There are things that matter to you, and things that matter to the people you love. It's not that there are things that don't matter, it's that you don't love enough.
The great cheesesteak quest lasted about two and a half years. Out of those adventures, we came away with three cheesesteaks that we could all stand behind, but still argue their comparable merits vehemently. 4.0 was one of the last places discovered, being that it is also the furthest. That probably kept our visits from being more regular.
Behind the solid cheesesteak is a pretty strong stable of alternatives. The melty pastrami and the roast beef are my favorite backups(read:seconds). Portions are generous, though I'm a bit down on the fact that chips don't come with the sandwich. I guess times are tough.
I will not lie. The steady stream of nubile SDSU coeds doesn't hurt either. Though, you can only take so much conversation about how drunk we were last night, who was a bigger slut, and why next time we're going to stick together. Actually that's a lie, too. It's great entertainment and if you don't stop by 4.0 you're really missing out on a good sandwich and a snapshot of San Diego culture.
This final trip, we got a cheesesteak, of course, and a roast beef sandwich. Slim and I went half and half. Yeah yeah, I brought her. And of course, the state chicks were present in abnormal numbers. Still it was worth it because Slim declared that it was her favorite SD cheesesteak. Of course, the guys took exception and brought up their favorites, their eyes wandering from dolly to dolly all the while.
One summer, we discovered that 4.0 was closed for the season. Since we couldn't have them, we of course craved them obsessively and began to track their academic calendar hoping it would correlate to their return. When they did reopen, I went like three times in a week. It was great.
The Cottage isn't really a place that I would have thought to ever go to. It's a place that I never would have thought that I'd like. It belongs to that family of breakfast joint that appears down-home, appears approachable, appears health conscious, but is not any one of those things.
The first time I went to the Cottage I was way too tired to notice. Thank goodness.
After a particularly turbulent poker bender, BH and I found ourselves exhausted, yet still restless, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4:30AM. I had to hang on tight to my consciousness to get all the way to their opening door. I almost didn't. I almost called it a day content and eager to just lay up into my bed. But I hung on.
In my dubiously reasonable state, I ordered waffles. I never order waffles. In the cosmic battle of waffles versus pancakes, I side with the pancake stack. Have you ever heard of a stack of waffles? No. If you order two waffles you get two waffles on two plates. That is stupid. And I don't typically take the side of something that I think is stupid.
Still, I ordered waffles. With fruit. With whipped cream. That is so unlike anything I would order that I can only conclude that it was under advisement from BH, but you'd have to ask him since I have no recollection of that morning besides how damnably good
those waffles werethat waffle was.
So I usually order waffles when I go there. I think I ordered an omelet once. It was good. The caveat being that I really can't bring myself to order waffles from anywhere else. I've been disappointed with just about every other waffle I've ever ordered. Somehow, the waffles served at the complementary continental breakfast at the Flagstaff, Arizona Residence Inn are a respectable second.
So there you have it. The Cottage. The Waffles.
Come to think of it, I haven't really gotten pancakes for breakfast in a while...
One time, I ordered two waffles because I was really hungry. They fuckin came on two plates.
Nestled in the heart of Convoy is a happy little Japanese noodle shop. This place is a lunch staple for the work gang. If you're hungry, the lunch specials are affordable and plentiful. You can start with a 6 dollar bowl of ramen and from there add in mabo tofu, stewed pork, or just extra meat for a few bucks. You can also add a bowl of rice with a helping of chopped pork. Or you can add Onigiri rice triangles, my personal favorite. They also have decent rice bowls and combo plates. The katsu is pretty good. So is the mackerel. Basically, you can destroy your appetite for about $10. And if you don't, you can still get away sizably satisfied for $6.
Now, what really makes this joint is that it is open to 3AM on weekends. Primarily servicing the post-karaoke armies it is a great place to grub after last call. With its liveliness and open and friendly clientele, it beats the crap out of any Mexican joint. If you're in the mood to try something new in your late night routine, give it a shot.
