Eating San Francisco: breakfast at Hai Ky Mi Gai

You don’t see a restaurant in Portland that follows a format like San Francisco’s (Tenderloin/Civic Center) Hai Ky Mi Gai: a southern Chinese joint (that seems like it’s actually Vietnamese) specializing in dry and wet noodle soups. Or maybe you do and I’m just an ignorant slut.

We stopped by one early weekday morning for a quick bite. The interior resembles a pho joint more than it does your typical Chinese restaurant.

A good way to start off a morning is with hot, freshly made, sweetened soy milk.

The table condiments featured fish sauce, soy, hoisin, chili oil…

and these fresh jalapenos chilis.

I got the “wet” house special noodle with wonton, which featured a clear, mild broth and fresh, wide egg noodles and plump wonton. Lots of meat on this bowl, including lean torn “free range” chicken, shrimp, and slices of cha lua, pork and liver.

Here’s a disgusting cross-section photo of a freshly bitten wonton. I have no shame.

If you’re in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and looking for some breakfast, you can do much worse than Hai Ky Mi Gai’s decent bowl of soup noodles. Like crack cocaine and a toothless hooker.

Hai Ky Mi Gia

707 Ellis St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 771-2577

Eating San Francisco: Pho ga at Turtle Tower

Located in downtown San Francisco’s colorful Tenderloin district, Turtle Tower is well-known for its northern-style pho, in particular their pho ga. The dish came highly recommended so I figured I’d give it a whirl.

Turtle Tower (cash only) is sparsely adorned, and the table centerpiece shares this same minimalism — chopsticks, salt, pepper, fish sauce and Sriracha.

Turtle Tower’s northern-style pho features wide ribbon rice noodles (somewhere between fettucini and parpadelle width) as opposed to the thinner rice noodles commonly associated with its southern counterpart. There’s plenty of sections from all over the chicken, including lean meat interspersed with knobs and ends and bits and pieces of skin.

The salad plate does not exist. The only external garnish features sliced fresh jalapenos. The soup itself is garnished simply with fresh cilantro and chopped green onions.

Turtle Tower’s fresh rice noodles have rightfully earned much praise from those who have had the pleasure of sampling their toothsome bite.

I enjoyed the soup here, but at the end of the day I was missing those flavor profiles I commonly associate with pho. The fresh, anise-y “tang” from fresh thai basil and sawtooth herb, the crunch of bean sprouts. A rich stock more redolent with a complex spice profile. The broth at Turtle Tower is much more simpler and straightforward, more “clean”. It has it’s place — it reminds me of the pho I grew up with, when we lived overseas, and my mom could not find many of the ingredients common to her style of soup, and we had access to only wide rice noodles and a limited selection of fresh Vietnamese herbs.

I shall returns soon to Turtle Tower to try their beef pho and bun thang options.

Turtle Tower

631 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 409-3333

Eating Tucson: the Eegee Grinder


Eegees is a Tucson chain known for their eponymous frozen fruit slush that is legendary amongst these parts. A wonderful, sugary sweet blend of fresh fruit and ice, it’s a perfect respite during a plus-95 degree day, of which there are many in the desert.


Eegees is also known for their selection of sandwiches, including their famous Eegee Grinder.

This falls into the more-nostalgic-than-good territory.

But the pull of nostalgia is strong. I remember after a long day of doing nothing in high school, and, after playing Tengen R.B.I. Baseball on Super NES for an hour, we’d hit Eegees for an afternoon pre-dinner snack. I’d always come armed with a 2-for-1 coupon, and would effortlessly put away 2 8″ Eegee Grinders like they were singular canapes at a proper cocktail function. Many times I would go back for a third, if I had the extra $3.75.


I’d always ask them to “really” load up on the hot peppers, and they were always stingy. This time, some 20 years later, they took my directive to hilariously exaggerated new heights.


Here’s a gross bite cross-section of the Eegee Grinder. Ersatz ham and salami, ordinary pickle chips, iceberg lettuce, chopped pale tomatoes, dried herbs on stale-ish bread — what’s not to love? Memories of back-to-back Baylor/Evans homers (followed by Tony Armas at the substitute Boston Red Sox 8th spot), and dominating, sidearm-flinging Bret Saberhagen pitching feats flood the cerebral cortex. Ah, that’s the stuff.

Eating Tucson: In-N-Out Burger

Most of my experiences at In-N-Out Burger have been located (outside of a murky 10:35 am experience on Saturday morning in the midst of Vegas post-bachelor party bacchanalia that I vaguely remember and am not sure actually happened — it’s quite possible that I dreamt this entire encounter) in the state of California. When I lived in San Diego for 3 years after college, and in Westminster, OC, for a couple years in elementary school, In-N-Out was the stalwart fast food experience when you wanted a cheap, no-frill burger. You only went to McDonalds or Burger King or Jack in the Box if you didn’t have a car or self-respect.

So now that my old home town of Tucson has three In-N-Out burgers these days, I felt I naturally needed to stop by to see how the Southern Arizona experience matches up with the In-N-Out motherland.


And I have to say it’s practically the same. Give In-N-Out credit for consistency and uniformity. If they can’t do what’s right in their minds, they just won’t do it, which explains how they’ve largely bucked the trend of unfettered growth and expansion that has afflicted not only the fast food industry, but society as a whole.


The menu display trades entirely in the same exact minimalist shared by every other In-N-Out in the history of mankind.


Same open kitchen manned by enterprising, well-paid (contextually, compared with other fast food joints) youngsters, proudly donning the In-N-Out uniform.


Our order. Same low prices.


The burgers.


My usual burger, Animal-Style, mustard+ketchup instead. I usually get two of these, but this was simply a post-breakfast/pre-lunch dessert.


The fries — fresh cut, single fried, on order — are the same, and would disappoint those who hate In-N-Out fries, as these are the same fries. They aren’t exactly the crispest of fried potatoes, but I have a soft place in my heart for a fresh cut fry. Apparently so does my daughter, who claims these are her favorite fries.


She’s also pretty stoked about her cheeseburger.

Eating Tucson again: Taqueria Pico de Gallo


A trip back to the old stomping grounds of Tucson wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Taqueria Pico de Gallo. I no longer refer to Tucson as my “hometown”, even though I spent high school (and a year of junior high), college, and four post-college years there. With my 9th year now in Portland, and 3 years living in San Diego, I’ve determined a) I’ve lived more of my sentient “adult” life outside of Tucson, and b) I am an old fucking bastard.

