, of all the wonderful things I was eating, which included of course fried oyster po’ boys with bacon and cheese, and even more of course, crawfish etouffe, crawfish pie, and crawfish.

First he kind of begged me for mercy. Then he gave up on mercy and wrote me about a place they found in Oakland with “passable boiled crawfish.” When he brought it up again, upon my reentry, I thought he was trying to be helpful. I should have known he was plotting his revenge.

Passable? Maybe, if you haven’t been anywhere near Louisiana for at least four years. Mere days after feasting on Kjean’s with Cherry, B.B., and Hedgehog … forget about it.

I love Cajun. I love Asian. I love fusion. Authenticity means nothing to me. Berkeley has better Chicago pizza than Chicago, and the best pizza I ever ate was in Germany. I’d pit Just For You’s po’ boys against any I had in New Orleans.

Rockin’ Crawfish … just … doesn’t. Like Red, here in the city, it’s like they’re trying too hard. They crash the garlic over your head and blast you with hot sauce. And I love both those things but don’t associate either one with great crawfish.

The ones I was making love to last couple months, they don’t give you five choices. They come one way, with a subtle, more blended and complex zing to them.

It ain’t fair, I know. I should have waited four years. Anyway, I’m here. Sigh. My new favorite restaurant?


Mon.–Fri. 2–11 p.m.; Sat.–Sun. 1–11 p.m.

211 Foothill, Oakl.

(510) 251-1657


Beer and wine

Synapse lapse



CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

That’s great about the synapse package. Synapse packages are very important, as the Pod surely knows. I can only imagine what having had yours brought “to the fore” has done for your creative output and pulled pork with barbecue slaw. Because in terms of thinking and cooking and playing Scrabble and guitar, I mean, it all boils down to synapse packages. Wait. What’s a synapse package?

What I know is — and this is a beautiful thing about reality and air travel — your most recent pulled pork and barbecue slaw samwich kept me up until 2 a.m. in the morning. In a good way! I got a lot of important work done, like studying the 1985 Chicago Bears defense and inventing an eight-woman version of their famous 46.

Did you know that when the Attack was telling you about having “the most fun she ever had” playing football she was talking about playing with me and my friends? And this is saying something, since we are a respectable 0-1, and her old team is something like 58-3 in league history. We play against them Sunday and it is my goal, as defensive coordinator, to not lose by more than 80.

So the next day I tried feverishly to explain my late-night 46-inspired 242 defense to Coach, but unfortunately a human being had pooped in her garage, and she was despondent. Not even taking her out to Chilli Cha Cha 2 and sitting under the mural with boobs on it could revive her zest for life and interest in defensive schemes in general.

Will try again tonight.

Meanwhile, I just wanted to thank you for keeping Cheap Eats unreal while I was away, and for accidentally even throwing in a little sports talk. In light of recent developments, and speaking of keeping it unreal, I see us becoming this fine, radical, and all-around conscientious alternative weekly’s sports section.

Sssh. I’m trying to sleep.

Your Dani

Dear Mrs. Downstairs Neighbor,

That all sounds great and, of course, welcome back, but the point is that Kris and I went to the Great American BBQ in Alameda. I got the brisket with beans and greens ($12.75) and she got the St. Louis style pork ribs, coleslaw, and beans ($10). I’m in the middle of this cleanse and am not supposed to be eating stuff like this, but I thought you would be proud of me if I could say that I cleansed with beef.

We liked it there. It had a good, classic BBQ place feel. We talked about Matt Stahl, whom we have in common, and how Matt and I teach similar things but he probably teaches them better. He is like my hero in all sorts of ways, but mostly in the guitar and singing and being-Matt way. I think we probably talked about music. We also have that in common. Remember? She used to play in Fibulator, back in the day.

We evaluated the place like good critics. We thought the meats were very well done. We decided that the heat of the sauces could be upped a notch so order your hotness one past what you would. If you like medium, get hot.

Anyway, a little bit of the table hot sauce fixed it up for us. At first we were like, maybe this is not the best BBQ we’ve ever had. But then we both agreed, that, wait a minute, if we lived a little closer, we’d be eating here all the time.

The owner came out and gave us a nice chat and some peach cobbler, which we thought was very good. Then our time together was over. I was supposed to watch either the space station or an iridium flare on my roof with my across-the-hall neighbor, Hazel, and had to get home. I would eat here again. I enjoy BBQ. You taught me how.




Tues.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Fri. 11:30 a.m.–-9 p.m.;

Sat. noon–8 p.m.; Sun. noon–8 p.m.

2009 High, Alameda

(510) 865-3133


Beer and wine

Man w/ parking



CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

Really??? Really, Earl? Really? Do you really think the source of your romantical problems is lack of parking? If so, by buying a motorcycle, a car, and a parking space, won’t you be setting yourself up for the opposite sort of problem: too much love.

As it is, almost every straight lady in San Francisco wants a piece of you, except for most of them. Still, that’s a good 10 or 12 good women who don’t need no parking spots or a motorcycle helmet to come see you, see?

So … and don’t forget, exactly one year ago the other day I myself proposed marriage to you in this very column because I thought it would make good copy. My being the consummate journalist aside, did I care if you had a parking spot, or wheels of any kind? No. I live downstairs.

Granted, not all women live downstairs from you. I’m just saying. The other night Hedgehog and me went out dancing to Cajun music. Technically, she didn’t dance; she played the washboard, and I danced.

In short, we had the time of our lives and in the process got what would best be described as drunk. I invited the 87-year-old man I was dancing with to come home with us, just in case his last remaining unfulfilled fantasy was to watch two highly carnivorous wimmins in bed together, but he just wanted to keep dancing.

Hedgehog and me went to a grocery store across the street and we bought, among other things we might like to later lick off of each other’s bodies, a bottle of wine. Being already sloppy, as soon as we got outside the store, I accidentally dropped the bag with the wine bottle in it. Her graceful little flower, Hedgehog calls me, mostly for throwing silverware around restaurants. Now this.

She wanted to just leave it, which is kind of a uniquely New Orleans approach to problem-solving. I hailed a cart collector and showed him the mess we’d made so at least they could clean up the glass. “No problem,” he said. “Go get another bottle.”

Not thinking enough to leave the soggy plastic bag there, I dripped purple back into the store to customer service. They said, “No problem. Go get another bottle.”

Never even checked the receipt. Hedgehog could have gotten something twice as expensive, while I stood there bathing in fluorescence watching the mopper mop up my mess and thinking: “What a unique approach to public drunkenness.”

But she didn’t.



Dear Mrs. Butter,

That is great. Mod and Kat said you guys tried to go to the Brown Sugar Kitchen before, but could not get in. The thing being that it is always so crowded. We had to wait a little while at noonish on a Tuesday. But then we did get in and got to eat.

Kat had the chicken and waffles ($15), Mod had the BBQ pork sandwich ($9.50) and I got the blackened catfish ($15). We all got the biscuit made with bacon, although I do not remember it being bacony, but it was good.

Kat was very excited about some football league she’s joined and says she’s never looked more forward to getting slaughtered on the field. She says she plays with gals who have never played football before, and it is the most fun she has ever had.

Mod learned how to do some weirdo therapy that brought all my knotted synapse packages to the fore before the food came. It also made my eyes tired and got me interested in the sidestep, like in gym class.

Kat thought the waffles were a little less than substantial, but I found them to be light and delightful. The pork sandwich seemed delicious, but Mod ho-hummed it a little. And I found the catfish to be very subtle, and in need of hot-sauce. We all agreed, good. But maybe not worth the wait.




Tue.–Sat. 7 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.–3 p.m.

2534 Mandela, Oakl.

(510) 839-7685


Beer and wine



CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

As it turns out, the whole purpose of Mardi Gras is to catch beads. There are also little plastic cups and stuff, but what I want is a football. I want to make a leaping spinning catch, like a halftime Frisbee dog, bring it on home, lay it at Coach’s feet, and pant.

Do you think she will pat me on the head?

Do you think she will let me play in the season opener (this weekend!) even though I’ve missed every single practice since training camp?

I don’t know.

She texted me yesterday to ask how my lesbianism was coming along. I said, We’re at a parade, recording the crowd and the sounds of feet, and taking pictures of the childerns. I said I was trying real hard to catch a football for her, but so far … beads.

She expressed her disbelief (which I share) that I was ever even thinking of France over Mardi Gras. Then she texted again and said, for clarification, "Boobies!!!!!"

I paraphrase. There might have only been four exclamation marks. The point is, Earl, that when people think of Mardi Gras, they think of tits. Well, I am here to tell you — you, Earl, of all people, because I know you are more interested in subtlety and nuance than most of my two lesbian friends — that this is about so much more than that.

