Pears and pairings

Pub date October 20, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

CHEAP EATS There’s that stretch of Fillmore Street between the Western Addition and Japantown. I’m rarely there, but when I am, it amazes and amazes me how otherworldly it increasingly becomes. Chains, boutiques, chains … It’s so sort-of centrally San Francisco, yet you forget where you are and can easily become disoriented.

Or worse: disillusioned.

I have started out looking for a bite, and wound up desperately turned around, trying in vain to get back on a freeway that isn’t there, never was, and never will be.

Why does it look like this, and what does it look like? A cross between the worst of New Mexico and the best of Iowa. I don’t know. I’m redisoriented, just thinking about it.

It’s not that I can’t decide. I can: I want everything both ways.

And there I was, on my pointless way from point A to point B, and I needed a little something to chew on in my car.

Did I tell you I was studying German? Yep. It started last spring after the first time I said bye-bye to my bilingually bisexually both-gendered and many-named new lover Romea at the airport. I wanted to be able to say, basically, I love you, but a million different ways, and in German. So I haven’t stopped studying since, although my goals have changed a little.

Or I should say broadened.

But I practice in my car, a lot, and the other day I accidentally said to Crawdad in English, in a kitchen in Berkeley, without thinking, "Can I this pear eat?"

Which, when I realized what I’d done, thrilled the bejesus out of me. The sentence was grammatically perfect, in German, and the pear, unblinkingly granted by Crawdad, was delicious and crisp.

I used to only like pears that made my gums bleed. Now I like all kinds. Not yet ready ones, the over-ready yellow ones that bruise when you look at them, Asian pears … Pears are good. And this one was perfect, just like the grammar that got me it.

And got me out of my Fillmore Street predicament. Which, saying so …

Well, there’s a barbecue place there I think, but I didn’t see it. And then at the last minute, just as I was about to lose my sense of reality forever and ever and become a duck — about a block from Geary and, therefore, Japantown — I started to see one or two realistic looking Korean joints, and this: the Fillmore Mexican Grill & American Deli.

A burrito would be just the thing. I love eating burritos in my car, because then you find the beans and rice and things in the cracks between seats, or under them, many months later, and remember. And, too, there was an open parking space right in front, which meant I could leave the car unlocked and wouldn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my dirty soccer socks and unspit sunflower seeds.

Cavalierly did I step up to the counter, where I was immediately unhorsed by the appearance of an Asian woman who took my order and, in so doing, made my day. A lot of people would be put off by Asian-run Mexican grills, or vice versa. In fact at one time in my life I might have been guilty of similar small-mindednesses. Now I cherish such plot-twists, and for years have secretly wondered how the sentence "What kind of beans?" would sound with an Asian accent.

So I ordered my burrito.

"What kind of beans?" she said.

I swooned, and pretended not to understand so she would say it again, but instead she only listed my choices: pinto, refried, etc.

I said, "Refried."

They only had one kind of salsa, which was green and good. And the chips were freshly homemade, or at least seemed so, which is all that really matters. And some other things.

Oh, it was a pretty good burrito. It was alright. Nothing otherwise special, except I should point out that one of their meat choices (the one I got) is chicken and steak, and another is steak and prawn, and still another is salmon and prawn.

These are a little more expensive, yes, but, you know, so is life when you are Gemini.


Sun.–Thu., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 10 a.m.–-midnight

1552 Fillmore, SF

(415) 921-9900



L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.