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cheap eats
by dan leone

Sugar, sugar

A LIST OF Things That I Value:

1. Valuables. –2. Um ... things? –Second draft: Remember the time we didn't have anything to eat for dinner, and neither one of us felt like going to the store or going out to eat, so we made popcorn? We made popcorn with salt for an appetizer, popcorn with butter and salt for a main course, and popcorn with butter and sugar for dessert. And, so long as we were eating so much popcorn, we thought we'd also watch a movie, except we didn't have any movies any more than we had any food in the house, and neither one of us felt like going out to rent one, so we watched that tape I have of the 49ers shocking the shit out of the Cowboys back in 1994 or 5, and it was the first time we ever watched a movie together and neither one of us fell asleep. Except it wasn't a movie.

Draft 3: Poetry. Scrap wood piles. Irony. Effort. Imperfection. Play. Sincerity. Salad. Peace, chaos, contradiction, the team, outsiderness, and ass.

Draft 4: Good morning, Mr. Walker. I've come to see your daughter. Bullfrog dressed in soldier's clothes, went to the river for to shoot some crows. Going down Burma Road. Going down Burma Road. Going down Burma Road ...

Draft 5: Pen caps.

Draft 6: Matt Lawton, Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome, Travis Fryman, Milton Bradley, Ricky Gutierrez, and Einar Diaz but not Russell Branyan.

Draft 7: Remember the time we found that parking spot on Polk Street, right in front of the bar we were playing at? How lucky was that? And we walked up the block a block, block and a half, two at the most, and found the exact thing that both of us were hungry for, a Thai noodle house. Chai-Yo. I was wearing the Mexican shirt you brought back from Mexico City instead of socks and underwear, and it was making me happier than any sock or underwear ever made me. Why? Pockets! Four of them – on a shirt! So, counting the two jackets I was also wearing, and counting my pants, I had exactly 13 pockets on me, every one of which was packed with valuableness – even the ones that were empty.

Pockets.

Draft 8: Duck noodle soup ($5.95). Pork-leg stew with fat rice noodles ($5.50). Beef salad ($5.95), and the name of the dish: waterfall beef. Grilled beef on lettuce with mint leaves, cilantro, red onions, green ones, and a lime dressing. We ate that first, so it was the appetizer.

We ate the duck noodles second, so that would be the main course, and my favorite, with big strips of juicy roasted duck, skin still on, afloat over a tangled mess of excellent rice noodles (or egg noodles, if you prefer).

We ate the pork noodles last, so that must have been dessert. Pork. Noodles. Broccoli, carrots, cabbage ... sugar, but that was an accident. For the record: the white stuff in the clear plastic container on the wooden rack of clear plastic containers containing fish sauce, hot sauce, hot peppers, and stuff like that ... sugar. Not salt. Crawdad claimed (and claimed and claimed) that the dish was sweet to begin with, even before she sugar-salted it, but I didn't get a taste until afterward, so what can I say about the pork-leg stew? I'm not much of a dessert man anyway.

Draft 9: Atmosphere. In this case, expressed primarily through table coverings. Cloth tablecloths covered over with plastic tablecloths covered with various mismatched colorful floral-print ... wrapping paper, it looked like to me. And then, of course, glass on top of that.

There are only between 7 and 10 tables in there. It's pretty small. One wall is mirrored, and the other has a big huge portrait of that Thai guy, you know, with the medals and the mustache, sitting down next to his sword. Oh. There was a waving kitty on the counter next to the cash register.

Nice-light lit, friendly service, and cheap enough. We got out of there for 20 bucks and with enough leftovers to feed one of us for lunch the next day.

Draft 10: Leftovers. The absence of leftovers. (Here's a valuable attribute of Chai-Yo: they stay open until 1 a.m. every night, even Tuesday night, so if you need a little something snackwise after the show, you can always go back.) Drunk, sober. Hands in pockets. Toothpicks in pockets. Rockets in pockets. Holes in pockets. Pennies. Popcorn. Ten thousand dollars. Lint. Ten thousand keys, or else nothing at all because, actually, I was just happy to see you.

Chai-Yo. 1331 Polk (at Bush), S.F. (415) 771-2562. Daily: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Takeout available. MasterCard, Visa. Beer and wine. Wheelchair accessible. Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).