For example: ass.

I’m kidding. I’ve been to four parades already and I’ve seen about as much skin as I would have seen if I went to church. Admittedly, I haven’t been hanging out in the French Canadian Quarter, let alone on Bourbon Street, which is what everyone associates with Mardi Gras, not to mention New Orleans. But that’s like thinking of San Francisco as Fisherman’s Wharf.

Which would be what? Ridiculous. Yes. So my own personal, privately-held, and highly journalistic insider’s impression of Mardi Gras so far is that it’s a family affair, featuring marching bands of pimply teenagers and cute-ass kids punctuated by horses, trucks, and tractor-pulled floats from which ridiculously attired adults shower the citizenry and streets of New Orleans with insanely cheap and even more insanely coveted toys and trinkets. You can imagine my joy!

Boobs be damned, Earl, I am catching Coach a football or my name ain’t whatever my name is.

Dear Li’l Sister,

That is great. Me and Diane went to Katana-Ya in downtown San Francisco after seeing the greatest western movie of all time. Diane called my tongue unsavory, which you would think would put me in a funk, but, I don’t know, I just blew it off somehow.

Which is kind of what happens in this western we seen. This guy kind of gets his tongue blew off. It’s an odd way to start an afternoon when you are going to write about food. But it is not too odd.

We both got ramen. Big bowls of delicious noodle soup with prizes, like pot stickers. Hers was vegetable with soba noodles ($11) and mine was the katanaya, which had fried chicken and pork and pot stickers (get to the pot stickers early or they get a little chewy) and corn and fried potatoes and seaweed and scallion and barbecued pork and boiled egg. That is a lot of prizes ($12.90).

We talked of how we were both going to find us mates. Her plan was, I forget. And my plan was to get a garage space in my building and then get a car and a motorcycle. I believe it is the parking inconvenience that has hindered me all these years.

We also had edamame.

And Diane had a lollipop, seeing that there was a bowl of them on the counter and they were free. That is supposed to be a good sign.




Daily: 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m.

430 Geary, SF



Beer and wine

Adieu, Paris



CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

Here’s a funny thing. I am supposed to be on a plane right now, and I’m not. You know in movies when the tearful lover is in line at the gate, wearing sunglasses, even while the other lover, the one with better sneakers, is dashing through the airport, leaping over luggage, dodging go-carts, and generally knocking over ordinary citizens in a desperate attempt to stop her?

Well, this was nothing like that. Not even a little. Hedgehog has an ingrown toenail and is in no condition to dash, dodge, or leap. In consideration of which I had tried to get her to purchase an airplane ticket to somewhere, but she was all like, why?

“Um,” I explained, “because — hello — my feet are fine?” In fact I am training for opening day of the SFWFFL on March 12, and running through airports is pretty good for me.

She was all like, oh. Still … did she buy herself an airplane ticket? No, she did not. At 11 a.m. this morning, when my flight to France took off without me, I was sitting on my slave quarters bed, calmly sipping coffee and reading the Sunday Times.

Hedgehog was home reviewing post offices for Yelp. Sure, she is happy I’m still in New Orleans, as am I. In fact, tomorrow afternoon we are going to sit on her porch! So you know, though, two other people are even happier than we are that I didn’t get on that plane. I speak of course of the Doughboy’s moms, Butterby and Super Duper Flashlight Mom, who have been threatening since my arrival to cut off my feet by way of keeping me here.

Time and again, I have argued that without feet I would not be much use to their baby. Eventually, after many repetitions and PowerPoint demonstrations, they “got” this — thankfully because I wouldn’t have been much use to my football team either.

Butterby cried when I told them I was staying. She had to leave the room. It wasn’t the first time I made her cry. The first time, I was explaining barbecued eggs to her, and when I got to the part where I wrap the bacon “scarf” around the bell pepper, she started to go emo on me.

Super Duper took me to the Krewe du Vieux parade and caught throws for me. She’s tall, aggressive, and Southern by birth, so she says “y’all” with authority. But you know what? So do the Asian people at Nola’s many fine Vietnamese joints.

My moms’s child, my charge, is perhaps the most edible thing our planet has ever produced. It’s all I can do to keep my own teeth out of the fuzzy skin behind his ears, let alone ward off the dogs and coyotes of New Orleans. When we are at the zoo, all the animals, even the vegetarians, come right up to the edge of their domains and stare at him in a kind of a trance.

Do you think he might be Jesus?

Dear You,

That is great. Me and Joel went to the Pad Thai Restaurant near where he now lives, which is Bernal, and that’s sad for me in that he no longer lives in the building, but great all-in-all because he has a great setup with a great lady and a terrific little boy wherein he can now get a little weepy listening to pop songs when he thinks about how wonderful life can be. It was Presidents Day, and I was wondering if it was all presidents, including the Bushes.

Joel said no, just two of them.

At Pad Thai, there is no confusion because they have pictures of all the dishes they serve. No lunch specials to speak of, but everything is around $8 or $11. We split a mango salad, which had shrimp and squid and was lime-y and good-spicy. And I got the Egg Bomb because if it’s on the menu, you have to get it. And Joel got the chicken with green beans. Except for the egg, our dishes were very similar. Delicious.

Yers, Earl

Pad Thai

Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun. noon–10 p.m.

3259 Mission, SF

(415) 285-4210


Beer and wine

Pony up, kids



CHEAP EATS From Crawdad’s house in Berkeley, you can see Golden Gate Fields racetrack. I take her kids to the soccer pitch next door, to watch and run, and I walk their dog along the water behind the track.

When I was little, I used to circle my favorite-named horses in the sports section, then check back the next day to see how much I’d won. My uncles and aunts played the ponies. Punker and Gatorgator, they play the ponies. I have been invited. And invited.

I associate three of my favorite writers with horse racing, but have never been, not even once, to the track. Until last Saturday.

Damon Runyon, Charles Bukowski, Mike DeCapite, and now me. Finally, finally I can say with authority that I pulled a kazoo out of the septic in the sixth at Fair Grounds to show and he did! He seconded, paying 51-1.

Now, Hedgehog had a Li’l Loveable visiting from her hometown and this ‘un was marking her daughter’s 21st birthday by redefining herself, running a half marathon, eating weird things, and just getting a tattoo. Loveable was the only one of us with prior track experience, except, I think, that Hedgehog might have been once or twice too. A succincter way of saying this might be that I was the only one without track experience.

And therefore the only winner. Yep, after dropping tacos in the fourth and fifth on a couple of popular pinstripes who failed to impress, let alone deliver, I thought I would change majors — which was good timing because a can-do named Mayo was odds-on incumbent just then, and … yuck!

Hedgehog head-cheesed Mayo, and I — being a world renowned mayophobe — looked for the oppositest entrée, which was the horse called Crispy. Crispy was 20-1 when I placed my taco, but by gate was 51-1. Or, more than twice as losery in the imagination of the wagering public.

But the hard part was I couldn’t even scream as my quantum leap long-shotted across the finish line because we watched that inning from the field announcer’s booth, Hedgehog being the wig that she is. Our host was on mic, and that meant we had to be perfectly quiet, for the sake of the sport, while the unthinkable dreamed itself before my very blinkers. I bit my tongue real hard.

The integrity of horse racing thus preserved, I windowed up to collect my Cheerios. Come to think of it, I’m surprised more of my San Francisco friends didn’t come visit me in New Orleans once they got wind of the kind of column inches I was ethering home to this rag. Just Kayday, and I don’t even think she reads me.

Anyway, she was waiting at her hotel piano bar, so I nut-jobbed my winnings, kissed Hedgehog, high-fived her townie, and went. We had a two-dinner, three-bar date with Frenchmen Street, whereas Hedgehog and the Loveable were updressing for some gala or something. Oh, I was invited, but didn’t have anything to wear. Since Kayday ain’t my fairy godmother, the Cinderella story ends right there.

Things we ate that night included grilled oysters wrapped in bacon, fried crawfish, fried pickles, mac ‘n’ cheese with meatballs, and gumbo. So probably the ball-goers didn’t have anything on us, save maybe a higher dry-cleaning bill.

The next night I cooked for everybody, and the day after that, Kayday’s last, we thought we would go up to Riverbend, get a bucket of crawfish, and sit on the levee, which, my little master’s mama assured us, would be “the right thing to do.”

Except they didn’t have boiled crawfish at Cooter Brown’s, so we got raw oysters and pecan pie and that was when I blew my New Orleans food fuse. “I’m done. Tell me about home, Kayday,” I said, sitting on the grass, on the levee, watching barges on the Mississippi.

