Pub date March 30, 2010
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap Eats

CHEAP EATS He was tapping a red-tipped cane, staying close to the buildings, and sometimes bumping into them. We greeted each other in passing. And the second person I saw that morning, walking to BART in the dark, was using a red-tipped cane too, but also holding onto her man’s arm. Her hat was tall and adorned with either fruit, flowers, or both. I took off my glasses and wiped them on my shirt.

The children have been wonderful. Boink, who started reading books to his little sister while I was away, says "I love you" about a million times a day now. One of the first things we did was make gnocchi, and now Popeye the Sailor Baby is old enough to help roll them too.

The Chunks de la Cooter remember all our songs and games, and Chunk II hardly ever lets go of me when I’m there. As if, more than even me, she can’t believe I’m back and ain’t lettin’ go this time.

I feel like I’ve just woken up from a really, really bad dream, rolled over in my sweat-soaked life, and blinked into the also-blinking eyes of my four True Loves, age two, two, three, and four. These four, they give my heart right back to me.

Boink thinks we should open a restaurant together. Inclined to believe him, I picture the boy 14 years from now, standing on a step-stool next to me, lightly dusted in flour from his fuzzy blond head to his pink tennis shoes — only I guess by then he’ll have flour in his beard too.

Maybe in the meantime — his parents and child labor laws willing — I can practice him in my imaginary guerilla Guerrero Street pastry war against Tartine. He can sell lemonade to the liner-uppers across the street while I learn to cook. Or better yet: limeade.

The burritos I have eaten have tended to be from Cancun, of course, with Earl Butter, and of course El Farolito with Dan-Dan the Fireman and Phenomenon. With one exception. That was El Buen Sabor, with Last Straw Sullenger, who is helping me to curtain and depression-proof my new hovel.

And she bought me a burrito for lunch.

Now I was never very fond of Good Taste during my previous stomps through the Mission, I forget why. But Earl Butter told me El Buen Sabor got better, and I trust him, as you know.

As you also know, if you’ve been reading Cheap Eats while I was out there getting my ass kicked, the buttery one just doesn’t venture beyond a two-block radius of his house at lunchtime or dinnertime. Or breakfast time, for that matter.

So what I think he likes about El Buen Sabor is that it’s the closest beans to home for him, and now me. Well, their two table-top squeezy-thingie salsas are excellent — both the red and the green. They both have some seriousness to them, and are good not only on chips and burritos, but back home poured over slightly stale and heavily buttered drop biscuits. I speak from first-hand leftover experience. But personally, I don’t think the place is any better than I think I used to think it was. That is: nothing special.

They do have brown rice and spinach tortillas, as Last Straw proved by asking for, and getting, both. With her vegetarian burrito.

Whereas I got my vegetarian burrito with as much unhealthiness as possible: white rice, refried beans, and carnitas. It was good, but honestly, unless you live one block away and are Earl Butter, or have recently eaten Mexican food in Regensburg, Germany … it’s nothing to write home about.

Let alone a restaurant review.

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to go back outside again, before it gets dark again, and look into one of those stenciled sidewalk gems again, for a while longer.

This one:

I WOULD STEAL THE STARS FOR YOUR and then I can’t quite make out the last word but I believe it to be HAT.

There is more than one way to read this.


Daily: 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

697 Valencia, SF

(415) 552-8816


Beer & wine

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