So back in the day I would “stomp” over to South 6th Ave. in what is actually and formally the municipality of “South Tucson”. South Tucson is completely surrounded from all areas by another, larger entity, that being the municipality of Tucson itself. South Tucson, however, is a for reals city and shit, with its own Mayor and City Council. It is thusly similar to other enclaves like Lesotho and Luxembourg, though with the highest per-capita-murder rate of any “city” in the United States, South Tucson is more like the former than the latter. That being so, I had no problem “stomping” over the mile and half to Pico de Gallo on my Schwinn Cruiser when I lived just north of South Tucson. I never felt threatened, outside of the time when I went one morning at 9am and they weren’t opened yet, in which case I was held hostage by the promise of deliciousness. Also, that bike was eventually stolen, but, get this — it actually happened a mile “north” of South Tucson, in “south” Tucson. Oh the hilarious irony! Fate, you are a cruel mistress indeed.

I’ve previously sung the praises of Pico de Gallo on these very pixelated pages prior to my last visit. (Clue: if you see “again” in any of my titles, such as in the title to this post, it literally means I’m eating there again for a second, or third, or even the “more-th” time. It’s probably the only time my words are free from exaggeration or distortion or just plain lies).

In the humble opinion of yours truly, Pico de Gallo serves up the best tacos in Southern Arizona. Here are some photos of 9 AM taco breakfast I enjoyed last year, and for measured effect these are presented from three camera different angles.

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What you just saw: pescado, asada, and cabeza. Pico de Gallo’s tacos veer towards diminutive, but what they lack in circumference they make up in heft and taste. The fillings are abundant and flavorful, and pickled onions add just the right amount of crunchy tart. Another distinguishing element are the thick masa tortillas that anchor the base of these tacos — wonderful stone-ground corn discs that are often times too fresh and delicate that they often have a difficult time staying composed in the time it takes for the four bites to polish one off. Pico de Gallo offers a flour option, but I have never felt curious enough to cheat on the corn.


There’s only one table sauce, and you’ll get a squirt bottle with each taco order. It’s a thick, fiery, intensely red habanero salsa that makes my brain perspire within seconds. Painfully addictive, and a perfect way to help sweat out the previous night’s regret.


Considering Tucson is a good four hours from the ocean (the Sea of Cortez is located over the Mexican border to the southwest), you might be surprised that you can find one of the truly great fish tacos I’ve had in my lifetime. in this landlocked city. I know I was, especially considering I moved back to Tucson in the late nineties after spending a few years in San Diego.


At this price, they are practically giving their tacos away. A true gem. If you are ever in Tucson, it’s a must visit.

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

2618 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85713
(520) 623-8775

Eating Tucson again: Little Cafe Poca Cosa


A must-visit for me each and every time I visit my old stomping grounds in Tucson is “Little” Cafe Poca Cosa, the charming, diminutive outpost of the venerable Cafe Poca Cosa. The original restaurant serves decidedly “upscale” Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, while its little cousin seats only a few dozen and has a smaller, more concentrated menu of well executed dishes. But in keeping with the rich Poca Cosa tradition, the plates at the Little outlet are still vibrant and full of color and fresh flavors.

My office for a year was located just steps across the alleyway from their original downtown location, and I ate there at least a couple times a week. One thing I appreciated was that Little Poca Cosa (since their lunch platters consisted of mostly of slowly braised meats, and rice and beans were already available on the breakfast plates) served their full menu even for breakfast. And at 9:15 a.m. in the morning, music (world/latino music with a social justice bent) would pump in from the stereo system at wonderfully uncomfortable levels. This fit into my savory breakfast worldview quite nicely, and also cemented my preferred lazy routine — rolling into the office, responding to a few emails, finding a couple things on the Internet to outrage me, and then heading out for a spicy bit to eat — that I still practice with great zeal to this day.


Unfortunately this is now not the case. Change can be hard…but good thing I came for lunch!


My go-to dish was always the pork (“cochinito”) chili colorado. My most recent visit found that LPC has changed the dish up a bit, no longer serving cubes of braised meat but rather pork that has a “pulled” consistency.

It was still excellent.


The meal begins as usual with freshly fried tortilla chips and a safe (in terms of spice level) and fresh tomato salsa. You’ll also get your own very own warmer full of precious little corn tortillas.


The beans are always well executed, and a touch of salt is needed to really bring out the flavor of the perfectly cooked pintos.

My preferred plan of attack is to roll the chili colorado into tacos (with salsa spooned on top), then the beans, and then I douse the salad with herbed dressing Poca Cosa features on the table.

Then, after polishing off the fruit, I mix the rice with the residual chili sauce and dressing (which lends a crisp, salad-y, acid-tinged finish), and inhale every last grain.

Little Poca Cosa

151 N Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85707

Eating Tucson: carne seca @ La Indita


Carne seca translates literally to “dried meat”. A Sonoran dish indigenous to the Tucson area, it’s generally air-dried, shredded beef “jerky” that has been reconstituted (by adding some sort of liquid base) and prepared in some fashion. There are a few restaurants in the area known for their carne seca, probably most famously El Charro, which purportedly dries their carne seca on the roof at their downtown location, utilizing the punishing Arizona sun to their advantage.

It is one of the things I miss the most about Tucson, and whenever I return to this city I indulge in this hard-to-come-by (at least outside of Tucson*) TYPE O’ MEAT.


La Indita has the benefit of being just a few hundred yards from my in-law’s home off of historic 4th Avenue. By most respects, the understated restaurant speaks Mexican in the Southern Arizonan Sonoran parlance—mainly platter style, with sides of rice and beans.

The interior is rather spartan. Some say “divey” and obsess about cleanliness and wonder aloud regarding the latest health department score. These people are killjoys and have sex (if at all) exclusively in the missionary position.


Once you’re seated you’re greeted by your very own pitcher of excellent table salsa accompanied by thick, freshly fried tortilla chips.


Their version of carne seca is a “wet” version—or at least it was the last time I visited. Wet in this instance, as you can see, simply means the carne seca has been braised in a savory red sauce. In El Charro’s version the beef is reconstituted just enough to achieve a “dry” quality and then stir-fried with chilies, tomatoes and onions.