She said she had the best burger ($10.50) she ever had at Chez Maman in Potrero Hill. She said the waiter said everything in French, then English. She said the frites … the burger! she said.

“Was there peanut butter on it?”

“No,” she said.

Next week I write you from France.


Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m.

1453 18th St., SF

(415) 824-7166


Beer and wine

Gum-choux seduction



CHEAP EATS She made me a gumbo-reduction taco, then took my hand and led me to her bedroom. At the time, jazz did not exist yet. There was something on TV, but the sound was off. Hedgehog was wearing a Saints jersey, No. 73 — Someone Evans, who made the Pro Bowl and came from her home town. I already had a picture of her in her Saints shirt, but there was something else in the world where jazz would be. Maybe some dishes, or a paper bag full of paper bags. Holding the spot.

In bed, I licked taco juice off my fingers. I mean gumbo-reduction. I mean, Appalachian moux-choux gumbo, or for short, gumb-choux, pronounced gumshoe, like a detective. I licked the detective, I guess, would be the least sexy way to say this.

It wasn’t the first time we went to bed together, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it is the one makes the paper, because never before in my life has anyone reduced a gumbo for me by way of foreplay.

And I have to say, from the smell alone, while I was waiting on her tiny couch, New Orleans, I was ready to be led to bed. Dang, I’d of followed that lesbian into the snake pit of hell, or Houston, on the wings of the smell I was smelling.

One bite and I was butter. So the next night, over Korean, when one of her friends asked me what was the best meal I had eaten here so far, I said the right thing and didn’t even have to think about it, let alone lie.

“A gumbo-reduction taco,” I said, high-fiving Hedgehog, who was sitting next to me and blushing out of either culinary pride, horrified embarrassment, or civic duty. “It’s true,” I said. “What can I say?”

I started saying a lot of other things … about all the other meals we’d eaten. Like that very morning, at Slim Goodie’s Diner, where I had the Jewish Coonass, potato latkes with spinach and fried eggs on top, smothered in crawfish etouffe.

And that wasn’t even all that great compared to the boiled crawfish and raw oysters and hot roast beef with ham sandwich we shared the afternoon before at a sports bar called Cooter Brown’s. Where we brought our laptops to write but instead of being productive got grease and hot sauce all over them.

And that was nothing compared to the fancy pants hanger steak and pork chops we overwhelmed on our first date date night at Patois.

In other words, it’s going to be really hard for me right now to say anything at all very exciting about the soup I ate in Berkeley a few weeks ago, or the other soup I ate in Berkeley a few weeks ago. Hmm. Let’s try my new favorite Indian restaurant in Albany.

Remember? I went there one night with the Maze when we were both working up the hill, but I forgot to ever say anything. But I still remember it, even though the rest of my brain has been erased, because Indian food is something that does not happen so well in New Orleans.

Ah, but if you head up San Pablo Avenue into Albany, you will find a gem of a new, nice, friendly, cheap, and awesome Indo-Nepalese joint called Hamro Aangan, where the chicken tikka masala is out of this world. And the naan is top o’ the line.

We loved it, me and Maze. “Tell your friends,” the hosterperson guy suggested. And I assured him I would.

OK, so I got that out of the way.

Now I can devote myself to the Story of Last Night at the Spotted Cat, where the Jazz Vipers, a great old-guy front-lined brass band, inexplicably imploded midshow. The sax and the trumpet, both aged enough to know better, times four, start arguing right in front of everyone. The young guys in the band, and the trombonist, act casual. Some people leave. The bartender’s getting pissed. And Sax is berating Trumpet, off-mic but on-volume, just generally being a big baby, when Trumpet turns to what’s left of the bewildered audience and shrugs. Apropos of I-don’t-know-what, he says, “And that’s how jazz was born.”

I don’t know. I just thought I would take his word for it.


Daily: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

856 San Pablo., Albany

(510) 524-2220


Beer and wine




CHEAP EATS The things that New Orleans throws at you! Example: a wall of doors, so metaphoric it hurts. My goal is, for the length of this column, to not let it mean anything, just … a wall of doors. Yep.

So this wall of doors separates our yard here from the neighbor’s, which isn’t a yard so much as a couple of feet between houses, a walkway. And, instead of a picket fence, door door door door door. All wooden, all weathered to varying degrees and in different ways. A few still have their knobs on, and these sparkle in the sunshine — albeit meaninglessly. One has no knob, but yes hardware, which is rusty and does not sparkle.

Shine or no, each door is beautiful in its own way; some are bare, others getting there but with swaths of prehistoric primer still, or paint. One had been covered so thickly, so many times, in a now-yellowing white, that the cracks in it resemble giraffe skin. Another has window panes, four quarters: two still have glass, and two are blank space. I could pass a cold beer through to the workers working on the dilapidated house next door.

New Orleans is a ragged and broken city, which is of course part of its charm. The streets have potholes the size of swimming pools. The sidewalks end, drop off, bend and crack. I’m afraid to ride my bike. Walking is an extreme sport. The zoo is just across the street, and I take the Doughboy there because it is safe and smooth. We are becoming friends with the zookeepers, and already they have let us pet a snake.

End of the day, when I told his mummy about this snake-petting business, she wondered what my own personal “spirit animal” was.

“Giraffe,” I said, without even thinking about it. Before, as you know, it was chickens. Why — since I am famous for eating me my meat — do I always identify with the vegetarian, and the prey?

My new New Orleans friends, the human ones, are meat meat meat eaters, and music music music lovers, which makes perfect sense because food and tunes are what this town is all about. You can imagine my giddiness. Hedgehog, the one I am kissing, works on a TV show I’ve never seen, because I don’t have a TV, let alone HBO, so I feel especially qualified to give it an especially objective review. I mean, how much more objective can you be than to never have even seen a thing? So: not enough plot. Or character. Oodles of fantastic music.

I base this impression solely on comments made by my TV-having friends back home when I’ve mentioned that, yo, I’m hanging with someone from Treme. Then when I tell them that she does sound, then they are impressed.

On Monday, Hedgehog and me walked along the Mississippi River, drank vodka in a gay man bar, and ate at a place called Green Goddess, which (hee hee hee) is all about meat — pulled pork flapjack for me, and a bacon meatloaf samwich for her.

Mind you, that’s at the Green Goddess. So you can imagine what goes down at the restaurants called Butcher, and Pig — but in French, which here doesn’t mean pretentious. I’m in heaven!

Next evening, four of us gathered after work for $2 taco night and $2 Red Stripes at the Caribbean-influenced Rum House. Just some of the stuff my own personal tacos featured: lamb vindaloo, barbecued ribs, roasted duck, and goose cracklin. Um, that’s four different animals crammed into only three $2 tacos.

You know how after-work gatherings go: the televisionistas are unwindingly griping, their shitty day this, their shitty day that, and I’m just serenely sipping my Red Stripe because I’d had an awesome day, changing diapers.

Tomorrow we’re eating at Patois, and Sunday we’re having a little Super Bowl party. I’m making my patented barbecued eggs, and Hedgehog is bringing her patented gumbo tacos, and what the fuck? I can’t get me no lesbian love in queer central, San Francisco, where I’m popular. Or in Boston, where I rock. Whereas one week into New Orleans, where my most ardent admirers are a nine-month-old boy and a handful of zookeepers, and I’m squeezing me a hot hot hottie who’s won a goddamn Emma.

Or whatever that’s called. Bragging? Not really. I’m just looking out my window at a wall made of doors.


The only place in this country that’s cooler than San Francisco.

Po’ girl



CHEAP EATS It was minus two in Boston when I got on the airplane. I was all bundled up in borrowed and stolen clothing, trying to tap what was left of the warmth from our show there. Between 200 and 300 bodies, and, no, I didn’t get laid, but on the other hand I never felt more loved. There may have been one or two dry eyes in the house, but there were not a lot of dry pairs of underpants. Myself, I was completely creamed by the whole thing. I’m still a little shaken.

At the airport, on the weather on the news on TV, they showed a live shot of San Francisco, just before dawn, and said that it was 60 there, that San Franciscans would wake up to a clear, beautiful day.

But that wasn’t where I was going. I was going to New Orleans. New Orleans is where I am, and I intend to have a lot to say about the food scene here. Crawdad de la Cooter, who grew up in this neck of the swamp, thinks I’m not going to want to come home. I think it’s going to take more than red beans and rice and gumbo to change my life at this point.

