An upside

Pub date January 31, 2012
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap Eats

CHEAP EATS I’ve been saving something for you. Something special. For a time just like this.

The 49ers have fizzled in the drizzle, and the spring season of dyke football is a long way off. Not to mention spring training. Not to mention Spring.

Sportswise we are left with the Warriors. And speaking of lose-lose situations, there’s the murky mess that our sheriff is in. Oh, and the Republican candidates for prez, whose collective aim is so untrue (also speaking of the Warriors) that even those of us who try and stay out of it are covered in mud and shit.

Is everyone sick and suicidal, or just sick?

Well, my dears, I have something for you, and it isn’t duck soup. It’s better. It’s butter corn ramen at Halu, which is my new favorite restaurant by 10 miles. Or at least thirty blocks.

Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who know about it. Halu isn’t open for lunch and doesn’t accept reservations for dinner. It’s a hole in the wall. So, unless you get there at five, expect a line.

And expect that line to be worth waiting in. (I rarely say that.)

About a year ago or so I started hearing about this place from all sides. Alice Shaw the Person gave me its business card. Which I lost. But I still recall her rhapsodic description of skewered scallops wrapped in bacon. We were getting ready to play soccer. “One of the best things I ever ate,” she said. “The scallops …” Her eyes fluttered and started to roll back under their lids, until I thought she might lose consciousness. Which would have sucked because we’d have had to forfeit.

Then Papa, my butcher, started in on it. “Pork jowls,” she kept saying. At football practice. In the huddle. Every time I saw her: “Pork jowls.”

When people say pork jowls, I listen. They only need to say it once. After three or four times, I start to dream cheeky things. So, long before I ever ate there, Halu was on my mind and under my skin.

I tried to go once with a big group, but at least one of us was too hungry to stomach the wait, so we wound up at the Burmese place around the corner on Clement.

Then, finally, last summer while Hedgehog and me were house sitting in the Richmond one week, we walked over right at five and sat right down and ordered all the wrong things. Lava ramen, which was the best and second-spiciest bowl of ramen I had ever had, but it wasn’t spicy butter corn ramen. Or, as they inexplicably call it, spicy corn butter ramen. Which, I would have to wait three more months to learn, is even better.

Amazingly tender roast pork, crisp kernels of fresh corn, and pats of butter melting into it as they bring the bowl to your table. The noodles taste homemade, and the broth has an insane amount of flavor to it.

I must not have looked at the menu the first time I was there, or I would have become a Halu addict sooner. But the lava ramen was on the wall, with a lot of other yummy sounding dishes, and all the Beatles posters and ’60s stuff — including a cool old bass and an even cooler acoustic guitar.

The yakitori menu is on the wall too, and every time I get my butter corn butter ramen butter fix, I sample one or two of these, on the side. So far I’ve had mochi bacon, which was divine, and of course the pork jowls, which were even diviner. Chicken livers. Good. The boneless short ribs were a little dry.

Oddly, since it was what sold me on the place in the first place, I have yet to try the bacon-wrapped scallops. (Sorry, Alice Shaw the Person.) Other didn’t-get-yets include asparagus bacon, enoki bacon, and eringi bacon, because in my opinion two of those things are mushrooms. But I do love asparagus.

One time we had karaage (fried chicken), by way of an appetizer. It was nothing special.

Otherwise, though: worth the wait. Way. Go say hi to Baseball Mary across the corner at Clement Street Bar and Grill. The game’ll be on, if there is one.


Tue.-Thu. 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-11 p.m.; closed Sun.-Mon.

312 8th Ave., SF.

(415) 221-9165


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