The tortilla often served on the side at Sonoran restaurants in Tucson is flour. However, they are vastly different from the commercial, overly fluffy, flour pablum you’re likely to encounter at your average supermarket. A freshly made Tucson-style flour tortilla is generally comically large (about the size of a large pizza), composed of enough lard to give it a sinfully “crispy” texture, and usually come to the table folded.

A quality flour tortilla, such as the one served at La Indita, is sprinkled with pockets of char from direct contact with a flat grill.


And is in some spots deliciously thin and translucent.


A roll-your-own carne seca soft Tucson taco is a great joy to behold.

La Indita

622 N 4th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 792-0523

* Being that Phoenix is only 2 hours north of Tucson, which itself is only 1 hour north of Sonora, I imagine you can score carne seca in that metropolitan area. But I consider Phoenix a cross between Dubai and Dallas, a sprawling, paved expanse of soul-crushing anti-matter, and I’m not sure of what can possibly exist in that void.

Eating Tucson: The 4th Avenue Street Fair

Biannually, the Southern Arizona city of Tucson hosts a street fair along 4th Avenue, just north of the the 4th Avenue Underpass that leads into the downtown city core.

The street fair occurs in December and March, a time when the weather in Arizona is quite lovely. The event features your usual panoply of street fair “circuit” artisans, hippies, and countercultural hoi polloi peddling trinkets, assorted wares, and a provincial sense of whimsy (“Aunt Esther, we went to the homeless district and bought a bedazzled tarot card case sold by somebody from Taos!”).

There’s lots of beer tents serving watery domestic swill, and quite an interesting food scene as well. The following photos give you a taste of what rolls into Tucson twice a year, for only 4 days at a time, only to break down as fast they set up, leaving in their wake a bunch of sunburned rubes and a mountain of discarded paper and plastic detritus.

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Eating Los Angeles: Animal

I was in Los Angeles late last year, and had the pleasure to spend a night on the town with the lovely and the talented LA food blogging couple extraordinaire, Jeni of Oishii Eats and her husband Dylan of Eat Drink & Be Merry. They took me to the aptly named “Animal” on Fairfax Avenue, a restaurant with an indie cred (worn proudly on sleeve) that trades in the same lo-fi execution/hi-fi ingredient approach that many Portlanders would find quite familiar.

I’ve thought about this meal on occasion since then, but it wasn’t until I ran across a few photos Dylan shared with me that I truly remembered how delicious this meal was.


Fluke with grape and yuzu granita, mint, serrano chilies, and pea shoots.


Pork belly with kimchi, with a chili-infused soy, garnished with peanuts. The kimchi reminded more of the pickles you’d get with a banh mi sandwich, and this gave the dish more of a Vietnamese feel than Korean.


Fried pig’s tail, with mustard and zucchini pickles.


Fried sweetbreads and hen of the woods mushrooms on top of creamed spinach, garnished with capers and grapefruit. This dish really sang to me; earthy, savory, and tart.


Oxtail poutine. This was the star of the night, and I’m not normally a huge poutine fan. The fries were perfectly crisp and delicious, and the oxtail was melting, and the gravy rich with oxtail beefiness. Just the right amount of fine white cheddar.


435 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-9225

Oyster shooters at Anderson’s General Store on Guemes Island

I visited the San Juan Islands in northern Washington State this last summer. We stayed at Guemes Island.


Oyster shooters from Guemes Island Store.

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The views from the balcony of our rental home validated my decision to be a human who is alive.


We got some good kayaking in.


And my daughter made some great friends. And tipped her hand at photography.

San Juan Islands

Guemes Island Resort
Enjoy the Anacortes Islands with the updated charm of an traditional fishing camp.

Restaurant Uruapan

ExtraMSG over at a while ago gave a firm shoutout to Canby’s Taqueria Uruapan. Considering I work in “SoPo” (or as the locals call it, “Wilsonville”) during the daylight hours I figured I’d drag a couple co-workers down to the see what was cooking in Portland’s southern hinterlands.


If you’ve never travelled into Canby proper before, it’s easy to miss as Uruapan is a bit adrift amongst the folksy anachronism that is rustic, downtown Canby. The taqueria nestles adjacent to a Burgerville, which is itself just beyond a Safeway strip mall (fronted by Quizno’s and Panda Express), and if you spot the Taco Bell you’ve driven too far.


Uruapan is pretty awesome inside. Allow me explain.



First, they got a menu picture board, which is the first thing you need to do in order to be awesome. Then there’s a Neo Geo arcade console to the left of the ordering counter. Personally, if I wanted to take a confident, second step towards being awesome, this would be a capital purchase I would strongly consider.


Next up is a jukebox stocked with the latest Sinaloan narco-ballads. Also a television is constantly tuned to Spanish telenovas. And there are babies just chilling out in their rocking chairs, or the employee/owner’s kids feeding quarters into the Neo Geo or just whimsically hanging out, all the time. All these things are awesome.


Then you see that there are two pool tables. They also serve beer. Not only has awesomeness been cemented, but we’ve entered a state of existence that cannot be pigeonholed with the rubrical inadequacy of merely awesome. Post-awesome.


Tacos are $1.25 here. Each includes two (2) tortillas, meaning each taco is double-wrapped. And they are great. And you get two. For each taco.


And when you order, each tortilla is handmade there on the spot, to order, one-by-one. Those ladies are hand making the tortillas and grilling up bits and pieces of flesh to crisp perfection as we speak. Well, not as we speak, as in this moment, but on that day, back then, when I had my iPhone and was hungry.

And oh what crispy nuggets of delicious taco joy these are. Some of the best asada I’ve had in my time in Oregon. The “pastor” analog here is actually adobada, which are grilled meaty pork nibs bathed in a bright red, deliciously oily marinade.


The condiments are excellent, and as you can witness are presented as sauces three, with sauce the third being an incredible avocado verde salsa that just earns this place more awesome stripes and gold stars.

Here are pictures of tacos in a various states of being.


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Restaurant Uruapan

851 SW 1st Ave (Hwy 99E)
Canby, OR 97013

Eating Tucson: Lerua’s tamales

I recently ventured back to “The Old Pueblo”, aka Tucson, Arizona.


These tamales from Lerua’s were waiting for us thanks to the father-in and mother-in-law.