Now Kayday, she gave us all a scare. After nine months of not finding a job in San Francisco, she found a job in L.A., and on the day before the big move, she got a call from her new employer saying that she’d been, in effect, laid off. Talk about cutting it close! She called me right afterward.

“I have good news,” she said. Then she told me the bad news.

“How are you feeling about this?” I asked.

She was shocked, she said, and also euphoric.

I said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “Congratulations!”

This was, unequivocally, bacon for my own musical future. When I come home now, my new band will be all in one piece and place, which is important for things like bands and chandeliers.

Last night while I was sleeping, a curtain rod did not fall on my head. However, almost the whole rest of my household here was of the opinion that one had. New Orleans is like that. It’s a haunted city. Things go bump in the night, and clang and crack and “Ow! Goddamn it!”

So far I am charmed. My first meal was a fried oyster po’ boy, and the first thing I saw when I left the house this morning was three giraffes — real, live, leafy-toothed giraffes that were not in any way a figment of my imagination, because it turns out there’s a zoo just across the park.

Tell you why I’m here: one of the families whose cute little nine-month-old childern I care for just moved from Berkeley to New Orleans, just for the semester. This childern, both his moms are perfessers, one at State, and one — uh oh — at Tulane. I’m here to help, but also to eat myself silly and have scary adventures to write home to you and/or Earl Butter about.

Since the fried oyster po’ boy I imbibed last night was, as the saying goes, nothing to write home to you and/or Earl Butter about, I will instead regale you with misinformation about a meal I ate with Kayday before I even left San Fran.

On a cold, cold and windy, windy night, the likes of which you haven’t seen and are not likely to see in some time, according to The Weather Channel, Kayday and I ventured our way over to Bernal Heights around dinner time. We were going to squeeze in one last practice at Bambam’s house before Kayday moved to the city of Angels and I to the city of Saints.

It all seemed like Not A Bad Idea at the time. To get something to eat first. So we wound up at Blue Elephant on Cortland Avenue. And we ordered imperial rolls, duck curry, and something else that I have forgotten. But the imperial rolls were not forgettable. They were great. And the duck curry, which is of course a red coconut milk curry with tomato, pineapple, and roasted duck, was fantastic.

Kayday told me she was going to make a blog about living in L.A. called “My Year of Living Los Angelesly,” and I thought that that was a fairly brilliant idea.

I still think so, but now someone else is going to have to do it.


Daily, Lunch: 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m.;

Dinner: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.

803 Cortland, SF

(415) 642-9900


Beer and wine




CHEAP EATS The last thing I did before I left San Francisco, I promised Earl Butter that this time I would not kiss any gangsters on the train. I didn’t say anything about self-proclaimed hillbillies who burp a lot and don’t have front teeth — or luggage — so you wonder if they just escaped from prison or are only on parole.

This one, he flirted with me all the way from Emeryville to Chicago. That’s a long way to not kiss someone!

He was going on to Detroit and had less of a layover than me, but helped nevertheless with my luggage, which was considerable. He wanted to help more, but when he went outside to smoke, I stuffed my stuff in a locker, stepped out into the Windy City, and promptly got my nails done. Which was one of the best decisions I ever made.

One of the worst was early next morning when I stepped off the train into a frozen shit town not unlike, or far from, the frozen shit town where I was born. Did you hear me scream? Henceforth, when East Coast people in California say that they miss the seasons, I will put lettuce in their ears and flick them on the forehead.

Probably, to the residents of Erie, Penn., this snow was a non-event. But to an overtired, underdressed California girl without boots, it was the Big One, blizzardwise. To his credit, the snot-nosed station master did ask, before locking me out of the station, if I needed a ride.

“My friend is coming,” I said.

“Can I drop you somewhere?” he said. “Where are you going?”

“New York.”

He laughed at my apparent joke, pointed to where the Post Office was, in case I needed it, and left. In retrospect, I would have licked that booger off his upper lip for a ride to New York. Instead, I stood in the blowing snow and freezing cold, stomping my feet and, yeah, screaming, until the Post Office opened. Then I stood in there.

Probably I should have stayed on the train. I could have stayed on the train. It was going very close to where I wanted to get, but I’d thought I would keep my old ex-bandmate and good friend Rube Roy company on his way there and eat in diners for a day, instead of dining cars.

Rube Roy was two hours late and partially blind in one eye, but did buy me breakfast. On our way out of town we found a diner called Somebody’s “Dinor,” where, over eggs and potatoes and sausage and coffee and such, we talked about the old times, and the new times, and even some of the upcoming times.

There is so much time. So much time to think, in a car spinning around and around on a snowy interstate highway in Pennsylvania, bouncing between guardrails like a complicated bank shot off the cue of someone named Chuck or Lefty.

One of the things I thought about, boom, spin, was how I didn’t think I was going to die, but you never know, bang, spin. I never did like merry-go-rounds, or whirligigs, but the bumper cars I guess were all right. Now, I get motion sickness facing backward on BART. I didn’t think we were going to die, but when our car came to rest finally, facing traffic in the passing lane, I don’t know. I wondered.

Before I go, I would like to spell Papi’s name right, at least once, in the paper. They didn’t exact any promises from me, but Papi, Papa, and Coach did want one last dinner together before I left. So I said, “Brothers! Korean barbecue!”

And, like magic, that was where we went. For meat and meat for me and Papa, and some other kinds of things for the vegetarians. Ah, you know, it was all pretty good and everything, but not as probably good as the last time I went. Does it matter?

Not here.

“Rube Roy?” I said, as a semitruck whizzed by in the right lane. “Can I drive now?”

He flashed his headlights at the next one and said, “No.”

I write to you from New York City. Hi. Next time, I promise you, dear reader, dear gangsters, dear hillbilly, I will stay on the train. 


Daily 11 a.m.–midnight

4128 Geary, SF

(415) 387-7991


Beer and wine

Come to my room



CHEAP EATS After his thing he went right up to her and whispered in her ear. Here’s what he said: “Are you doing anything tonight?” Here’s what else he said: “Do you want to come to my hotel room?”

“Really?” I said. “You said that?”

“Can you believe it?”

“No,” I said. We were sitting at a picnic table in Dolores Park, in the sun in the cold, eating samwiches (his word for it, although … I would agree). The samwiches were from Bi-Rite Market, and therefore very good. “And did she come to your hotel room?” I said.


There were also chips involved, and apples — a regular midwinter picnic. I knew my friend was telling the truth, but still couldn’t believe it.

“So, that really happens?” I said.

“Come on,” he said. “All your years in bands, on tour, you never … ?”

“No,” I said. “Never.”

It was so cold. Colder than it’s supposed to be, in my opinion, in San Francisco. He was sitting on the bench, and I was sitting on the table, face to the sun. It helped to be that much closer to it.

“Book tours? Readings?” he said.

I shook my head. My samwich was crunchy with carrots and cilantro, and therefore delightful. Vietnamese pork. I’m not proud of the fact, but it is, in fact, a fact: I never got laid on tour. Not on any kind of tour, ever. Not as a man, not as a woman, Sam-I-Am. Of course, I offered in my defense, the last couple tours were of senior centers and nursing homes, so …

Then I remembered that, during the first couple tours, I was in love with one of my bandmates, so …

Technically, I guess, I was not only getting laid after the show, like a rock star, I was also bagging the lead singer, and in this respect I was a groupie of my own band. Take that, Mr. Walks Right Up To Her.

We finished our samwiches and chips and apples just as the sun dropped behind some trees and that was the end of it, give or take Elton John. He wanted to know if I liked Elton John.

I thought this was a strange thing to want to know, after a samwich. Luckily, I knew the answer right away: “Yes.”

“What’s your favorite album?”

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

His was Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Did I know it?


So of course he invites me to his house to burn me a copy. Who wouldn’t? Mind you: the invitation was not whispered in my ear, so what I took home from this whole samwichy experience was exactly that: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Which I’m listening to as I write this.

Come to think of it, I was — until becoming beautiful and confident — almost always in love. Hey, maybe I’m bad at getting laid because I’m good at being in love. I don’t know. It’s a thought.

If it happens to also be true, I damn well better get over it, because, good-at-it or no, love ain’t happenin’.


This Saturday Ed’s Redeeming Qualities is playing a reunion show in Boston. I’m 15 to 20 years older, not to mention a whole different person than I was in that band. And I’m about as single as a piece of cheese. Tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to step off the stage at the end of this show, and Walk Right Up To … someone.

I wonder who it’s going to be. I know what I’m going to say, I’m going to say, “You’re a butterfly, and butterflies are free to fly.” Like Sweet Freedom, like my friend, I will whisper these words. “Fly away.” Then we will see.


