Chris Johansen paintings on the wall behind our table.
The last apartment I lived in in San Francisco was on Mission St. a little south of 30th. I lived there with Dave Peters and Ethan Fowler. We partied, mostly. Much to the chagrin of our crazy neighbor. In hindsight, he kind of reminds me of that guy in Office Space that cherished his red stapler. According to him, we made too much noise. I really don’t think Ethan played his drums that loud. I hardly ever played guitar, and when I did the volume on my amp was only on, like, eight. Nine, tops. He called the cops on us all the time. We got to know them very well. He would even call the cops when we weren’t home. I remember coming home one day and finding the cops knocking on our door. “We got a complaint for too much noise here.” “Really? Well as you can see, the occupants, us, aren’t home.”
It was kind of a shitty neighborhood. Dreary, sleepy, grey, perpetually hungover. There were a few dive bars that I hated, a couple burrito joints, a few Mexican dancehalls (which I could never summon the courage to enter), and Zante’s Indian Pizza. “We make three things at Zante’s,” we’d always say in a heavy Indian accent, “Peeza! Indian fud! And Indian peeza!” It was a weird place, yet charming. I remember Chris Pastras really liked it. And then down the street was the Palace Steak House. “Support your local steak house,” the sign out front still reads. When we could afford it, we did. It was kind of like a steak cafeteria. You’d get a tray, get in line, pick a steak and a side, they’d slap it on your plate, then you’d push your tray to the cashier, pay, then find a table to eat at. They had Jello in cups. I had some good times on Mission Street.
It turns out that our first stop on my birthday weekend was to be just a few hundred feet from our old apartment on Mission St. at a restaurant called Blue Plate http://www.blueplatesf.com/. The walk from the BART station to the restaurant was an interesting one. All the old shit was still there, Zante’s, the Mexican dance halls, and of course it was raining like it always seems to be in SF, but people were on the street, and the dive bars were filled with annoying young people dressed in stupid clothes, and there were new restaurants up and down both sides of the streets. The neighborhood had some life.
My Johansen, on my wall, behind my stereo.
Meeting us for dinner were our friends Dan and Danielle, and Kevin. Kevin loves Blue Plate, and for good reason. It’s a mellow little place, small and casual, and Kevin is a local and friendly with the staff. The walls are adorned with local artist’s work, most notably a few paintings by our old friend Chris Johansen. The chef, Cory Obenour, grew up, like me, skating in and around San Jose and is also friends with Chris. He looked familiar.
“Yeah, I think we used to play baseball against each other in high school?” he said when he came over to our table.
Baseball? It was true our respective high schools did indeed compete against each other in sports, but I never played baseball in high school. And while he admitted never having skated our ramp, Mush Ramp, we had skated the same spots and had surely crossed paths at some point.
“By the way,” he said, “I wanted to ask you, what’s the deal with your Whale Cock jacket? What is that?” My coat was hanging on a hook behind me. I told him about my fake—but kind of real—skateboard company, and he went on to explain that the words “whale cock” were scrawled on the back of a clipboard they’ve had since the restaurant’s inception in 1999. It’s a source of amusement to the staff because the hostess often forgets that it’s there and clutches the clipboard to her chest for all to read. “WHALE COCK.” Oops. No one knows where it came from. Since ‘99 was about the year Whale Cock was created, I can only assume a former employee from the time was a skater and read it in Big Brother? Because surely no one in history has ever put those two words next to each other before I did.
The one thing we really suck at is food photography. It's not so much the photography, as it is the food. It's never around. We always forget that you have to shoot the photo before you eat it. On the left, you got the remains of Danielle's squid. Behind that is what's left of a plate of chicken liver pate. Dan's plate is empty. In the bottom right is the end of my rib eye carcass. And there's no more wine, time to go.
The food at Blue Plate does not match the surroundings. It’s modern, high-end comfort food, but at a moderate price. The menu changes daily as they strive to use only the best, local, freshest ingredients. The emphasis is on quality, and it shows on the plates. My appetizer, for instance, was a smoked lamb sausage served with refried cranberry beans. Tania got her favorite beef carpaccio (really good) and Danielle ordered a really nice cauliflower soup. For the mains, I was very uninventive and ordered the rib eye—as did Kevin—which came with a twice-baked cheddar potato, which was kind of like a potato gratin. Tania went the little kid route and simply ordered the mac and cheese which was done just right. Dan ordered the coriander crusted lamb sirloin, but when the waitress put it down in front of him, it sounded like she said, “Here’s your pork and fish.” It did indeed look like a pork loin next to a Filet O’ Fish patty. The meat turned out to be lamb, but we couldn’t make out what the Filet O’ Fish was. Not fish. Vegetable? Someone said artichoke, and I went with that. Tania said something about falafels and it turns out she was the closest: it was chickpea mixture put together like a crab cake.
Overall it was a great dinner and a good time. It didn’t even need to be a great dinner because it was just a good night out, hanging with friends. But it was nice to spend it at a nice restaurant where you’re not distracted by crappy service or shitty food. The only thing distracting about our dinner was the silly bday gifts the Dans got me.
My birthday presents. Dang, how'd they know about my love of High School Musical and my crush on Troy? And there's nothing like a package of dangerously toxic "B'Loonies" for children. "Blue" has gotten me the most high so far.