Pub date October 22, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS Now that I am once again all chipper and cheerful and shit, albeit without wheels or money or, you know, prospects, I reckon I can return to writing about food. Anyway, I’m going to try.

My happiness is speculative. I figure, in a world with Alice Shaw and her biscuits in it, all things are not only possible, but likely. Right now, for example, I am lying outside in my tiny patch of woodsy sunshine, dreaming about becoming Canadian, if for no other reason because their Thanksgiving comes earlier than ours, and who wouldn’t want that?

What I love about sunbathing in the woods in October is that you don’t need to wear sunscreen. Or anything.

What I love about Canada …

What I love about fall is sitting in a pile of dead leaves on a sidewalk in Berkeley with Clara de la Cooter, wiggling our legs.

A couple weeks ago, when I was still engaging in defeatist activities such as dating, I was asked, over coffee, what my favorite restaurant was. I don’t believe the asker even knew I was a chicken farmer, let alone the chicken farmer, and that, therefore, my favorite restaurant was wherever I happened to be eating.

So it surprised me more than him when, instead of saying "all of them!" I waxed nostalgic over a particular one, Gravy’s, which has been boarded up for at least five years. If anything I should have said Penny’s Caribbean Café, which has been boarded up for less than one, and which I drive by once a week in the wild hope that she will have resurrected out of the flour and chickpea dust in her cluttered back-room kitchen on Sacramento Street.

Nostalgia happens. Fall’s a good time for it. It’s not a good or a bad thing. It’s nostalgia. It means that at one point in time, at least, you enjoyed life, and that your memory function is functioning. Unfortunately, it also implies that right now things aren’t so bacon for you. For example, you have no idea, say, where to get a good curry goat roti.

There’s a very plastic dollar-fitty-a-thing Chinese joint where Ann’s Café was. I went in there a couple months ago, and got it to go. What was Ann’s Café, in its entirety, is now just the kitchen. The grease on the walls back there looked familiar. I’ve been meaning to write about it.

Maybe next week.

Anything can happen. I have a recurring dream about Ann’s reopening in a food court kind of setting, a small, square, open-air restaurant with Her, Fran, in the middle, holding court and slinging omelets. It’s the same feeling as the one I have when I dream about my closest comrade ever, who died 20 years ago: that this is just wonderful, and not at all, not-even-the-slightest-bit real, like heaven.

While I dream of food courts, by way of conceptualizing a nonexistent afterlife, or bullshit reincarnation, some people get to have children!

Take my other old favorite restaurant, Yamo Thai Kitchen, or Mean-Lady Thai as its ardent fans affectionately called it. Of course, Yamo still stands, in name, reincarnated as Yamo, a Burmese joint.

What you may not know is that Yamo’s son and daughter-in-law (who used to cook at Yamo, near the end) have opened a Thai restaurant in the Excelsior District, hooray! My last first-date ever, the guy who asked me what my favorite restaurant was, launching this nostalgic fit … he not only knew this but had eaten there, turns out. I excused myself.

Outside I called Earl Butter on my cell phone and said, "Let’s go."

We went. My new favorite restaurant is Zabb. Familiarly great Thai food for familiarly cheap prices. Diehard fans of Yamo might miss the tight quarters and sweet tension of watching your meal happen from a front-row counter seat, but I liked Zabb’s atmosphere too. Spacious, unpretentious, and very friendly. They definitely put more effort into presentation. The spring rolls were, if anything, better than Mom’s. The choo-chee curry was fantastic. And they also serve my old Yamo favorites, red curry duck, and chef noodles. All this … this is good news, for me. *


Wed.–Mon., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

4440 Mission, SF

(415) 586-2455

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