Daily 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

3639 18th St., SF

(415) 241-9760


All kinds of alcohol

The scream



CHEAP EATS This isn’t a metaphor. There was an actual patty of dog barf on the off-white carpet at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom, Coach’s dad’s house, San Diego, California, U.S.A., Earth, my life. Coach and Cola were standing outside the room on the deck, looking down at the chicken coop. Our instructions were to kill the roosters, do what we want with the hens, and please leave the bunny rabbit and dog alone.

The bunny lived in the chicken coop.

Lucy, the dog, a cuddly, energetic Boston terrier with a sadomasochistic streak (her favorite thing in the world is to be blasted in the face with water, or a basketball), lived of course in the house.

“Coach?” I said. “Cola? Is this dog barf?”

“What? Where?” they said, coming back inside. I was looking down at it. Lucy was panting next to me, and the basketball was between us. Ever since we’d come into the house — ours for the week — and dumped our stuff, Lucy had been rolling this basketball after me. That’s because a couple days before when I had first made her acquaintance, I’d spent hours kicking it in the driveway with her. In a way we were a match made in heaven, both insatiable athletes with an aptitude for taking a beating. The difference: she loves it.

For one moment, the last peaceful one I have known, we four mammals and our basketball made a perfect circle of quiet contemplation around this centerpiece of barf. In all honesty, I began to think it might be a cookie, perhaps even oatmeal raisin, and broke the silence.

“Wait a minute,” I said.

And just as I bent down to get a better look, as lucklessness or canine cruelty would have it, Lucy nudged the ball with her short-bus nose.

Did you hear me scream?

I’m still screaming, in a way. And that orange-world bounce bounce will forever, in my mind, be rolling slow-motion toward, onto, and over this cookie of barf, or cookie.

It wasn’t a cookie. It was puke, now half-smashed into the carpet, and sort of decaled onto the overturned underside of the ball. Why this image affected me as deeply as it did, I can’t say. But I clapped my hands to my ears, wailing like a siren, and staggered backward into the bathroom, where I collapsed onto the edge of the Jacuzzi and just generally lost it.

Which overreaction my human companions found hilarious. Howling herself, but with laughter, Cola followed me into the bathroom. Anyway she had had to pee the whole way down from Oceanside. So she was laughing on the can, and I was crying on the tub, and Coach tossed the puke-tattooed basketball outside over the deck and into the great chickeny unknown, then joined us in there.

“What the hell?” she said.

I didn’t know. I didn’t know what the hell. You have these moments, you know, where something shifts a little inside, and you suddenly can’t imagine how in the world you got where you are, or how the hell you will get back out of it.

Almost always, a bath is a good idea, so I started the tub, had a soak, got dressed, and went out for the evening with every intention of dancing.

We did not dance.

We ate. But I will spare you those details, because they’re gross. Instead let me tell you about last night, back home here, with Papa and Pappy, our quarterback and center. They had just bought a lot of seeds and a big heavy bag of soil, and were taking turns lugging it the many many city blocks back to their place, inner Richmond.

So naturally we stopped for a rest (and a bowl of noodles) at the highly fluorescent New Hoa Ky right there on Geary Street. I liked my pho. Papa loved hers. But poor Pappy, she only eats us-killed meat, and — go figure — the vegetarian soup at New Hoa Ky starts with a beef broth. Therefore: new favorite restaurant!


Daily 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

4012 Geary, SF

(415) 387-9600


No alcohol

Eat your slumgolian



CHEAP EATS Tell you, I loved making chili with Coach’s mom. Her refrigerator was broke, so everything we needed was downstairs in Grandma’s fridge. Except in most cases it wasn’t there either.

Coach is of course a vegetarian. Grandma didn’t want beans, or spicy. Neither refrigerator had any peppers of any kind. Nor could I find chili powder.

Now, as you may know, I pride myself on my sense of show-must-go-onmanpersonship. I didn’t panic, sulk, or give up. No. At every twist, turn, and sheer drop-off, I shrugged, I laughed, I chopped onward. And stirred and opened cans and stirred and tasted until at a certain point I found myself standing over this colorful pot of simmering something-or-other and decided to make an announcement.

“It’s not chili,” I announced.

Coach and Coach’s mom, who had been situating Grandma at the dining room table, soothing her with promises of chili and chili and chili, came running into the kitchen, stood beside me, and looked into the pot. Grandma doesn’t get around so easily, or I’m sure she’d have looked too.

“That’s all right,” they said.

And I knew that it was, but had no idea what to call it, until they told me about slumgolian. Slumgolian, in the Coach family, was a surreal meal probably somewhat akin to what I call refrigerator soup. Other people have other names for it.

The point is that I learned a new word for a new thing I’d never seen before, and in truth it didn’t taste all that half bad, over tortillas.

Thanks to Kayday and her little red car, I got to git me to Joshua Tree, my favorite place on the planet, for Christmas. We sat on some rocks in the middle of the desert and ate Turkey Jerky, Wheat Thins, walnuts, and raisins, by way of marking the spot, and it was my favorite Christmas in many years.

But not my favorite meal. Neither was slumgolian.

No, for that we have to wind back the clock to Papa’s birthday, which falls a couple days shy of Christ’s. We gathered that evening at the Taco Shop @ Underdogs, in the Sunset. It was Papa, Pappy, Cola, Mikey Bike, Fiver, Flavor, a bunch of people I didn’t know, and Kentucky Fried Woman, whom I did know but had lost track of.

Coach was in San Diego already by then, lining scrimmage fields and setting up blocking dummies and car tires for our training camp/New Year’s Eve brouhaha, reportage/repercussions of which will dominate the next couple weeks if not months of Cheap Eats. Just to warn you.

As her coaching staff, I’d be next to arrive in the land of sun, slumgolian, and tacos. In fact, Kayday dumped me there after Joshua Tree, on her way back up to San Fran.

And I would like to point out up front and out of order, that nothing I have eaten in SoCal, so far, has even come close to the Taco Shop for all-around Mexcellence.

I can’t remember if I ever wrote about Nick’s Crispy Tacos or not, but in any case, the deal is: same thing. “Nick’s way,” as they say, is two corn tortillas — one crispy, one soft — with cheese, beans, salsa, guac, and whatever else you like.

I like carnitas. I like fish. The fish is fried and therefore juicy, tender, and oh-so satisfying. Really, honestly, you only need one.

Plus maybe another, plus chips.

In any case, whether it’s Nick Crispy or the Taco Shop, the pico de gallo is great, the guac is great, the meat is juicy, and the combination of soft and crispy tacos … well, go figure: it works.

Underdogs, I guess, is the name of the bar the Taco Shop is in. Sports on TV. In the back corner they have one of those basketball things where you see how many hoops you can make in a certain number of seconds. And while I was catching up with KFW on one side of me, and talking writing and music shop with Mikey Bike on the other, I also watched, out of the corner of my eye, several of my friends “step up to the line,” so to speak.

All I will say is that I am glad our football team is not going to be a basketball team. Although … well, never mind. We will see.


Sun.–Wed. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Thurs.–Sat. 11 a.m.– midnight

1824 Irving, SF

(415) 566-8700


Full bar


Call it macaroni



CHEAP EATS Some people really thought I was going to move to Norway! I’m not. I’m sorry. I was just making fun of myself for trying to move to Germany last winter. This one, between the holidays and playing shortstop for my new football team, I am going to New York City, Boston, New Orleans, and France.

Boston = old band’s reunion show. New York = practicing for that. New Orleans = taking care of a baby and eating fried everything. France = refinding the chicken farmer in me and putting the finishing touches on a book I haven’t started yet. And all of the above is just my way of, you know, keeping it surreal.

So that’s no to Norway, yes to adventure. More fun in one-one, ready, go.

Don’t worry, I have a new jacket! Thanks to my secret agent lady Sal, I will be stylin’ in New York, rockin’ in Boston, hot in New Orleans, and tres farmerish in France. Yes, my new wear-everywhere coat manages to be girly yet still have pockets. And a hood! And it’s soft and Army green, which is one of my 12 favorite colors. So I might not take it off.

Believe me, the last thing I expected to be writing about today was Turkish food. But what was I going to do? Chunk and Chunk and Crawdad de la Cooter have a new favorite restaurant, and they invited me there for lunch after a grueling morning of playing sailboat in their living room.

On one wall and the ceiling (of the restaurant) there’s this huge mural of almost everything in the world, including the Czech Republic. And a turtle. And sharks. And a mermaid. And an octopus. Honestly, it’s pretty impressive. Therefore, the kids were impressed.

