Getting lucky

Pub date March 7, 2007
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS The word she uses is "flexitarian." I seldom run retractions. Not that I never get anything wrong; on the contrary, my impressions of reality are so impressionistic, it would be a stretch to say that I ever exactly get anything right.

This can cause problems.

Give you an example: I want to know what time Penny’s opens for lunch. I look it up. Cheap Eats, Penny’s Caribbean Café, says right there: 11:30 a.m. So I write to Lisa Bitch Magazine, and I say, "Dear Ms. Magazine, Hi! How are you? 11:30 a.m."

She writes back and says stop calling her Ms. Magazine.

And: No. Noon, she says. Flexitarians always have weird rules about eating meat, like only free-range, organic, or only at home, or only in restaurants, or, in Lisa’s case, once every six months, and never before noon. If it’s goat.

I’m assuming she makes early-morning exceptions for bacon. Actually, my assumption is that all vegetarians make exceptions for bacon, all the time. Because how can you not eat bacon? It’s bacon!

(Have I dazzled you yet with my simplemindedness?)

Cut to 12 o’clock. Noon. I’m standing outside Penny’s Caribbean Café, waiting for my new friend Lisa. And for Penny, because I’ll be damned if she’s open. Which goes to show: you can’t always believe what you read in the paper — even if you wrote it.

Sign in the window says CLOSED. No lights. And still I’ve got my nose to the glass, both hands visoring my eyes, like, Come on, come on, Penny. I know you’re in there. Come on.

I love Penny. I LOVE Penny and not just because of her curry goat roti, either. There’s the jerk chicken and pelau and … I don’t know, we just seem to live in very similar worlds. Where Einstein is taken perhaps a tad too literally and time is extra relative. And space …

Nebulous is one of my favorite words.

So hey, here comes Lisa, responsible journalist, on her lunch break. She has exactly this much time, and she’s hungry, and she has agreed to eat her biannual meat with me. Me!

Today! I’m beside myself with honor and anticipation, watching vegetarians eat meat being one of my all-time favorite pastimes, right up there with pitching washers and spitting watermelon seeds.

And I’ve been talking up the curry goat. But Penny is showing no signs of peering around any counters or refrigerators anytime soon, so I give up on the window, pack Lisa into my pickup truck, and whiz us to West Oakland, to the Island Café.

Even though it’s regular business hours for them too, by the book, and even though it smells like meat heaven on the sidewalk outside the place … closed. Cooking, you could smell, but closed. Sign on the door says they’re catering a musical event that afternoon in Santa Cruz, sorry!

Aaaaargh! Whisk us back to Berkeley, the clock ticking on Ms. Magazine’s lunch break. And I’m thinking, damn my luck, she’s going to cave and call falafel.

Know what she says? She says, "Stop calling me Ms. Magazine." And she says this, she says, "Flint’s?"


Flint’s? Not to put too pointy of a point on this, but you would think that if Flint’s — everybody’s favorite Bay Area barbecue (not to mention mine) — was back in bidness, Cheap Eats would know about it before Bitch Magazine. Which is one reason why I try not to think too much these days. Because you never know.

So I point us toward Flint’s, thinking, yeah, right, Flint’s, right, sure, like Flint’s is going to be open, way things are going for us, right….

It is! It’s open, and the rest of the day is like a dream. Lisa gets her meat fix, I get to be there for it, get to see Bitch Magazine with barbecue sauce all over her face, just like she got to see Cheap Eats with beans in her hair.

Flint’s is as good as ever. My new favorite (and old favorite) barbecue. New management. No tables. We sat on the slat-style benches in the corner of the place, paper bags spread out on our laps, and went to work. Well, I went to work. They only had beef ribs. Then, after us, they didn’t even have those and started turning people away.

So, after all that running around and frustration and, you know, goatlessness in general … in the end we got to feel lucky. *


Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

6609 Shattuck, Berk.

(510) 595-5323

Credit cards not accepted

No alcohol

Takeout available

Wheelchair accessible