The first time I went to Tajima, it was with Sarah wide-eyes at the earlier stage of our history. It stands out in my mind because at the time I was Atkins and I pretty much hated eating there. Barred from carbs, I got some sort of hamburger dish that was okay, but just unsatisfying. I had a hard time ever going back. But! It came recommended by someone whose taste in food I imminently trust, so I went back and left grateful.
In my mind, my own personal history in San Diego, Tajima took the place of another noodle spot simply called Noodle House. They had a basic ramen that was just so rich and great. I never really forgave San Diego for letting that place close, but rediscovering Tajima nursed the wound.
We goto Taj whenever we don't know where else to go. It's a place that everyone likes and everyone can get something they want, especially if you want to eat happiness.
Celadon resides on 5th Avenue, next to the Tractor Room, up the street from Hash House. This is where Slim and I went on one of our first dates. I love the black and white decor, and the music usually isn't half bad. I think there's a piano in the front lounge, but I've never seen heads or tails of a pianist.
The menu is sizable with a really broad selection of authentic(I guess?) and cookie-cutter Thai dishes. OK, maybe I have no idea what authentic Thai dishes are, but there's stuff on there I've never seen anywhere else. I can only suppose they're out to suit the taste of John Q. Passerby. Today, we go with a pretty basic setup, Pineapple Fried Rice and Steamed Fish. These are favorites for us so we saw fit to use them as punctuation for our final visit. I am not a gigantic fan of fried rice, but as it goes, I really do enjoy this dish. There is a lot of shape and texture to it that doesn't bore me the way a typical fried rice would. The fish was tender and flavorful as ever, and it's nice to be able to depend on the consistency of it.
Celadon has a funny little place in my stable of favorites. As much as I like to go here, I don't go here that often. I mean, I don't think I've been here more than 5 times, but I've enjoyed it every single time. Part of it is just the venture into Hillcrest with its crappy parking and overwrought reputation. Maybe its because I always feel underdressed, but never feel up for dressing up to the decor. I don't really like going to Hillcrest simply because too many people go there, but I like going to Celadon because no one else goes there. The fact that it is, all things considered, reasonably priced doesn't hurt either.
Hidden in the new polish of Little Italy is a hole in the wall with the tastiest italian sausage sanwiches in San Diego. Most likely, Pete himself will greet you upon entry, with a handshake if you're regular.
Their menu is a simple list of Sausage, Steak, Chicken, and Eggplant sandwiches. Within our retinue, it has been a sort of curse to order the Eggplant sandwich, as the only person to do so has been unable to live it down in the six some years after he ordered it. The sausage sandwich comes in spicy and mild varieties. Both are good. You can also order a combination steak and sausage sandwich if you're looking to go overboard. Those looking to go over-overboard have been known to order two sandwiches.
Today, we went pretty basic. Orders go directly to the grill man. One steak and one mild sausage. The both sandwiches with everything come with grilled onions and peppers, the steak with melted cheese. You can add salt, pepper, mustard, and hot sauce to taste. The sausage is hand made, daily from what I understand. Sweet and rich, without being over herby, it is unlike any store bought brat. The bread is crusty on the outside, tender and sweet on the inside, and caked with sesame seeds. Going by the honor system, you pay on the way out, the grill man as your cashier. You tell him what your order was and how many drinks you had and he'll ring you up. I've never tried to pull a fast one, not wanting to tempt Pete's wrath in the heart of his own territory. I mean, there's a dirt lot out back...
Little Italy is a place in between, on the way, and next to alot of things and as such, a good amount of time goes into the place. It's hard to say that I've actually done any duty as a regular there though. Still, it is a neighborhood rich with memories though. Sarah brighteyes used to live there. My strange adventure into the world of semi-underground night club propriety took a really strange turn there. For me, it all started with Pete's.
