Dumpling drifter



CHEAP EATS Me and Wayway went to the store and bought 67 chicken wings, a carton of buttermilk, and a big bottle of oil. Then we went out to eat. I had a show that night in the Sunset, at my new favorite bar, the Riptide, so the plan was to point ourselves in that direction and just roll.

The Riptide is on Taraval, way out there, almost all the way to the beach. But we barely got past 19th Avenue, of course, before we had to stop rolling and walk. What pulled us over was this new Hawaiian joint where JT's diner used to be. It looks pretty good. I looked in the window, and Wayway looked at the menu in the window.

"Eggs and rice," Wayway said. "Spam and eggs."

"Hay," I said. "Straw."

We meant all these things as compliments. You know, sometimes I wear Hawaiian shirts when I play the Ping-Pong, and sometimes I wear Western shirts. If I had been wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I might have had a new favorite Hawaiian restaurant to tell you about, but as fate would have it, I was wearing a Western shirt.

Which was just as well because I'd already eaten about five eggs that day anyway. We looked into a couple other places and wound up agreeing on a hole-in-the-wall just a few doors down called White Horse Dim Sum & Restaurant.

Hot dang it smelled good in there. It smelled kind of like celery. There was no art on the walls, no music, and just a couple of tables. So the atmosphere was the smell of celery. And general hominess. The White Horse family, from little kids to Gram and Gramps, was just sitting down to eat at this one big table. Every now and again one or another of them would get up and pour our tea and take our order and cook and everything.

So now, finally, I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant. Check this out: Dim sums are 60 cents each, they have Shanghai dumplings for $3.50 for six, lunch specials for $3.95 with rice and wonton soup or coffee, and they have almost 20 kinds of soup for under 5 bucks, most of them under 4. Rice plates, noodles ... a lot of $3.50s, $3.95s, and $4.50s. I don't think anything was more than 5 bucks.

What I'm getting at: Cheap!

And don't forget that it smells real good in there. So, OK, so what we wanted, in honor of yet another soupy San Francisco day, was soup. And the guy sitting behind us was eating dumplings, so, sure, we were going to need dumplings too. You can't talk about frying and barbecuing chicken wings without dumplings. At least a dozen.

Wayway told me how when he was living in Shanghai he used to eat these things for breakfast every day, and how sometimes, because of the language barrier, he'd ask for six, which was one order, and they'd bring him six orders of six.

"I want to live somewhere with a language barrier," I said.

Shanghai dumplings, those are the steamed pork ones with like little bowls of soup in them. Pig drippin's, you figure. It pools inside while the pork cooks, and stays warm but somehow not too hot, and then when it erupts inside your mouth you get this flow of buttery, greasy goodness all over your tongue, and ... and ... um . . .

I lost my train of thought.

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