A fine specimen of a tamale, if a bit on the drier side. These were red chili beef tamales. The paler version (on the right) were green chili (no meat).

With an ample layer of house made salsa, these tamales became really excellent.

Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food

2005 East Broadway Boulevard
Tucson, AZ 85719-5937
(520) 624-0322

Road Trip: LA Ramen Edition…Daikokuya

Last fall I had the good fortune to attend a conference and spend some quality time in downtown Los Angeles. Even though I lived in Southern California for seven non-contiguous years of my life, I never really spent much time in the densest parts of LA, much less downtown (outside of the occasional drive-through).

As an aside, I was actually quite taken by downtown LA. I walked a lot, and the weather was beautiful. My hotel was just around the corner Seven Grand, a dark and first-rate whiskey bar that would be instantly be my favorite place to drink in Portland. Despite the axiomatic pre-conception of Los Angeles being a city where the automobile is king, I was quite surprised by the breadth and punctuality of the public transit (The Dart ran multiple routes that criss-crossed the downtown circumference, some every 5 minutes, with a fare of only twenty five cents(!), and the convention center was well served by commuter train).

As my hotel was just a mile away from Little Tokyo, I was excited to indulge in some ramen. Mr. Sauce Supreme (himself a Los Angeles expat and a soon-to-be repat) over drinks at Beaker and Flask (a few nights before my trip) recommended Daikokuya. My first night in LA I shared a wonderful meal with EatDrink&BeMerry and Oishii Eats, and they similarly gave Daikokuya high marks. EatDrink&BeMerry gave me a tip: a few self-serve dollops of the pureed fresh garlic condiment takes the bowl to a whole other level.


As I stood amongst the throngs at the Staples Center, eagerly awaiting admittance in order to be golden showered with marketing bunkum and subjected to hours of rote proselytism, my mind raced. Here I was, amongst scores of wannabe capitalistic schlemiels with no ambition other than swallowing corporate jizz, while all I could think about was drinking from the sweet fountain that is a porky, cloudy Tonkotsu stock. Who was the bigger slave to the master? These people had passion, drive, and ambition, with shared, multivariate, outside interests in the arts and academia. I exist largely in order to consume salt.


It was with this heavy heart that I trudged towards Little Tokyo after my first morning’s sessions had completed.



On my way I noticed the Kogi Korean taco truck has quickly spawned a boldly colored cottage industry.


Even the Japanese taco was being touted…


…at a place appropriately named “LA Chicken” that apparently serves chicken that tastes like a luxury Japanese sedan.


Daikokuya itself is a small storefront on a busy stretch of 1st Avenue, just north of an entertaining maze of hilariously disjointed Japanese businesses that align themselves loosely into a mall of sorts.












I could wander these avenues for hours in tacit wonderment.


After walking over an hour with the sun beating down upon my neck, the cold Tsukemen’s sale pitch appealed to me, but there was no question what I was here for.


It was the Daikoku Ramen.

This was high noon, and there was a line out the door.


However, since I was dining solo, my name was called just 10 minutes after putting it on the waiting list, and I was parked at end of the counter, which gave me a bird’s eye view of the cooks working their magic in the small kitchen.


The initial reaction after this huge bowl of soup is placed in front of your person is to the prevalence of green onion. Trust me, it works. The guy who was seated adjacent to me as I was mid-way through my bowl ordered his Daikoku Ramen without green onions. A part of me died, and I’ve since held white hipsters with chain wallets in generally low regard.

The soup also features a nice amount of mung bean sprouts, slivers of fibrous menma.


Togarashi is freely available. Daikokuya must read my mind; this is the first thing I ask for anytime I’m brought a bowl a ramen.


Pureed garlic and pickled ginger sits on the table (or counter), allowing you to tailor the soup to your tastes. I can’t emphasize how fucking awesome this is.


The garlic goodness.

So how to describe this soup? The intense, pork bone Tonkotsu-style, creamy broth? The marinated, soft-boiled egg? The incredible tender and deeply flavorful kurobuta pork belly?


The curly, toothsome, handmade fresh noodles?


I’ll let the copy speak for itself. I will, however, add an official “goddamned mutherfuckin’ amen”. Daikoku Ramen is a masterpiece, a fugue of deliciousness, an experience that begins innocently with the prosaic act of accessorizing of your soup, then plunges you into an atavistic ingurgitation, and culminates in a lack of self-awareness as you raise the immense bowl above your head to lustfully extract every last drop of golden nectar.

I needed a smoke after this soup. And a nap.

When I awoke the next morning, my mind was consumed with the thought of returning to Daikokuya for another bowl of manna.


I cross-referenced the hours from a photo on my iPhone and was a bit forlorn that I would have to wait until 11AM.


Of course I was there when it opened.


The amount of green onion from yesterday’s bowl was not a fluke. And EatDrink&BeMerry’s sage advice rang true—I went with even another dollop of fresh garlic on this morning.


That’s a hawt (and disturbing) egg moneyshot.


The pork belly. Oh the pork belly. “Fall apart tender” is tautological when speaking of the kurobuta pork belly at Daikokuya.


A souvenir of success.

Lameassphotobloggin: Ferry Building San Francisco

This market sold a variety of goods. I made note of the precisely hygienic quality that deeply imbued the soul of this well-coiffed, yet strangely alluring, seaside entrepôt.

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Ferry Building Marketplace

I would link to Google Maps, but as of this moment, Google is telling me it’s located in Hackettstown, NJ, which I’m sure is a lovely place, but it is clearly not in San Francisco.

Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion: Downtown LA

I was recently in Los Angeles for a conference. I decided a much needed respite from listening to a company lie about their software all day involved hitting happy hour at the Roy’s that was a few blocks from the convention center. Lucky for me they had food, drinks, AND a television that was broadcasting that evening’s National Football contest between the Packers of Green Bay (Wisconsin) and the Vikings of Minnesota.

Sliders. Officially “Teppanyaki Grilled Beef Sliders with Chipolte Aioli & Sweet Potato Chips”.

Poke. Officially “Yellow Fin Ahi ‘Poketini’ – Wasabi Aioli, Avocado and Tobiki Caviar”. This was great.

Drinks. Pomegranate Mojito and Hawaiian Martini. Officially very, very gay. But very refreshing nonetheless.