Kate Chunk, who is two, kept asking the waitressperson if they have pasta. (They don’t.) She looked at me very seriously, after our order was placed, and said, “I want macaroni.”

“I feel your pain, Sweetie,” I said, “but it’s not going to happen, not here.”

The waitressperson, who also felt her pain, almost immediately produced a basket of pita bread, and then our little carb-loader was happy. Me too! The pita was made in-house, and it was thick and soft and very much more breadlike than most pitas I have bitten.

We were dipping it into this thing called ezme, which is roasted red peppers with tomato, lemon, onion, and parsley, and blended with a zing-zang of other spices. Awesome.

Crawdad ordered kofte, and I got the lamb and beef doner. Both plates came with rice and salad for $8 or $9. Kofte is something like meatballs but, still, the Chunks de la Cooter seemed to prefer my doner.

Clara Chunk, who eats more like me (she goes to town on the meat) kept reaching across the table for more, and I was happy to provide because I personally preferred the meatballs.

While C.C. was in the bathroom with Crawdad. I tried to get K.C.’s impression of the food.

“I like macaroni,” she said.

“Yeah, but we didn’t eat that,” I said. “How did you like what we did eat?”

“I like pasta,” she said

“That’s right, Sweetie,” I said, and I let her off the hook. “I like pasta too.” The restaurant reviewing portion of the brain is not fully developed at 47, let alone two-and-a-half. There will be plenty of time for both of us to have more sophisticated thoughts than these, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, we both leaned back in our side-by-side chairs, except technically hers was a booster seat.

“See the ship?” I said.

“Where?” she said.

On Turkish television, at the seam between the wall mural and the ceiling one, two guys were pointing guns at each other. I thought for sure brains were going to fly, so I tried to keep K.C. focused on ships and sharks and things. Happy 11 everyone. 


Sun.–Thu. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

1986 Shattuck, Berk.

(510) 540-9997


Beer and wine

Grids and gridiron



CHEAP EATS Coach and me went to Benders many nights in a row. "Benders," she likes to say. "It’s what’s for dinner." But I don’t know. I love their burgers and tots. And their pulled pork, come to think of it, rebounded me nicely from that dollop of whatever-the-crap-that-was at Bonnie’s last week. But my sense of adventure begins to feel compromised after more than one night in a row at the same place.

Nevertheless, neither one of us has a TV. And we thought we should watch us some football. I swear our intention was to go to poetry readings, too. But we tended not to want to leave the bar.

It’s weird, liking football again, this time from a softer, less angular angle. For me, the football part of my friendship with Coach is the perfect blend of strategy (possible color-combinations, baggy vs. tight uniforms), surreality (keep reading), and camaraderie. It reminds me of watching the Niners with Wayway back in the day, only Coach and I seldom look at the TV and the plays we draw up on our napkins look a lot more like fruit trees in the end.

Moreover, I’m pretty sure Wayway never said (although he may well have been thinking it) during Monday Night Football: "This would be a lot more interesting if they were lesbians."

"They will be, Coach," I reminded her. "For now, just imagine."

The Ravens were playing the Texans.

We talked about relationships. We talked about depression. We talked about the holidays, and who I will meet and where we will be and who will like me. And always eventually it came back to the little TV at the other end of the bar.

"I like when the little guys dart around," she said. "They’re like shortstops, and second base."

"That’s the spirit," I said. "Now we’re talking."

Coach has a little notebook that she writes her football information in. There is a column of names. Most of our friends already know that they are playing football come spring. One or two even know how. I do! That’s why I get to be Coach’s coaching staff, confidant, and — if I don’t blow it — on-field captain. We already know who our quarterback will be and have a pretty good idea of the blockers. Less certain is who will play weasel, and the ever-important position Coach calls the "far runners." Myself, I am proud to be penciled in, according to her little notebook, at shortstop.

Which looks to me a little like the position formerly known as tight end. But when I mentioned this to Coach she got the giggles. "Tight end!" she said. "That’s perfect!"

I should stop writing about us. We are going to take this league by storm. And it might be better if no one sees us gathering on the horizon, like dark, sexy, undertalented and overburgered but height-weight proportionate clouds.

I’m just too excited to leave it alone!

OK, focus. My secret agent lady Sal and me didn’t want to sit in her rental car at the beach and watch surfer boys change clothes in her rear view mirror on an empty stomach, so we stopped off first for Korean.

Every Saturday a group of three or four food trucks circle the wagons down at McCoppin and Valencia around lunch time, and then some. I tried to go there once before with Mr. Wong when we were on our kimchi burrito kick, but Seoul on Wheels musta had a flat tire that week.

This time it was there! That’s the good news. The bad news is that its Korean burritos, which it calls korritos, are premade and have sour cream, which is a big mistake. An even bigger mistake: way too much rice and way not enough meat, or kimchi, or therefore flavor.

Weak. Weak. Weak.

On the other hand, I had a bulgogi taco and it had no rice at all. Small small small. But … delicious!

There’s also a Filipino truck there, which is pretty good, and I forget which taco truck — taco tacos, I mean. Next time I’ll try those.


Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

McCoppin and Valencia, SF

(415) 336-0387

Cash only

No alcohol

UM alert!



CHEAP EATS While we waited for our tacos, I crammed pickled jalapeños, carrots, and onions into a cup to take to the bar with us. Coach was riffling through the pile of rolled up complimentary calendars on the shelf above, muttering, “Hot babes hot babes hot babes.”

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Do you need a calendar?”

I thought: new year new year new year. “Yes,” I said. More than ever, I needed a calendar. You only get one picture with this kind; that’s why they’re free. I didn’t care about the pic. It was the new number I wanted, 2011, and all those clean, square, tear-away one-through-31s.

“Well,” Coach said, “do you want a hot babe, or the Virgin Mary?”

The ease with which I made my decision surprised me. I mean, 365 days is a lot of days to look at a picture. Albeit I intend to do other things as well, next year. “Virgin Mary,” I said.

And that was that. Well, when I got home four hours later, not so much drunk as oniony, and unrolled my Taqueria Virgin on the kitchen table, I was surprised to find that the Mother of God looked mighty fine in her own right. She wasn’t by any stretch a hot babe, like many of the angels surrounding and adoring her. But she seemed a little bored, bemused, and all-in-all like someone I might like to kiss.

Whether this makes me Catholic or a lesbian I don’t know, but anyway this ends the first part of the story.

The second part takes place next afternoon. I had four hours to kill between gigs, and thought I would spend at least most of that time contemplating barbecue. There’s this new one in Alameda, see, not so awfully far from where Boink and Popeye live.

It was the meat of the afternoon, and I wasn’t particularly hungry except that I’m always pretty hungry. So instead of erring on the side of lunch, I erred on the side of dinner. Check it out: $13-fucking-75 for pulled pork, comes with two sides and cornbread. I figured I would probably end up taking half of it home, making two meals out of it, or — dare I dream — three.

I had a book. It’s a pretty comfortable place, not crowded at all, midafternoon on a weekday, two TVs showing sports talk and highlights. Sweet tea refills. I took off my coat and scarf and made myself comfortable.

The sweet tea came. It was barely sweet at all.

Then the food. “I hope you’re hungry!” the waitressperson said on her way to my table. She said this with a knowing smile, which I took at first to be in my best interest.

“Oh, I’m hungry all right,” I said. “I might need a takeout container,” I added, for the sake of realism, “but I’m hungry.”

“Good,” she said, proudly sliding my plate before me.

For a moment I just stared. My brain went fuzzy, and then I wanted to cry. “Um,” I managed to sort of say. Then, when I found my vocabulary again, “What is this on my pork?”

First of all, it was the smallest portion of pork I have ever seen. Most place have sandwiches with twice as much meat on them as this dinner did. More urgently, however … what little meat there was snowcapped in an entirely creepy, pinkish creamy thing.

Now I’ve given a lot of benefits of a lot of doubts to a lot of restaurants in my day, but, as you may know, there is one thing I can neither tolerate nor forgive, and that is um … well, it’s UM: Unannounced Mayonnaise. You learn to ask, with sandwiches, salads, and even sushi. But … barbecue?

Sure enough, that’s what it was, a mixture of barbecue sauce and (gag, puke, spit) mayo, thus the pink. Oh, they remade my plate for me, but it came back with even less pork than before. The greens were okay, the fried okra was good, and their barbecue sauces were great, but the cornbread muffin was inedibly dry from either overcooking or staleness, or both.

