August 1, 2004
Back from San Francisco. Wore a sweatshirt all day Saturday! Wow! For A Zonie in July, this is a fantasyland adventure. Call it Disneyland for Heatless Seekers. We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog and cold wind and it was like being in Iowa in October, but with actual scenery.
Ate many great meals, starting with our traditional favorite Sam Wo’s at Grant and Washington in Chinatown. It’s up a narrow sidestreet, crammed between two ancient buildings. You enter right into the kitchen, then up a narrow staircase. The second and third floors are dining rooms complete with submarine style walls and tables with short stools, no chairs. Exposed pipes, a dumb waiter (as in food elevator) anchors the West wall. We hit it off with our tablemates, a French photo editor who sat directly behind me and a stunning Vietnamese girl and her boyfriend up from San Diego and LA respectively. They just had $150 worth of Sushi and had heard about this legendary place and were kind of wide-eyed to try it out. As we were talking an old, bent over woman came and grunted something, surly and unintelligible (believe it or not, part of the charm of Sam Wo’s is they don’t really like customers). Our new Cal-Nam friends asked for beer and the old woman barked something at them. The guy looked at me quizzically, “You have to bring in your own beer?” I nodded like the vet I am (this is our fourth or fifth time at this venerable institution. “I’ll flip you for it,” I said. “Loser goes for cerveza.” I lost, he gave me a ten, and I went downstairs and out into the foggy, cold night. Four blocks and two streets over I found a Chinese convenience store. The toothless store clerk was watching Kerry’s speech (this was Thursday night). “Do you like what you’re hearing?” I asked as I grabbed a six-pack of Heinies. He laughed like a foreigner who thinks Americans are stupid, as he rang up the beer. “Eight-eighty-six,” he said still laughing. Maybe he’s right.
I ran back up the hill (and I do mean hill!) and up the stairs into Wo’s place and we started divvying up the beer. Just as I started handing out the bottles, the old woman came marching right up to me with her hand out and said loudly: “Mama!” In spite of the cultural barrier I knew exactly what she meant. I handed her the first beer and she walked off without even a smile. The meal was fantastic, the whole bill was $11.
More restaurant reviews, including Jack Lalanne’s fave salad at Dashielle Hammett’s “Maltese Falcon” dive, the Cliff House is down, Skoma’s is still rockin’ and the Sunflower Cafe holds more than one German Hell’s Angel.
“Eat, drink and be merry sucka, for tomorrow you may not be able to afford it.”
—Old Vaquero Sayingo
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