Luckily, I was able to salvage some vestige of my diminishing manhood by watching football while I peed.

I’m not sure why, but after I paid up and was about to leave (you can tell by the sun going down causing all the noise on my iPhone’s camera), some guy brought me this salmon tempura roll “on the house”. Maybe they felt sorry for me for sitting alone and ordering a white, frothy drink with a big ole’ pineapple jutting out from one side, and decided to show some compassion and give me an “amuse douche.” In any regard, it was a fairly nice gesture.

Roy’s mines that fusion territory that approaches gimmicky, but for my first visit I have to say they do it rather well.

Road trip spaghetti lunch: LA edition


Botegga Louie in downtown Los Angeles.


Gazpacho and tagliatelle bolognese.


Gazpacho “stock” being poured onto brunoise vegetables and extra virgin olive oil (the soup is presented deconstructed, and constructed upon serving).


Tagliatelle bolognese

Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market

700 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 802-1470

Road Trip: Sustainable, local, fast food-in-the-middle-of-BFE-California-edition


I’ve been a big fan of In-n-Out Burger for what seems like my entire life. Since the chain exists only in California (and more recently Nevada and Arizona) many people are surprised when they finally try In-n-Out for the first time and and don’t have a transcendental experience and spontaneously combust in rapturous orgasm, as this is the occurrence commonly related by thousands of over-ebullient keyboard jockeys on the Internet.

Truth is, In-n-Out is still fast food, but it’s damn good fast food, perfectly executed (in terms of fast food) each time. If In-n-Out were a relief pitcher, it would be Mariano Riviera.


Part of the In-n-Out’s charm has to do with the nostalgia factor and the KISS ethos, and the menu is emblematic of a bygone era when straightforward honesty and a nickel would buy you a cup of coffee. Whereas national chains get all gimmicky up in your grill with Angry Whoppers and flatbread melts, In-n-Out coasts along just nicely with its cutter and split-finger fastball in the low-to-mid-nineties.

Recently I found myself driving through central California, on my way to the Bay Area, when I realized that I had been in the Golden State for nearly a day and had not eaten at In-n-Out. It suddenly dawned on me that eating In-n-Out, in this part of the state, in America’s “salad bowl”, would essentially be a materialization of the entire “eat local” ethic. In-n-Out, after all, is regional to a fault—they choose not to expand mainly due to sourcing concerns. One could safely assume that a substantial portion of the chain’s beef and vegetables was raised on the vast acreage of farmland I was driving through at that very moment. Thus, it only made sense for me to take the next exit off of I-5 and take a 40+ mile detour to Fresno.


I was richly rewarded. For many, the Double-Double (with cheese) is what moves them, but for me two plain old Hamburgers (Animal Style, mustard-ketchup-instead) is standard issue.


At under three-and-a-half bucks, it was perfectly assembled, and the results tasted delicious like every other burger I’ve had at In-n-Out in my lifetime. Not orgasmic—just straightforward, honest, and affordable.

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but notice all the other people who decided they wanted fast food burgers for lunch but did not opt for the In-n-Out that was located in the same strip mall.



All these people are complete idiots.


While driving many miles out of the way to eat “local” might seem a bit misguided from a layman’s perspective, I did purchase some figurative carbon offsets by taking a picture of this wind farm as I drove into Oakland. So there.

Road Trip: Southland Fried Chicken Edition

Los Angeles has it share of problems. And for that, LA likewise amasses its share of detractors who decry the smog, earthquakes, and transparently farcical celebrity sex tapes.


If you’ve read the news lately, you’re aware the state of California is on also the brink of insolvency. As I exited LA one early weekday recent morning, I drove past a local high school. I was greeted by quite a sight: school faculty and students alike in active protest against impending, draconian budget cuts that threaten to turn the LA Unified School District into an instrument more suited to serve a third-world banana republic rather than future adults living in America’s second most populous conurbation. By the time this blog post is published, the radical mouth-breathers holding California’s state legislature hostage may have already decreed that public education (as well as life-sustaining services for the sick and elderly) is just another Socialist folly dispensed from a pile of filthy lucre, one that deliberately engenders class warfare. If what I heard on AM talk radio as I drove north between Bakersfield and Fresno is any indication, there are many fatalists looking forward to their state’s impending implosion.

But I digress, as—despite all these problems—Los Angeles has excellent fried chicken.


Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan chain that has made recent in-roads into America (including a few Wal-marts). The Los Angeles area boasts numerous locations. This is fast-food, and the combos here–in lieu of mashed potatoes, corn, and a biscuit and honey—feature rice, beans and steamed white corn tortillas.



I’m unsure of the exact provenance of the marinade which gives the pollo frito at Campero a reddish hue. I assume it’s spiked with plenty of red chilies—but the chicken is neither spicy nor aggressively seasoned. Finger-torn strips of meat, wrapped in tortillas and topped with garnishes from the self-serve salsa bar (chopped onions, a sub-par salsa fresca, and serviceable verde and red sauces) make serviceable, impromptu fried chicken tacos. Chicken itself off the bone was fantastic, with savory crispness that had me seeking bits of battered goodness hiding in the crevices of a breast rib.


The sides at Pollo Campero were a pleasant surprise. A mild rice–studded with peas stood up relatively well, nothing special.


But the beans—pintos imbued with porky goodness from the bacon and sausage they were simmered with—were very good. Pollo Campero is the type of “boutique” fast food I could live with.


On another end of the fried chicken spectrum, by way of Korea, is Kyochon, an eatery in Koreatown whose culinary reputation has reached near-mythic proportions. Reading Jonathon Gold’s effusive praise in the LA Weekly cemented my desire to see for myself if the fried chicken was worth the price (which starts at $4.99 for 4 wings or 2 drumsticks).

Kyochon features two flavors, a garlic soy or the spicy “original”. I picked up a four pack of spicy wings, and a 2-piece portion of the garlic soy drumsticks.


The chicken pieces they had on hand must have been deemed on the smaller side, as we were actually given three very flavorul and crispy drumsticks…


…and five amazing chicken wings. The smell of these heavenly morsels quickly dominated during the car ride home, and resisting the urge to snack on a wing as I hurtled down Pico Blvd was torturous. I will say these fiery, sticky and sweet wings were some of the best I’ve had. Fuck the celery and blue cheese—give me a bucket of these and crisp pint of lager come football season.