I couldn’t fathom, let alone eat, the cornbread, but otherwise cleaned my plate. Counting tea and tip, it was a $20 snack. At my new least-favorite restaurant. *


Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat. 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

1513 Park., Alameda

(510) 523-7227


No alcohol

Ducking the cold



CHEAP EATS I know I’m not the only one. December rubs a lot of people the wrong way. This year, to combat my usual seasonal depression, I am moving to Norway. Oh, I’m sure I’ll be back to the Bay Area to visit, now and agin, but just in case I’m underestimating the inherent cheerfulness of Oslo and wind up coming back to live, I will of course continue to write Cheap Eats from abroad, no worries.

Then when I have finished unlocking the secrets of Norwegian cuisine, in general, and of Oslo’s burgeoning restaurant scene, in particular, I will write letters to Earl Butter again, or Cheap-Eats-length poems about how happy I am, whaling, playing Scrabble on the beach, eating lutefisk until the wee hours, and running with the moose, or whatever it is that people in Norway do for happiness.

I’m kidding of course. I would never in a million years go whaling! Didn’t you ever read Moby Dick? I did! There’s a guy in it named Queemquack, or something like that, and in the end they all get eaten to death by a whale.

Oy, my poor father, a Melville scholar, would be rolling over in his grave right now if he were 1) still reading my column and 2) dead, but he is neither, that I know of. Why, I just talked to him on the phone a little bit ago and he didn’t mention anything at all about Cheap Eats or having died.

Man, I love my dad! Happy birthday to him. When I was eight, I helped him write his dissertation. No lie, he had underlined all the participial phrases in Melville’s major works, and it was my job to tally them up — my first quantitative analysis of a major literary figure, give or take Dr. Seuss.

It’s uncanny. First I became a writer like my dad, then I became a musician like my dad, and don’t look now but I believe a couple paragraphs ago I may have established myself as a Melville scholar in my own right. Anyway, I read Moby Dick twice. Twice! (Technically I read it once as a literate adult, and leafed through it the other time, as a literary scholar who also pretty much knew how to count.)

From my mother I inherited my athleticism (which is no less dear to me than all-of-the above) and my peculiar knack for migrating north in winter and living in the woods, literally and figuratively.

You have to have good, strong legs, like mine and mom’s, to run with moose, don’t you know. And you have to be at least a little bit crazy, as I understand it, to eat lutefisk. Especially when you can just stay here and have burritos.

Or, actually, I’m kind of stuck on duck noodle soup now. Again. It being cold season. And I was house- and dog-sitting for Crawdad for a while in Berkeley, where there are a lot more duck soups to be had than here in the Mission. Not to mention Oslo.

All kidding aside, although I did briefly consider going home for the holidays this year, I’ve decided to weather them here where my turntable is. I don’t have any records anymore, but I do have my kitten, Stoplight. And if I turn my turntable on, with Stoplight on top of it, the result is more entertaining than Merle Haggard or anything.

It should be enough to get me through the darkest time of year.

But I wonder if old Merle ever had duck noodle soup with three scoops of hot sauce in it, or hung around with lesbians. For the former, my current recommendation is Your Place on University Avenue.

It’s on the lunch menu, for like $7, but probably they’ll give it to you any time of day. And it’s a big bowl, with rice noodles, no-bone roast duck, celery, green onions, cilantro, and maybe even a few spinach leaves.

Very very very good. Nice place, friendly service.

Then you can always go to last week’s new favorite restaurant, Lao Thai, for a bowl of sweet duck soup for dessert. In this very way, I will hop, skip, and waddle my way to March, and warmth, and happiness, and hopefully I hope a li’l love.

If we make it through December …


Daily 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

1267–71 University, Berk.

(510) 548-9781


Beer and wine


Olden Days



CHEAP EATS There are however hazards of hanging out with people young enough to be your sister’s best friend’s daughter. I’m not talking about going roller skating in my underwear, riding on the handlebars of a bike in a skirt and heels at night, or even eating at a vegan soul food restaurant in Oakland.

No, my most harrowing moment since falling in with my new adopted family came two nights ago, on a sturdy and all-around stationary bar stool at my friendly neighborhood sports bar, the Phoenix. Where I am generally comfortable and at home, if not drunk.

In this case, Coach was there with her just-graduated-from-sex-school cohorts, and she and one of the “trainers” were talking about a particular practice called sounding, which made me want to either die or order wings and watch football.

I chose the latter. And then, when the wings came, because this is the kind of gal I am, I went around with the plate and offered some to all the vegetarians. We’re supposed to live in the moment, right, so you never know … is my thinking.

Well, here comes the harrowing part, and it has nothing to do with vegetarians or urethras. One of Coach’s friends started talking about some guy she’s sleeping with who won’t put out. And everyone’s like: Wow. Whoa. Imagine that. Dude don’t want sex.

I said, “How old is he?” I don’t know why I said this, I guess because I’ve appreciated older men myself.

“Old,” my friend’s friend said.

“How old?”

“Really old,” she said.

Ostensibly I wanted to get to the bottom of this no-sex situation, because I care, but it’s not like I didn’t know I was, in the process, setting myself up for something truly disastrous. “How old,” I said, “is really old?”

Now it was Coach’s turn to watch TV.

“Really really old,” the young woman said. Then I knew she was going to say the age of really really old, and held my breath. “Forty-eight,” she said.

I exhaled. Forty-eight is older than me. Yay, I would not have to kill myself! I have, in fact, six more months of youthful happy living left before I am really really old, according to her.

Kids can be so careless. I love them, but San Francisco is a tiny town, and I have been steeping in it since this ‘un was seven. Of course I knew her old man! I didn’t realize it at the time, but later figured it out: I have known him since she was 12. Not biblically. We’ve crossed paths. But I considered him a catch in the 1990s, and the last time I saw him, just a month or so ago, I thought the same thing: catch. Then again, he’s a lot younger and way cooler than most of the really really really older men I have dated — one of whom was old enough to be my first cousin’s maid-of-honor’s father.

I got sick. It started that night, and the next morning, yesterday, it had me — by the throat. Usually when I get sick, I simply try to pretend I’m not sick until it’s no longer necessary to pretend, which sometimes takes weeks. This time, however, I decided to act sick, in part because I was house sitting a house with very comfortable beds in it. I saw this once in a movie: You start by calling in sick, then go back to bed.

While I was in bed, I didn’t masturbate. I’m old. I read a book until I fell asleep, and then I woke up and read some more until I slept some more, then I got up and started making chicken soup, which came out great.

The book I read was called The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. I loved it, and I’m sure the soup is even better today, but the truth is that I feel pretty much better too. It worked! Who knew? You can get back in bed and get better quicker than if you go about your business, playing soccer in the rain and so forth.

Not for its dry oven-barbecued ribs, collard greens and cornbread, but for its strangely sweet duck soup.


Lunch: Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.;

Dinner: daily 5–9:30 p.m.

1406 Solano, Albany

(510) 559-3276


Beer and wine


Bodies and bacon



CHEAP EATS My new friends are young and queer and, most important, bikers, so I get to hang out at Benders where the burgers have whiskey and bits of bacon in them. Many of my new friends are vegetarian, which saves me from the awkwardness of having big fat crushes on them. My crushes are small and skinny and eat veggie burgers.

We’re starting a team in the girls football league. Remember, I wrote about them a few years back? I used to go to games on Sundays, and it was inspiring and scary. So scary that I tried to get on a team, but they never called me.

I can’t wait to play that team! It will be a made-for-TV movie made in heaven.

Probably, because I grew up in Ohio, I will have to start out at one of the so-called “skill positions,” such as running back or wide receiver, where I will bide my time making diving one-hand catches and long, slash-and-burn touchdown runs (yawn). But once I have earned everyone’s respect with my off-the-field poetry and appreciation for opera, maybe then they will move me to the offensive line.

Which is, as anyone who has ever played electric football knows, the most important position on the field.

Our coach, whom we call Coach, is such a consummate athlete that she doesn’t need to eat meat or rice. Fueled by air and eagerness, and maybe sometimes whiskey, she routinely wins bike races! And if anyone else enters, she comes in third. She lives in the Mission and owns at least three bikes that I know of, yet dates a motor vehicle. Coach jokes about never leaving the neighborhood, which is bullshit because I met her in a pond in Sonoma County. Interestingly, we were skinny dipping.

Or, I don’t know, maybe that’s not interesting.

How about if I described all my new friends’ bodies in full detail? This way everyone in the world will want to go skinny-dipping with me from now on! I’m kidding, of course. Respectfulness may not be my strong suit, let alone my swimsuit, but there are some lines I know better than to cross.

