El Rio's fry bread guy mends romantic hunger
Binh Minh Quan. Vietnamese. Downtown Oakland just a couple blocks shy of BART on 12th Street. It was after 9 p.m. so the place was more than half-empty.
Me, I rarely want to eat in a hurry, but I do, on occasion, have low blood sugar meltdowns that — as many of my friends will attest — can get a little dicey. Usually I manage to keep the dice in my head. I just quietly go crazy, lose my sense of self and direction, then, glazed and psychotic, stagger to the nearest refrigerator and eat every single thing in it in 30 seconds or less. Blink, everything's okay again, give or take a little heartburn.
I've learned to stave off these attacks by eating five meals a day and snacking in between. But sometimes when I'm at work, dating over coffee, or on an urgent hat-related mission — not to mention all three back-to-back — shit happens.
Wouldn't you know it? The cute little staff of Binh Minh Quan, on this particular evening, was entirely overwhelmed by a party of seven. It took them almost 15 minutes to take my order, and another 20 or so to bring me my bun. Meanwhile, I tried to distract myself by talking local politics to my hat in a Cookie Monster voice, but under my breath.
Finally! The bun was of course great, but no way is this my New Favorite Restaurant. No. My New Favorite Restaurant is the guy at El Rio who makes fry bread, or Indian tacos, on Monday nights. His name is Rocky, he recently transplanted himself here from Arizona, and I think he might be Apache or else maybe I got that wrong.
Any case, I've run into him twice, once on the sidewalk and once on the El Rio patio, and both times he made my day. His savory fry bread, stacked with beans, cheese, and onions, transports me back to Delta's Depression Dough, and breakfast.
And that's a great place to start.
ROCKY THE FRY BREAD GUY @ EL RIO
Mon. 8 p.m. until he runs out of dough
3158 Mission, SF