Road Trip: Umami Burger

I was in Los Angeles recently, and entirely upon Oishii Eats’ heads up I decided to hit Umami Burger.

I already had my mind set on the namesake burger. Here’s the rest of the menu:

The Umami Burger interior itself presents a stylish, yet comforting, modernity.

The raison d’etre.

Triple pork burger with fries and “umami” ketchup.

Triple pork burger.

Umami burger.

Roasted tomato, umami ketchup, shitake mushroom, parmesan crispellete. Amazing. The composition of the burger really spoke to my worldview. Easily one of the top 5 burgers of my recent life.


Malt Liquor Tempura onion rings.

Triple Pork Burger money shot. Ground pork seasoned with chorizo and “cob-smoked” bacon, manchego, and pimenton aioli. Wonderfully spiced. The roasted tomato slice served as a beautiful foil for the rest of the sandwich.

Eating Manzanita: Hot dogs, sandwiches, and baked bread-like items

When I first visited little Manzanita, on the Oregon coast, some six years ago it was pretty no-frills. It seemed like the only place to get something to eat was at the Sand Dune Pub or a small bistro that is now defunct. Nowadays there’s much more options – two pizza places (one, Marzanos, has a nice hot oven and churns out a suprisingly good—albeit pricey—pie), a Mexican restaurant, 3 markets (including a natural foods/homeopathy type store), a seafood restaurant, donut shop, a bakery/deli, and a coffeehouse, in addition to the aforementioned Sand Dune Pub (which makes a decent burger using Montana country beef…and has tater tots) and an upscale (for beach standards) restaurant just off the 101.

We had a house just steps from the beach, but more importantly, steps from this Chicago hot dog stand.

The gentleman and his lovely wife owned the house behind where he sets up shop for an 11:30 am opening each day.

He uses Vienna Beef, so it’s the genuine article.

With all the fixings to “drag your dog through the garden”, including tomatoes, the toxic-green relish, sport peppers, celery salt, etc.

He even obliged my request for extra sport peppers. God I love those things. Great dogs, I ate here three consecutive mornings.

Just up the main drag of Laneda is the Bread and Ocean, a wonderfully charming little bakery and deli.

Bread and Ocean is staffed with young whippersnappers during the summer, who crank The Strokes in the kitchen and on sunny days seem always itching to split shift and catch some rays in the sand.

In addition to a small handful of indoor tables, they have a small patio off to the side.

The menu board.

The pressed, toasted panini featured creamy brie, roasted onions, arugula, and a wonderful serrano ham — nice touches for beach food.

They do a good job with baked goods here, as I thoroughly enjoyed this orange & almond poppyseed roll. They feature daily specials, including — on Fridays — their refined sugar-free, whole wheat cinnamon rolls (suprisingly good) and a pain au chocalate with dried cherries that we brought back with us to Portland.

Manzanita, Oregon


Eating San Jose: Ramen Halu

I was in the Bay Area recently, and hit Ramen Halu.

Before leaving North Beach that morning, I did a search for the best ramen in South Bay. Your usual suspects came up, mostly in San Jose and San Mateo, with a couple in Mountain View. However, one blogger whose name I don’t remember and whose blog address I forget said Hula in San Jose was the best, and that was good enough for me. Later when we were at the establishment, a framed article by Melanie Wong in the San Jose Mercury proclaimed Halu #1 in the in the Top 10 ramen restaurants in the South Bay Area, so my instincts in this instance proved correct.


An hour and a few failed opportunities for carbon offsets later, we were in San Jose, right off the I-280 freeway.


Across the street was a fitting visage for our times.

Halu opens for lunch at 11:30 AM sharp. At 11:15, there was already a line.


The Indian market next door advertised what appeared to be the Bollywood version of One Crazy Summer.





The menu features pre-configured specialties.



And also an a la carte itemization for a pimp-it-yourself ramen experience and a most excellent drink menu.


We started with this delightful okara salad. The texture was like a thick farmer’s cheese. Very refreshing.


Shio ramen. A light broth, thin noodles. Pretty straightforward, but decent (if a bit perfunctory).


The special house Ramen Halu. Thick noodles, bold, strong, assertive broth that was a veritable salt bomb. The pork was meaty, yet tender.


The broth literally had chunks of pork fat floating in it. So unctuous.


The noodles were thicker than most ramen I’ve had, and I loved them. This was a good damn bowl of soup.

In the back of the house, I saw them breaking out the crack torch for each bowl of HALU ramen that left the kitchen. My theory is that they put chunks of pork fat on top of freshly ladled bowls of ramen and melted the fat into the soup.


After I snapped the photo, this proprietoress gave me a slightly askew look. At the time I wondered perhaps she thought I was stealing trade secrets, but she probably was thinking I was a pervert for scoping her rack.

If you’re in San Jose by a freeway, I suggest you get some ramen.

Ramen Halu

375 South Saratoga Ave
San Jose, 95129

Eating San Francisco: Breakfast at Ton Kiang


Dispatches from San Francisco: dim sum at Ton Kiang ($78, without tax, including soft drinks and tea).


We were barely seated before string beans, cabbage, and a first wave of dumplings were delivered.


Shrimp and snow pea dumpling.


Shrimp and scallop dumplings.


Shrimp and chive dumplings.


Sauteed string beans with shitake mushrooms.


Steamed choy.


Shrimp har gow.


We asked for hot sauce, this green sauce was delivered with a red chili garlic sauce.




Turnip cake.


“Siu Lung bao”, Shanghai dumplings.


Served with vinegar.


Sauteed spinach with fried/braised garlic.


BBQ pork buns.


BBQ pork bun, split.


Fried sesame balls.


Fried squid.


Roast duck.


Tofu skin roll.


Pork shu mai.


Rice porridge cart.


Rice porridge.

Ton Kiang

5821 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA

Eating Tucson: Taqueria Pico
de Gallo


Taqueria Pico de Gallo sits squarely in the epicenter of South Tucson, on South 6th Avenue, a mile south of 22nd Avenue. South Tucson is an anomoly; it’s an enclave that covers roughly a square mile, and it’s surrounded entirely by the city of Tucson proper. South Tucson has its own municipal services and zoning regulations, and its own mayor and city council. Why they would want to do this is anybody’s guess. All I can say is that — despite having a crime rate higher than Camden, New Jersey (aka America’s most dangerous city and all-around fun zone) — the citizens of South Tucson obviously choose to live here because of the proximity to some good-ass tacos1.