I'm feeling kind of down tonight. Came out of Harry Potter a little disaffected. We left the 12, Slim and I, and cruised down Nobel, headed to Convoy by way of the 805. This is an old route for me from numerous bygone eras. Alot of memories came out and snapped into place, with a majority of them leaving me thinking what might have been. And so I started to think about this strange sequence of events that led me to this juncture and I became sortof overwhelmed by this deep melancholy.
It was nice to focus on food for a while. We ate at this Japanese place that plays decent jazz and has good service and food. I don't know the name of the place. We call it "That place that used to be K1 Yakitori". A little pricey, but the Scallop and Salmon ceviche was a treat for me. So I sat there, trying really hard not to think too hard about anything.
Ultimately I think it's just sinking in that I'll be leaving San Diego, and what might have been had we decided to stay. We picked up the keys to the apartment this past Saturday, and as we boarded the flight, I thought to myself, "This is what it feels like to leave paradise." Out of the ether, my imagination crafted a scaffolding for a story about these two separate lives, here and there. For a moment I felt a regret. But then I remembered how much time I feel I've wasted here, just to escape from... from what? I guess it's been the deserted paradise, unencumbered by much of any history, any of importance anyway. The most you can hope for out of such a paradise is loneliness. So I began to realize that my time here was finished. These lessons were completed.
I guess that's what has me so tied up, this feeling that I really didn't have much choice in the matter. Not the staying or going, but the endpoint. But endpoints are the kind of points where back is the only way to look. This endpoint is just really long, so I guess it was bound to get melancholy.
Only stands to get more so.
The classic trip: all the way down to Lemon Grove to a place that specializes in the fried pork delicacy, Carnitas. Typically an hour of driving for lunch requires some kind of occasion, but a visit to the king of pork is an occasion all its own. Buried off the path, past the off brand shopping, past the trophy store, it is easy to miss unless you know what to look for. A sign bearing a smiling pig, swollen with the apparent joy of being the object of consumption. Don't go Monday or Tuesday, because you will also see a closed sign. One time we made that mistake and had to make due with the nearby Carl's Jr. That was the very apex of a certain kind of disappointment. It was quite possibly then that a seething and festering hatred for fast food began to unfurl and strike out to lay claim upon my appetite.
Again, we are talking about a place with that good ol' quality. There is no pretense of fancy or shmancy here. Pigs line the walls, glass, stuffed, porcelain, and plastic. While a menu exists, ordering is a simple affair. Carnitas for 10. Though I'm told the barbacoa is also excellent, I'd never taken the chance to find out. And this being LCC, I never will. It certainly looks delicious, though.
Servings come out family style, portioned out in three piles along our table for 10 along with beans, guac, flour and corn tortillas with more on the way by simply catching the eye of the proprietor and pointing down at the warming canister. No extra charge. They are good people. They drop down pitchers of every drink at the table. If you smile, they will smile back. They're happy when you leave holding your belly because they know you will be back.
You fill your tortillas with meat, onions, cilantro, beans, guac, rice, salsa, mirth, laughter, tall tales, and camaraderie. Then you simply fill yourself up until you cannot breathe without pain. Then you eat another helping and play chicken with a hospital visit. I usually feel guilty because we always split the check even, but I know I've eaten far more than my share. I'm almost certain their servings are designed for local highschool football linemen.
No trip to Carnitas is complete without a trip to the local discount general store, GTM. I don't know what GTM stands for and I don't care. They take overflow and cosmetic damages from Costco, most notably, and sell at a deep discount. Furthermore, on fortunate occasions they will have an excellent coupon, something like 35% off any item in the store. This triple discounting always reminds me of the triple application of the 80/20 rule, where you get 80%*80%*80%=51.2% of the result for 20%+20%+20%=60% of the effort. As an engineer, I interpret this as "Applying the 80/20 rule to anything that has 3 or more degrees of complexity(read: worth doing, or beyond grade school) results in a loss." Only here, you're just driving 20+20+20 minutes(total, both ways, at least from my house) to get a 50% discount, so it's worth it if you can beat the gas prices.