I’ll only describe Coach’s body — because our friendship I think can handle it, and anyway she’ll be on a three-week bike ride by the time this comes out, somewhere between here and San Luis Obispo, far far from newsstands.

How she does this shit — without fettuccini, I mean — I will never know. But the other day I ate Chinese food with Coach and Fiver, and I swear that all the rice on the table, and all but maybe one or two of the noodles wound up in me. The meat goes without saying.

The restaurant was Mission Chinese Food, which everyone has been singing about since I moved back to the neighborhood. It’s the restaurant inside the restaurant (Lung Shan) on Mission at 18th Street. You can believe what people are singing. It’s pretty special, despite its name.

I mean, where else can you get “thrice-cooked bacon” or “tingly lamb noodle soup”? And the bacon can be vegan, and still damn good, and the soup comes in a “numbing lamb broth.”

Which … they mean it. It’s a Szechwan spice, or herb, that literally numbs your mouth, and it was in the pickled beans and pickled pickles too. I don’t like that. I loved the flavor of everything I ate, even the fake bacon, but I’m sorry, I just don’t understand the point of numbness, except with respect to dentistry.

Folks, I want to feel what I eat. The not-at-all-fake lamb belly in the sizzling cumin lamb, for example, was a heavenly blend of crispy, tender, salty, peppery, game-flavored meat outside with an interior layer of soft, buttery, clouds of juicy joy.

Now I know what you’re thinking: No! There is no way that she’s that sexy.

I’m just saying. My job is to review restaurants. Your job, if you drive a car in California, is to go slow, watch the road, and see bicycles. Thanks for reading.


Mon.–Sat.: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.;

Sun.: noon–10 p.m.

(inside Lung Shan Restaurant);

2234 Mission, SF

(415) 826-2800


Beer and wine

Jail bait



CHEAP EATS On a day when I felt really very much like oiling a countertop with my elbows, I oiled a countertop with my elbows! This proves that such a thing as free will exists, I think.

Proving that I’m not a very great thinker, because maybe I was predetermined to want what I wanted, or maybe we all want the same thing: barbecued pork ramen.

Other evidence of my not-greatness, brainwise, includes knocking over the popcorn, letting my bike basket get moldy, and locking myself out of my apartment seven or eight times a day. I’m exaggerating.

The good news is, I have managed to live my life so far entirely in and occasionally locked out of apartments. Or at least vans. I have never been homeless, or, worse, incarcerated against my will. Every time I see a mental institution I think: there, but for the grace of God, go I. Same with jails.

My poor mom, who has been in both of those places, kicking and screaming, is also in me. See? I believe in genetics. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in “the grace of God,” I guess, because so far I have managed to pass as merely kooky. And in this people tend to humor me and keep spare keys to my apartment.

Still, there’s a certain moodiness with which one walks or bicycles past the Hall of Justice, if one is me. I mean, if I’m driving a car I’m okay, because the sight of all those police just scares me into closing my eyes, thinking about ponies, and stepping on the gas.

Pedically speaking, I stick to the other side of the street, basking in the barrage of bail bondage. It’s San Francisco’s most alliterative block of businesses, you know: Bail Bonds, Bail Bonds, Bail Bonds, Bail Bonds, Sushi, Bail Bonds, Bail Bonds, Bail —

What the? Did I just say sushi?

Yep. Believe it, jurors and judges. Oh, and bad guys, you no longer have to go to jail without first having one last California roll, or meet with your friendly neighborhood bail bondsmanperson over McDonalds. God damn, what a great city this is! What a wonderful and humane criminal justice system we have here, now that Live Sushi is on the block.

Good luck finding the entrance.

I took the trouble because a) they had a counter, although it wasn’t exactly what my elbows had had in mind. On the other hand, there was a cooking show on TV, and b) they had ramen. And soba and udon. For like, $8 or $9 at lunch time. Which it was.

I wished I could afford some sushi too, but, nah. This is not no criminal justice system sushi, pricewise. It’s Potrero Hill, only crammed between a bunch of bail bonds boutiques. So alls I could afford was a bowl of barbecue pork ramen and a glass of ice water.

Gotta say: the water was very very good, and cold, and came with free refills, and the soup was excellent. The pork could have been a bit less cooked, but the broth was delicious, and I loved the little curly pickles and the ginger. And the ramen. Great bowl of soup, new favorite restaurant. And I think I learned something from watching TV, but I forget what it was. Something about chicken bones.

Anyway, I stopped at Trader Joe’s and bought me their cheapest chicken on the way home, because Mr. Wong was coming over for his own private, personal cooking show, his first, and I wanted to show him how to make five meals from one chicken … a trick I learned by listening to Spot 1019 in the old days.

I didn’t want to start cooking dinner without him, although that’s usually what I do as soon as I’m done with lunch. So, to kill time, I decided to clean the mold off of my super cool Toto Too bike basket.

I went upstairs to borrow some bleach off Earl Butter and, of course, locked myself out of my apartment. There’s a couch in the lobby. And a magazine rack. For the rest of the afternoon, I didn’t get anything done.


Mon.–Fri.: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun.: 4:30 p.m.–10 p.m.

1 Gilbert, SF

(415) 558-8778


Beer and wine




CHEAP EATS Where were you when the Giants won?

I was eating Buffalo wings at NY Buffalo Wings with the Maze and Kayday, and when it was over we decided to spill into the streets.

What a great city our city was! This was the way that I was feeling, that San Francisco was the best place on Earth and had the best pitching. All that remained was to set a police car on fire.

“That’s what they do in Philadelphia,” Kayday explained.

Yeah, but we’re not Philadelphia, or Texas, are we? No, we are not. Besides better pitching we have district elections, the view from Dolores Park, and bike lanes. We have Buffalo wings, Philly cheese steak, Texas barbecue, Chicago pizza and Buster Posey. We have players with pretty hair, dyed beards, and cool names.

I don’t really follow baseball anymore. Baseball lost me a few years ago. Oh, I still appreciate good pitching when I see it. And a sacrifice bunt — which is not after all “hit,” but “laid down” — is still my favorite Thing in the whole wide world of sports. Executed properly — which is to say, poetically (see Aubrey Huff, top of the seventh, Game 5) — the sacrifice bunt makes me all buttery inside, and crispy outside, like the fried yucca at Limon Rotisserie.

I will never get tired of it. In fact, thanks to the tingly feeling I still have for power hitter Huff’s li’l push-n-puff between the mound and first base, I might just become a baseball fan again. Fuck Edgar Renteria. Fuck the sweet and sour punch of Lincecum-Wilson. They all might have won the game, according to sports sections, but — even before his thong-related antics at the parade — Aubrey Huff had won my heart. And which, in the long run, is really more important?

Oh, yeah … I guess you’re right: probably for sure the game, now that you mention it. This is why you’re not supposed to answer rhetorical questions.

But why am I writing about a week-old baseball game in the food section instead of dates and shit? Don’t answer that!

I want to. Because, like a lot of other wahoos hanging out of SUVs and minivans or dancing in intersections, on boats, or flying through the air, I was and still am beside myself with pride and joy for the city I live in and the people I live in it with.

Kayday was right. It was almost our civic duty to set things on fire. I wish I’d thought of this beforehand, but I’ve never been in a city that won the World Series before. As a result, I didn’t have matches or a lighter and that’s why I was at the corner of 18th and Mission streets rubbing two sticks together when the party started.

The Maze, who had come straight from the airport to wings and still had his luggage in tow and isn’t much of a baseball fan (lapsed or otherwise) and was tired, went home.

Kayday had her iPhone out and was taking pictures or making movies.

And I, like everyone else who has ever rubbed two sticks together, eventually gave up and started looking around for something to tip over, or at least kick.

All mayhem-related kidding aside, I love how everyone loved each other and seemed to want to hug or at least high five me. As someone who errs on the side of eye contact, who tends to smile and/or say hello and isn’t always (or even often) requited in this, I was like a kid on a choo-choo train.

I’d never felt anything like it.

So I stayed out late, in some cases dodging glass bottles, because I guess I wanted one more hug. One more high five. One more woohoo, ain’t we great.

Yeah, we are.

But I forgot to tell you about dim sum. Last week, and now, nearly, again. There’s this one out on the avenues, in the Richmond, that claims to be “the Very First Chinese Restaurant on Clement.” I don’t care about that. I barely care how good the dim sum was, which was, for the record, pretty good. What I do care about: $1.95 per plate, weekdays.

Ergo: new favorite restaurant!


Sun.–Thu.: 8 a.m.–1 a.m.;

Fri.–Sat.: 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

332 Clement, SF

(415) 668-8070


Beer and wine