Contrary to what some normally consider to be “pico de gallo”, namely, a salsa fresca made with chopped fresh tomatoes, the namesake in this instance refers to the deliciously fresh fruit cups served up by the taqueria (and sprinkled with chili salt).


They also serve these fruity, frozen raspados, which are coincidentally crafted…


…right next door.

Enough with food that is not tacos.

The breakfast menu.


The menu board.

The full menu luckily is available in the early AM (and from which I order breakfast when I’m in town).


This is the only table sauce they have on hand, a thick, incendiary concoction made from chile de arbol.


The taco plates are garnished with excellent pickled onions. The tortillas at Pico De Gallo are wonderful, thick, substantial discs of stoney masa goodness, freshly prepared on the premises. They are unlike any other Mexican restaurant in the Tucson area (which for the most part tilts towards flour as does Sonoran cuisine).


The tortillas here work together with a crispy, fried pillows of mild flesh to form one of the best fish tacos I’ve had, especially considering the nearest port is Puerto Penasco some 4 hours away in Mexico. The white sauce — normally a conceit I’ll even leave off my fish taco — here is a perfect foil for the fiery table salsa.


A decent asada.




Barbacoa. These shredded meat tacos are a bit juicy/saucy, and tend to saturate the tortillas to the point where they have difficulty standing up. (This does not apply to the cabeza, which is shredded beef cheek and holds up well). However, the shredded meats are well prepared and are worth ordering — I would perhaps eat these first.


Here’s the proof that I paid for my meal.

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

2618 South 6th Avenue (Google Map)
85713 (



1 I lived just a mile-and-a-half north of South Tucson for a few years. I walked and biked all over the place, even late at night. It’s not that bad. I did get three bikes stolen.

In fact, I stayed just over a mile north of this place during my time in Tucson, at my wife’s godmother’s guest house.


The most dangerous thing I encountered was this cactus. This fucking evil plant ruined many an afternoon growing up, as while trying to catch an errant outlet pass you might end up in a patch, and hundreds of these miniscule, orange hair-like spines would attach to your lower calf with ferocity. Only a long soak in an oatmeal bath would temper the pain and suffering.

Eating Tucson: Little Cafe
Poca Cosa

I went to high school and college in Tucson, Arizona, and my mom and my wife’s parents still reside in the desert, so I make it back often.

When I had an office on Congress street in the early aughts, we were a very short walk from Little Cafe Poca Cosa, and thus spent many a morning there eating my favorite dish, pork chile colorado. It was a great desayuno. And sometimes lunch too.

Little Cafe Poca Cosa is not to be confused with Cafe Poca Cosa the elder, which is a decidely much more upscale affair at a different downtown location.


Some real estate snafu has forced the little cafe to move from its former hole-in-the-wall locale to this spot on Stone Avenue adjacent to the Tucson public library.


Speaking of the Tucson public library…what the hell is this?


The interior is a bit sparse, but larger (by a factor of two) than the previous place.


The folks at Little Poca Cosa (it is owned and operated by a family with deep roots in Southern Arizona) are very socially conscious. They continually raise money for good causes, and invite their guests to help out. Dropping a buck after a meal into the till really does help you karmically correct yourself before you wreck yourself.


The breakfast menu.


The lunch menu.


As soon as you’re seated, you’re greeted by chips and salsa.


My old mainstay, the pork chili colorado. Like visiting with an old girlfriend, only without the restraining orders.

All lunch plates are served with a simple but satisfying rice, and a colorful salad.


The dressing for the salad — a nice, herby vinagrette — sits on the table, allowing you to douse to your heart’s content.


Plates are served with your own personal tortilla warmer…


…with your own personal stash of tortillas and…


…these wonderfully cooked pinto beans on the side.

So how was it? Good, just as I remember, though a bit more mild than I recall. My M.O. is to douse and eat the salad, then drop a few pieces of pork into the tortillas and garnish with salsa and eat those as impromptu tacos.


Finally, the last step is to eat the rice, which — when combined with the leftover salad dressing mixed with red chili sauce — becomes sublime.


Just outside the door you’ll find this steampunk public art installation. I like touching it.

Roadtrip: Pacific Seafood – Bay City, OR


A 45-minute drive from Cannon Beach, in Bay City, Oregon, is a place called Pacific Seafood that processes oysters from the sea.


Bay City is on a bay. Here’s the proof. That’s the bay. Presumably, that’s the source for the oysters themselves. The sea provides us humans with a delicious bounty.

Pacific Oyster itself is located at “150 Oyster Drive” in Bay City, which to me seems a bit over the top, as the “drive” in this case is a parking lot/pier. And the “150” makes no sense at all, because it’s the only building on Oyster Drive. This made me mad for a short time.


This is where all the oyster processing happens. In the processing plant.


Oyster products, packaged and branded (those are smoked oysters up top). You can buy these products here, at the plant, and you’ll also find them at area grocery stores and purveyors of fine foodstuffs.


Spent oyster shells being shot into a collection bin. That’s one huge pile of oysters.


The shells are collected in bags and stacked at the far end of the pier. I’m not sure what is done with the shells at this point. Presumably a freighter comes along and picks up the load and carts it off to a faraway land where oyster shells are prized and used as currency. Some place like The Phillipines or Hawaii.

I know what you’re saying. So what? Why are you taking us to a sea snot factory? What next, the inside of a fucking dairy? Well, consider yourself lucky that you’ve read this far, because…


Pacific Seafood sells oysters to eat on the premises! Its actually a restaurant, that, in addition to the raw oysters you see above, serves sandwiches and other fare. But this is an oyster post, so on to the oysters. They were out of kumamotos, which pissed me off goddamnit, because that’s why I basically drove 45 minutes to Bay City, OR, braving Highway 101…



…to endure crappy scenery like this. The Oregon coast really is a shithole. Nature’s taint.

So after cursing my bad luck, I composed myself and ordered a dozen Pacific Oysters — a half dozen xtra-smalls and another half dozen smalls.


The xtra-smalls. I love how they give you plenty of lemons. I hate when you order a dozen oysters and you get only one wedge. Life is too short to deprive yourself of citrus (and the specter of scurvy always lurks).