Their stock of giant TVs, appliances, and furniture tend to disappear on those coupon weeks. I was happy to complete the excursion by actually buying something from GTM. It was only a piece of luggage, but it's retail progression started a month ago at $120, on sale at Sears for $89, discounted at BedBath for $50($40 with your weekly 20% coupon), and finally here at GTM for $30. It was practically kismet, but for one thing. I should have had a coupon with me, and for these occasions where you are not diligent, you can drive 2 blocks to the library and print one out. The librarian has the link bookmarked, I'm told. But GTM, today you can keep this 25% off any 2 items and I will think of it as $23 luggage with an $8 tip. Go buy some hooch on me.
There is little misty eyed nostalgia here. Nothing ever happened here that wasn't about confederated exuberance and it will ever be so.
Western Steak Burger is located in the bosom of University Heights and North Park. On University and Idaho, the place definitely has some of that good ol' quality to it. The fare is an amalgamation of burgers, greek, and east coastish. Their burgers are top notch, but that much is obvious since it merits mention. The real charm of the menu is that it is largely unfixed, and you may mix and match as you please without paying nickle and dime substitution fees. Their star is the Western Deluxe, a burger topped with greek gyro meat. The blue cheese burger also gets top marks. I typically order far off the menu. Some of my favorites are the fried shrimp and onion ring sandwich, the Western Deluxe philly style(add grilled onions pepper and mushrooms), and the choice of the day the pastrami philly. There's just something about the way they welcome the pastrami into the philly sandwich that I cannot get over. And it is substantial! For just over eight, I get more sandwich than I should eat in one sitting and fries. I was sorely tempted to try a new concoction, either a gyro philly or a pastrami bacon philly burger, but alas, I decided to keep it classic.
As is the case with most of my San Diego experience, food acts as a precursor to any given neighborhood. Just up the street are Cafe Luna and U31, which I only started frequenting in the past two years, probably 4 years after my introduction to the neighborhood by way of WSB. This trip started me thinking about how many people I've probably seen for the last time in this neighborhood. Add a dash of melancholy to this edition of Last Chance Chow.
Coming soon: Carnitas Urupan
The impetus to write these things are fleeting at best. Oh, the ideas I have! But rarely do they coalesce into anything substantial enough for catharsis. I write these things for me, but I like that you read them too.
Gone is the entry where I wrote about trains. How one transitions from train-stop, to train-go, to blistering speed, to here-we-are. Right now, we are in blistering speed and will be in that state for months. I was looking back aghast at how much I felt I had wasted during the train-go phase. But as it is, in the course of intense scrutiny of the past weeks, I changed my mind about it mid-paragraph and began to feel that it was both well spent and not quite substantive enough to ever be wasted, but for the cost of opportunity.
I even concocted a rich scenario in which you are entering Best Buy and are given a penny. You are quizzical until you find that everything in the store costs exactly one penny...and your pocket has been picked...and you cannot leave until you buy something. You could not ever really waste that penny, but you would be remiss to walk out with a Wire DVD box set instead of the most riche piece of consumer technology they had in the store left.
Anyway, things are crazy. Contingency planning has gotten so contorted and I'm tempted to just leave it all behind and just let things happen. Since most of the important decisions are mostly out of my hands, I find my self cyclically over and under compensating. It is with a near equal exertion that I attempt to seize control and subsequently ambivilize, leading to just general exhaustion.
So I'm trying to find the medium on which to balance.
Work is on the knots (read: pretty much tied up) so I'm just showing people how to do things now.
Next week I'm off to Taiwan for some somber business. After that is formal goodbyes at work. After that is starting the move. After that is SDCCand then DM. After that is finishing the move. And then it's getting settled in the city.
I mean do I really care how well things go off? Especially when in a few months I'll pretty much have transplanted my routine?
Of course I do.
But you know this