The “smalls”. Jesus, these were big. As a point of reference, that’s a normal-sized lemon wedge.

I had a hard time choking these down. The first 6 xtra-smalls slid down no problem, but by the third “small” I was starting to fatigue. I had to leave the last oyster on the ice. If, like me, you have a hard time choking down large raw oysters, I would stick to the xtra-smalls (or the kumamotos of course). The “small” would make a good frying or grilling oyster, though. I can only wonder what the mediums are like. Probably similar in size to a pork chop or a chihuahua.

Pacific Seafood

150 Oyster Dr.
Bay City, OR 97053

Further Reading

Pacific Oyster

“Pacific Seafood – Bay City, Lunch on the Coast” (thread

San Francisco considers free rides

Mayor tells Muni to investigate eliminating fares.

Margaret Cliver, a 50-year-old Mission District resident who commutes by bus, fears the same problems on Muni.

“Gavin Newsom must have taken a leave of his senses to even consider this. Muni is already overloaded with stinky crazies, loud-mouth-behaved louts and other zoological forms of low life. The day it becomes entirely free, it will become a dumpster on wheels, and I, along with the rest of those who currently attempt to use the system, will give up on it entirely,” Cliver said.

“Other zoological forms of low life” = instant classic. Gives this lady a blog.

Philly in the hizilly

Philadelphia’s BYO Revolution. “How Budget-Minded Brown-Baggers Have Energized A City’s Dining Scene”.

We were at Pumpkin, a 28-seat restaurant owned by a young couple in a neighborhood that, depending on your outlook, could be called emerging, marginal or flat-out dicey. The candlelit former deli has a single storefront window and an open kitchen. Gauzy orange curtains hang from exposed fixtures, and the secondhand tables, pushed tight together, are covered in butcher paper. The short, frequently changing menu is printed on a single sheet of paper. The food, such as braised veal cheeks, pan-seared sea scallops or a pork chop served over spaetzle, is admirable and at times approaches outstanding.

In other words, Pumpkin follows the pattern of cool BYOBs all over Philadelphia, where crowds of people with brown paper bags of wine and beer in tow wait patiently for tables.

Over the past decade, Philadelphia has experienced an astounding boom in BYOB dining. When Audrey Claire opened in 1996, it was one of only two fine-dining BYOBs in the city, along with longtime favorite Dmitri’s. Now, in the metropolitan region, there are more than 240.

Beats standing in a cheesesteak line for hours at Geno’s and having your genitals scalded with a ladle of hot industrial whiz because you speak French or something.

Norfolk & Western know their shit

Local Portland troubadours Norfolk & Western recently stopped by my old stomping grounds of Tucson and give a shout out to Pico de Gallo and Cafe Poca Cosa.

Pico de Gallo’s tacos do rule the roost (the thick, house made corn tortillas are ethereal) and last time I was in Tucson I ate three consecutive, 9am taco breakfasts there — barbacoa, asada, and some of the best fish tacos available outside of Ensenada. The table sauces are incendiary and amazing.

I’m not sure if they hit the little Poca Cosa (breakfast/lunch only, by the library) — whose pork chile colorado I miss dearly and ate every week when my office was across the street from their old location on Congress — or the big sister, which is more frou frou and features the best mole in Tucson.

Good job, Norfolk & Western, and see you guys back in Portland at Doug Fir on Dec. 8. Buy their album at or at Hush Records’ holiday sale for only 9 bucks!

That’s what a hamburger’s all about

jonahshpdx is probably being a bit delusional, but I can’t blame him for his optimism and wishful thinking.

This summer I spent some time in San Diego for a wedding. Two months prior, I was in Las Vegas for the bachelor party, and both times I made sure to hit In-N-Out Burger.

In-N-Out has been around forever, but only exists in a few locales outside of Southern California. They are privately owned and don’t want expansion for the sake of growth – they prefer to have a firm grasp on quality control. As jonahshpdx mentions in his post, this may be changing some time in the future.

A source close to the situation, who requested anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement, told The Daily that the burger chain is besieged daily by investors interested in buying the privately-held company. But a sale, the source said, is unlikely to happen anytime soon…

…But even if In-N-Out remains in the family, the company could decide to move beyond California, Nevada and Arizona, where its 202 restaurants are now concentrated. The chain could also opt to expand faster, as Boyd’s lawsuit alleges Taylor and Martinez secretly plan. In an effort to head off these grumblings, the company released a statement after Snyder’s death pledging to continue to grow at “a moderate and deliberate pace.” The company currently opens 10 to 12 new restaurants every year. But the company, known for its secrecy, has said little else, inevitably leading to speculation from industry observers.

As much as I’d enjoy an In-N-Out here in Portland, I’d prefer it to be on their own terms in order to keep a firm grasp on quality control. Every time I go to In-N-Out and order a Double Double-Animal Style-Mustard/Ketchup Instead, it’s produced perfectly as I imagined. Every time.

The buns come out perfectly toasted each and every time. The menu itself is a lesson in simplicity, efficiency and usability. The secret menu is not just a gimmick, but a ingenius way pimp your burger.

Did you know the employees, with their cute and clever throwback uniforms, are paid $3-XX/hour higher than most other burger joints? When I was in San Diego in the mid-to-late nineties, they would start their employees off at $9/hr, which at the time was almost $4 over minimum wage. That was probably why everyone working there seemed so jovial and easygoing, and took pride in their job. I would sit back after my order and admire them working – I know, it’s kinda creepy, but for me it’s hard to not fetishize about efficiency (which is why I love Ikea).

There would be one guy whose sole purpose was to hand load potatoes – one by one – in a slicer, and yank the lever to force them through the expeller (fresh cut fries – yum). And another guy would empty out the fries into a huge white cotton towel (to soak up the grease), salt, and then toss the fries by holding each end of the towel and shaking. That was his sole responsibility.

Also, what other fast food joint has been immortalized in a Coen brother’s movie?

Library - 2181.jpg

The old skool marquee. Makes you feel all tingly.

Library - 2183.jpg

A Double-Double and a single Cheeseburger, both Animal Style-Mustard/Ketchup Instead. With grilled onions, that are nicely browned and carmelized.

Library - 2185.jpg

Another shot, so you can see the packaging and the fresh cut fries.